Australia on the right track with putting GMO’s in environmental reparation fund

Environmental and conservation laws put squeeze on polluters

Stefanie Balogh

December 21, 2009 11:00pm

A COMPENSATION fund to ensure fines from polluters go towards cleaning up the mess they leave behind should be established in Australia.

The recommendation is in a major review of the nation’s environmental and conservation laws, which also suggests establishing a task force to combat emerging threats.

The report says these include climate change, invasive and exotic species, genetically modified organisms and emerging technologies such as nanotechnology.

Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett released the 373-page report yesterday, saying the Government would “give careful consideration to the recommendations and their implications”.

The report suggests setting up an environmental reparation fund similar to one operating in Canada.

The fund would provide courts with an enforceable way to guarantee that money from pollution penalties and settlements is invested to repair the damage done.

The fund could have been used in the Pacific Adventurer case, in which Swire Shipping refused to meet a promise to cover the cost of cleaning up, after it lost 31 containers overboard and spilt 270 tonnes of fuel oil in rough seas in March.

The company argued its legal liability was only $14.5 million but eventually agreed to pay $25 million in compensation.

The report’s 71 recommendations, which are part of Dr Allan Hawke’s 14-month review, also include calls for a national “biobanking” scheme.

This would be a fund to offset and limit environmental harm during a development.

It also calls for a dedicated taskforce to provide a national list of threatened species.

Mr Garrett said: “Dr Hawke’s final report also makes a recommendation in relation to a proposed ‘greenhouse trigger’.

“This recommendation has a direct bearing on the government’s response to climate change and to the (emissions trading scheme) Bill.”

The Bill is due to be reintroduced into Parliament on February 2.

Mr Garrett said the Government favoured an ETS and if the legislation was passed there would be no need for a greenhouse trigger to be introduced.

Welcoming the report, the Australian Conservation Foundation’s Paul Sinclair said: “It’s time to get serious about looking after our natural environment, implement these recommendations and provide the scale of investment needed.”

But Urban Taskforce head, Aaron Gadiel, said the review had failed to live up to its promise to reduce red tape.

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