6 March 2014
South Australia’s leading environment groups have released a summary of where political parties stand on key environmental issues ahead of an election forum tomorrow featuring the Premier.
The move comes as the Liberal Party releases their first major statement on the environment in the 2014 campaign.
“For something that is so integral to our wellbeing and the strength of our economy, the lack of focus on the environment so far in this election is surprising,” said Conservation Council SA Chief Executive Craig Wilkins.
This should change tomorrow as the Premier Jay Weatherill and Opposition environment spokesperson Michelle Lensink enter into debate in a booked-out Q&A style election forum organised by the Conservation Council SA, The Wilderness Society and the Nature Conservation Society SA.
An analysis of the results of a pre-election questionnaire show that marine parks, fracking, and genetically modified crops are emerging as three significant points of difference between Labor and Liberal.
Labor have strongly committed to maintaining the current marine park sanctuary zones, while the Liberal Party have indicated they will throw away a decade of hard work and community input to start again from the beginning.
“After a 10 year battle, a compromise on marine park no-take zones has been reached between those who want more protection, including many recreational fishers, and those who want less. Strong, effective marine parks are essential for keeping our oceans healthy and ensuring there is enough fish and other species around for the next generation to enjoy,” said Mr Wilkins.
Unconventional gas, or fracking, has emerged as a major community issue in the South East, as fossil fuel companies start to bring the divisive practice to the heart of South Australia’s Coonawarra region.
“Despite a moratorium on this destructive technology in Victoria and NSW, and the enormous amount of community concern about the potential impact on water, food security and climate change, the SA Labor Government has welcomed it here with open arms. We welcome the Liberal Party’s commitment to a parliamentary inquiry, and urge them to consider a ban until the results of the inquiry are in,” said The Wilderness Society’s Environmental Scientist Matthew Turner.
While Labor has committed to a moratorium on genetically modified crops until 2019, the Liberal Party have indicated that they will review their position after the election.
“Both Labor and Liberal support the current ban on GM crops. Yet, the Labor commitment to 2019 gives a much clearer direction for the food industry in SA. We urge the Liberal Party to maintain bipartisan support for the ban for another 5 years,” said Mr Wilkins.
While both parties have made small, but significant commitments for the protection of our national parks, this will be dwarfed by the savage funding cuts underway in the SA Environment Department.
“Restoring adequate funding for the state’s environment agencies has been our major ask of this campaign – for good reason. Current funding slashes of 40% will devastate the Environment Department, with a resulting loss of expert knowledge and essential on-the-ground work to manage our protected areas,” said Nicki de Preu, Conservation Ecologist for Nature Conservation Society of South Australia .
“Both Labor and Liberal have failed to deliver a clear vision for biodiversity in our state.”
There has been disappointingly little action on a 2010 state election agreement by both Labor and Liberal to progress wilderness protection for the Simpson Desert, said The Wilderness Society’s Environmental Scientist Matthew Turner.
“In 2012, the Wilderness Advisory Committee reported to government that the entire SA section of the Simpson Desert is worthy of Wilderness Protection. For about 2 years, very little action has occurred. South Australian’s concerned with our environment expect actions to deliver this election promise,” he said.
The detailed responses of the political parties to the pre-election questionnaire are available here.
For additional media information or to arrange an interview please contact
Meg Sobey, Policy and Communications Officer on 0411 028 930