LNP vows to defund Queensland Environmental Defenders Office

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Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington has vowed to strip the Queensland Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) of its funding if the LNP wins government at the October 31 state election.

Ms Frecklington said she wanted to reduce “green tape”, and that the EDO was anti-jobs.

“Look, this is an organisation that has consistently worked against the approvals process for many construction and resources projects,” Ms Frecklington said.

Ms Frecklington singled out a legal challenge being considered by the High Court — over the planned stage three expansion of the New Acland mine — as evidence that the EDO was hindering jobs.

In June, the High Court granted a special leave application for the EDO’s client, the Oakey Coal Action Alliance (OCAA), to appeal against the validity of previous Appeals Court and Land Court decisions.

It was the previous LNP government led by Campbell Newman that initially pulled support for stage 3 because of its impact on prime agricultural land.

Farmers examine a bore on property at near Kulpi in September 2019.
The EDO has represented clients like Oakey Coal Action Alliance at the New Acland mine.(ABC Southern Queensland: Nathan Morris)

EDO chief executive David Morris said Ms Frecklington’s comments demonstrated a lack of understanding for the wide remit of work they did.

“That’s difficult to be seen as anti-jobs — it’s simply following the laws and processes that exist in the state, and helping people make sense of it — that’s uncontroversial, I would have thought.”

Mr Morris said that the majority of the EDO’s work in Queensland was helping Queenslanders make sense of environmental regulations, from water to planning.

“Through to quite high profile cases that we run, including the Acland Coal mine, which I know has been a controversial project in Queensland.

A man in his office in June.
EDO’s CEO David Morris says Ms Frecklington doesn’t understand what his organisation does.(105.7 ABC Darwin: Emilia Terzon)

“In that instance, we’re acting on behalf of farmers who are trying to prevent the extension of a pit that would compromise one of the key pieces of agricultural land in the country,” Mr Morris said.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she believed the announcement by the LNP was the first in many cuts to services.

“There were huge cuts to organisations, and Queenslanders can remember when they were last in government that nearly every day we were dealing with cuts to services.”

Mr Morris said he hoped that prior to the election the EDO would be able to demonstrate to both parties the essential service it provided.

The ABC understands the Labor Government has also stripped substantial funding from the Queensland branch of the EDO.

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