Bob Debus calls for an end to combative environmental policy

Bob Debus 

In a new paper released today by the Whitlam Institute, the Honourable Bob Debus AM argues for a return to the era of negotiated political consensus on environmental policy.

The essay All living things are diminished: Breaking the national consensus on the environment is the latest to be published in the 'Perspectives' series.

"Our history shows that some substantial degree of national political consensus is necessary for the long-term advancement of nature conservation and sustainable production," says Mr Debus.

"It is well worth recalling that the issue of climate change was, at an earlier time, addressed at the domestic level with a degree of bipartisanship. The Coalition Opposition under Andrew Peacock and John Hewson possessed substantial greenhouse gas reduction targets."

Debus contrasts the history of a consensus on key environmental policy directions hewn from debate, compromise and negotiation. He chronicles the reversal and decline associated with the disruption of the current evolving environmental settlement.

"The Abbott Government has attempted to sharply reverse more Howard government policy by withdrawing the Commonwealth from responsibility for environmental management," he says.

"The changes systematically benefit the minerals sector. The great national conservation programs of the past are stalled or reversed."

The Honourable Bob Debus AM has been a lawyer and broadcaster; NGO leader; a long-serving politician in the NSW and Federal Parliaments which saw him with ministerial responsibilities across a series of major portfolios including a several directly relevant to this paper such as Environment,  Attorney General and Emergency Services. His post-parliamentary appointments include being Chair of the Advisory Group to draft the National Wildlife Corridors Plan: A framework for Landscape-Scale Conservation (adopted by Federal Cabinet in 2012) and academic positions.

 "Few issues have proved to be so important, so volatile, so vexing as matters environmental. The environmental challenges we face are real, and yet the debate is surreal," says Eric Sidoti, Director of the Whitlam Institute.

"This Perspectives paper by Bob Debus charts us a way through the stultifying contemporary discourse around environmental policy. He draws on a deep well of experience, arguing that to seriously tackle these difficult issues we need to fight for the reinstatement of the hard-won national consensus."

Ends

10 November 2014

Lyn Danninger, Media Officer

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