Minister Hunt’s Gladstone Harbour Inquiry Raises Concerns (Australia)

The Australian Greens are concerned that the Abbott Government’s Gladstone Harbour inquiry will turn into a political witch hunt, following the terms of reference announcement today.

The Abbott Government’s inquiry seems to focus only on the bund wall and doesn’t appear to have investigative powers,Senator Larissa Waters, Australian Greens environment spokesperson, said.

Rather than a comprehensive, powerful inquiry, it looks like this will be nothing more than a political witch hunt targeted at former state and federal Labor governments.

Feigning concern for the environment to disguise political point scoring would be utterly disgraceful, although hardly surprising from the Abbott Government.

Senator Waters will write to Minister Hunt to ask whether the inquiry will be limited to the bund wall and without investigative powers, as the terms suggest, and whether the inquiry will be adequately resourced.

If Minister Hunt’s inquiry falls short of this and is not sufficiently open to the public, the Greens will move for a Senate inquiry, which has the power to force witnesses to appear and documents to be made public.

By limiting the panel to only investigating the leaking bund wall, the Abbott Government would be ignoring the broader impacts from the biggest dredging and dumping program ever in the Great Barrier Reef.

This comes after the Abbott Government approved even more dredging and dumping to build the world largest coal port in the Reef at Abbot Point.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority is due to decide tomorrow whether to allow the Abbot Point offshore dumping and I urge the Authority to refuse it, given the weight of science and the disaster we saw at Gladstone Harbour.

It’s vital that the Gladstone Harbour panel has the power to force witnesses to appear and documents to be made public, given the allegations of serious mismanagement surrounding Gladstone Harbour.

Greens candidate for Griffith, Geoff Ebbs, said: “The Abbott Government’s announcement today appears to fall well short of the comprehensive, powerful and open inquiry that the community and the Greens have long been calling for.”

Press Release, January 30, 2014

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