Dismay as Australia rolls back green laws

Dismay as Australia rolls back green laws
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott warns all citizens to be vigilant to the threat of home-grown terrorism.

Australia is famous for its harsh outback, untouched forests and incomparable Great Barrier Reef but a range of controversial measures by the Abbott government has triggered local and international concern about the growing threat to the environment.

Since winning a federal election last September, the government has moved to repeal environmental laws and give more power to state governments to pursue development, mining and forestry projects.

Other controversial measures include changes to marine reserves to allow more fishing in the country's oceans, cutting funding to environmental legal agencies and dismantling the previous government's carbon tax and climate change measures.

The government says the changes will boost the number of jobs and reduce red tape. But the moves have triggered protests and petitions and prompted scathing criticism by Unesco over plans affecting some of Australia's most prized natural assets.

An expert on Australia's environmental law, Professor Rob Fowler from the University of South Australia, told The Straits Times that transferring powers to the states would be "highly negative for the environment".

"This is a throwback to the pre-1970s era," he said.

"There will be inevitable extra losses to the environment as states that are cash-strapped are forced to take on resource projects or large irrigation projects."

Australia's most recent environmental battle has centred on the government's removal of the heritage status across 74,000ha of wilderness in the island state of Tasmania - reportedly only the second time that a country has asked to remove one of its own assets from the lists.

The government says parts of the forests - which were listed last year - have already been logged and it wants to support further logging in the area.

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