This is a win for our democracy. A win for climate. And a win for the nature we all love and work to protect. This is another win because of you – thank you!
Back in March this year we filed a case with the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) challenging Environment Minister Sussan Ley’s refusal to release documents we had requested under Freedom of Information laws about 15 rushed environmental approvals which were given priority treatment, including Santos’ controversial Narrabri gas project in NSW.
Our case challenged the Government’s use of ‘national cabinet’ exemptions to avoid disclosing email communications that had been kept secret from the public.
We believed these emails contained information about a number of projects, which would possibly have major detrimental impacts on the environment and we had a right to know about it.
In short, we requested the emails, as is our right under Australian law; the Government refused to share them when asked; so we filed the case to the AAT requesting the release of this information.
And we won!
Minister Ley changed her tune and accepted that everything we asked for should be released – everything!
The emails showed that the NSW Government tried to stop the Morrison Government from fast-tracking the federal environmental approval of the Narrabri Gas Project.
The NSW Government expressed their “concerns about an imminent announcement” and asked for it “to be removed from the PM’s list” because “any impression that the outcome of the IPC [the NSW Independent Planning Commission] process is pre-determined could undermine public trust in the process.”
In response to the concerns of the NSW Government, a senior official in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet replied: “In terms of ensuring public confidence in decision-making processes, I think that can be managed effectively through ensuring the messaging is appropriately deferential to where things are at in the relevant approval process.”
We know that not long after this, Narrabri appeared on the list of projects to be fast-tracked and the NSW Independent Planning Commission (IPC) gave Santos’ project ‘phased approval’ in September 2020.
These emails revealed the rushed and messy process in our government’s decision making, and priority treatment given to particular projects with a disregard for our environment.
Australians have a right to know how our governments make decisions about protecting or not protecting the environment we all share. This information should never have been kept secret.
Because of the support of donations from our community, we were able to escalate the case and pursue our right to this information. For too long, there has been a severe lack of transparency in the big decisions our government makes about our wildlife, climate and planet.
That stops with us.
You have used your voice, your donations, and your commitment to power our Investigations Team and campaigns for people and planet. Without the ongoing support and dedication of our community, the shocking contents of these documents, and the devastating potential within, may have been hidden forever with little knowledge of their existence.
Our small but dedicated Investigations Team is funded entirely by ACF supporters. Our work is vital to exposing and opposing any political moves, like this one, that could harm Australia's beautiful wildlife and natural places.
Regular ongoing gifts are crucial to our work. They secure our campaigns into the future, helping us to grow our movement and increase our impact at a time when it has never been more important. Please consider joining our monthly EarthVoice community today.
By chipping in today we can continue growing this team so they can keep uncovering and halting further environmentally destructive plans.
Wins like this one keep us buoyed and empower us to keep fighting the good fight. This small team of Environmental Investigators have dozens of cases on their desks, which I hope to be able to share with you soon.
I can tell you now though, some of these cases will uncover more deep holes in key federal government policies, others will show destructive projects sneaking under the radar, and some exposing how big polluters are sidestepping their obligations.
We are here, together, as part of Australia’s national environment organisation.
We all want to see Eastern curlews safely wading across our intertidal mudflats; fluffy greater gliders up high in our old growth forests; koala populations thriving; and clean, healthy, renewable communities with nature in abundance.
And with you we can.
If we can keep funding our investigators, then they can continue to scrutinise, analyse, and report on destructive projects before they happen. And together we can protect the places we love. Please give what you can now.
Header: Annette Ruzicka