Greens demand Senate inquiry into biodiversity offsets market, urge Labor to stand up to Barnaby Joyce

The Morrison Government’s new Agricultural Biodiversity Stewardship Market Bill looks set to wreck Australia’s environment despite promises to help restore ecosystems, the Australian Greens said today .

The Greens will refer the bill to a Senate inquiry for consideration and have called on the Labor Party to support an inquiry, before voting on the bill.

As Greens Environment Spokesperson Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said:

“There are major flaws in the Morrison Joyce government’s legislation that need to be reviewed and amended before the bill can pass the Senate. Failing our environment by setting up yet another ineffective compensation system without proper oversight is simply not acceptable.

“Labour must work with the Greens to protect the environment and not cover up Barnaby Joyce and his friends in the National Party.

“The bill in its current form is too similar to Australia’s carbon offset scheme, a scheme which has been shown to seriously lack integrity – little more than a transfer of wealth without further emission reductions.

“An investigation will ensure that the Biodiversity Offsets Bill is instead based on evidence, integrity and transparency, and contains sufficient protections to deliver the environmental results it promises.

“The restoration of our ecosystems is vital. Any offset market must have longevity to ensure that the program does not just provide short-term income to farmers without long-term restoration of biodiversity.

“The Greens are very concerned about the broad discretion this bill gives the Minister of Agriculture to make long-term environmental decisions, without transparency or strong regulation. We already know what happens when Barnaby Joyce and the National Party give each other unchecked power – the environment and our rivers suffer, and big business farming gets rich at everyone else’s expense.

“Why is the scheme administered by the Minister of Agriculture, when the objects of the bill are linked to the protection of biodiversity? With an investigation, we can examine these issues and ensure that the best governance decisions are made to ensure the objectives of the bill are met.

“A system built with integrity and good governance will help farmers undertake permanent land restoration and invest in biodiversity.”

As Greens Agriculture Critic Senator Peter Whish-Wilson said:

“We need to support farmers who want to do their part for climate change – but parts of this bill mimic the government’s botched carbon credit scheme and that won’t support anyone.

“Few industries are more affected by climate disruptions to ecosystems and biodiversity than agriculture and farmers are an important part of the climate solution – we cannot risk the goodwill of farmers by letting them down now.

“It is critical that this bill be sent to a Senate investigative committee for review. We have to get it right, the future of our farmers depends on it.

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Norman D. Briggs