Environmental lawyers claim the Queensland government’s proposal to remove objection rights on mining would affect 90 per cent of projects.
The Queensland government should not scrap the right to object to mining projects for ideological reasons, environmental law advocates say.
State parliament’s agriculture, resources and environment committee is scrutinising a bill that would alter the objection rights that relate to smaller mining projects.
Environmental Defenders Office Queensland senior solicitor Sean Ryan says the Newman government has no substantial reason for changing the bill.
“One of the main justifications for this bill and the removal of public objection rights has been a fear that they will be abused by frivolous, vexatious litigants,” he told the committee on Wednesday.
“There’s no evidence to support that fear.”
Mr Ryan conceded that, theoretically, any person could launch an objection, but said there were existing protections against abuses of process.
His colleague Jo Bragg pointed to a discussion paper that found 105 of 176 respondents opposed the change.
“The reality is the majority of people who’ve taken an interest in this are extremely unhappy,” she said.
Ms Bragg said the bill’s explanatory notes failed to acknowledge the extent of community opposition.
Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney has previously argued it’s “frustrating” that anyone with a fundamental objection to coalmining can delay a project by sending it to the Land Court.
The Environmental Defenders Office says the proposed legislation would strip away people’s right to take objections to the Land Court in 90 per cent of cases.
The committee is due to report by the end of August.
The Queensland Resources Council (QRC) later attacked the Environmental Defenders Office for being linked to a campaign to delay mining projects with vexatious legal challenges.
QRC chief executive Michael Roche said Ms Bragg contributed to a leaked 2012 document prepared by the anti-coal movement.
He told the committee it outlined several strategies to “disrupt and delay” key mining projects.
“The document says: ‘We will lodge legal challenges to the approval of all the major new coal ports, as well key rail links, the mega mines and several other mines chosen for strategic campaign purposes’,” he said.
Mr Roche says vexatious litigation is an abuse of Queensland’s objection process.