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The breath-taking hypocrisy of Environment Minister Hunt

Environmentalists, and indeed most Australians are still reeling from Environment Minister Greg Hunt’s decision to approve “several massive resource projects” on the Great Barrier Reef which include a new coal export terminal – projects that will see the dredging of 3 million cubic metres of spoil being dumped in the reef’s waters. This approval clearly ignores the evidence from scientists about the impacts of these industrial developments and activities on the reef. He has, quite clearly, “put the demands of the coal companies ahead of protecting the Great Barrier Reef.”

It is simply astounding that an Environment Minister would approve these projects especially amid warnings that the reef, which had already lost half of its coral cover in the past 30 years, would be placed on the “in-danger” list if there were major new port developments. Further warnings note that:

Dredging is a huge threat to the crystal clear waters of the Great Barrier Reef. Seabed and rock is dug up and then dumped in the Reef’s waters. Fine sediments are thrown up into the water and drift for kilometres, ruining water quality and covering seagrass beds and coral.

Just in the past five years, 52 million tonnes have been dredged in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, a recent Senate Inquiry was told.

But Mr Hunt was aware of the serious effects that dredging caused to a marine environment. He wrote an article for the Herald Sun in December 2007 about the dangers to Port Phillip on the proposed dredging by the Port of Melbourne Corporation. Here is his article in full:

Dredging casts dark shadow on beautiful Port Phillip.

THE last time I went scuba diving in Port Phillip Bay was about two years ago, Greg Hunt writes.

Like anyone who has had the privilege of exploring this serene, astonishingly beautiful marine environment, the experience affected me profoundly.

For those Melburnians who live on the perimeter of its vast shoreline, and for the many more who take part in the annual pilgrimage to the summer playgrounds on the Mornington Peninsula, Port Phillip Bay holds an almost sacred significance.

Living on the Mornington Peninsula close to the bay, I am accustomed to the way my home town is transformed each year with the coming of the warmer weather.

A lively parade of young families and individuals enjoying a day on the beach or out on the water are a constant feature of summer.

The warm weather is here once again but this year there is a large and very black cloud menacing the horizon. With the Victorian Government intent on a January start for its plan to dredge 23 million cubic metres of sand, silt and toxic sludge from the bay, there is a growing sense of foreboding on the Mornington Peninsula.

With the local economy, particularly on the southern peninsula, reliant on the tourist dollar, it is abundantly clear that the peninsula will bear the brunt of the negative impact of channel deepening.

The two years of significant turbidity forecast as a result of the dredging will inevitably have an impact on local tourist operators, particularly the recreational dive industry. Two years of diminished returns would be enough to damage many of these businesses irrevocably.

The State Government’s own assessment of the channel deepening project found that dive operators and other businesses reliant on the bay will lose almost $19 million in income as a direct result of the dredging.

Despite this, there is no provision to compensate these small business owners for the damage that channel deepening will inflict upon their livelihoods.

The Mornington Peninsula’s tourism operators will therefore become the innocent victims of a process over which they have no control. To exclude them from any hope of compensation other than via a long and costly court battle is unjust and completely unacceptable.

It is not only the immediate short-term impact of channel deepening that must be considered.

Tourists who experience murky waters and dirty beaches during the years of dredging may never return to the Mornington Peninsula.

The damage to the peninsula’s reputation for pristine beaches and sparkling waters may linger long

after the physical effects of dredging have receded.

While I accept that the project is broadly inevitable, I have written twice now to Premier John Brumby, seeking assurances that the State Government will address these concerns.

I have yet to receive the courtesy of a reply.

I will also write to the new federal Environment Minister — to highlight the deficiencies in the way the State Government intends to dispose of the spoil dredged up during the project.

I am deeply alarmed that the state has moved to give this project the green light without adequately tackling the issue of the disposal of toxic sludge dredged from the mouth of the Yarra.

The Port of Melbourne Corporation intends to dump this sludge — which is laden with heavy metals and other contaminants — in the centre of Port Phillip Bay.

As yet there appears to be no certainty about how the resulting toxic plume will behave and where it will settle.

The main reason given for dumping this toxic sludge in the bay is that it would be too expensive to dump it in landfill. This is utterly unacceptable.

There should be no cut-price option for a pollution problem of this magnitude.

There are also plans to dump spoil at a second site in the waters off Mt Martha.

This site is one of the most important snapper breeding grounds in the bay. It is an important recreational asset for local residents and tourists alike and must not be harmed.

These issues could have and should have been thrashed out satisfactorily during the independent panel’s inquiry into the supplementary environmental effects statement.

Instead, the State Government chose to hinder a full exploration of these important issues by imposing a ban on the cross-examination of witnesses.

As a result, those of us who love the bay can have no real confidence that the channel deepening project will not leave it permanently scarred. The project has not undergone the thorough, rigorous and objective investigation essential for a project of this scale and potential impact.

The State Government must address all outstanding environmental concerns before pushing ahead with dredging.

In addition, it must institute a Peninsula recovery plan to deal with the project’s inevitable fall-out on the Mornington Peninsula.

A starting point could be a dedicated fund with money set aside to compensate local businesses.

It is only fair that these small operators receive some peace of mind and an assurance that they will not be sent to the wall by the state’s channel deepening.

Greg Hunt is the federal MP for Flinders, a seat that includes Mornington Peninsula.

Yes, it is hard to believe that this warrior for the environment is the same man who has now approved the projects on the Great Barrier Reef: Projects that will see the dredging of 3 million cubic metres of spoil. In a word, unbelievable.

The title of this post, The breath-taking hypocrisy of Environment Minister Hunt is aptly named.

But I guess he’s just following orders. This interview with Leigh Sales in December 2009 reveals why, from which I quote:

. . . But I do enjoy the environment – I’m passionate about it; I believe in the challenges of climate change – but these are matters for Tony.

Great. He wants to do something about climate change yet is happy to leave it up to Tony Abbott – a man who thinks climate change is crap. Remember too, that he had only been sworn in a matter of days and he closed down the Climate Commission and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. Wow, what a man of principle.

How does he sleep at night knowing he’s sold himself to the wrong bidder?

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37 comments

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  1. M. R.

    Keep it up: you all need to be relentless. BUT! – you also need to relentlessly hound the Opposition to ensure they get off their arses (provided they, too, don’t have friends …)

  2. Billy

    The mind boggles, did the entire LNP staff get a lobotomy done after they were sworn in? You would think the Greg now are two completely different people compared to the way he was.

  3. Joe Banks

    Michael, I believe you can see the torment in Greg Hunt’s eyes every time he fronts the cameras. And the same goes for Malcolm Turnbull. Neither of these people believe a word of what they are saying but they have such a pathological hatred of Labor that they are, for the moment, prepared to ‘sell their souls’ to Tony Abbott and the Liberal cause. You ask, how does he sleep at night? I believe this type of play-acting and pretending comes at a price – and that price is the respect they have for themselves. They know, better than we do, what a sham this whole business is and it will eat away at them until they draw their last breath. There is no going back for them; it can’t be undone – they have let themselves down and they will take the shame to their graves.

  4. Ricky Pann

    It seems the front bench pushes the opposite barrow..its all very Malcombe in a muddle isn’t it… This government is a disgrace and the fun has just began.

  5. bighead1883

    Hypocrisy is par for the course at Club LNP.

  6. Gail T

    He has a higher degree in Climate change. HE has been KNOBBLED and HOBBLED AND GAGGED. His air as a politician is most likely undersevere threat.
    Not that that is an excuse. Like Joe I can see the torment. It is there and real. Perhaps he might vote with labor sometime in the future.

  7. jasonblog

    Greg Hunt is emerging as a disappointment. I do believe that he is fundamentally a decent person, or at least he has often given that impression in the past, but he does seem to be pursuing indefensible actions. I have a feeling that Greg Hunt is seriously sacrificing a significant long-term career for nothing more than short-term political gain. He won’t be the only Liberal politician whose career is burned by the ‘leadership’ of Tony Abbott.

  8. Marie Lockyer

    He’s too young for the job, given to him by a wily PM.

  9. helenmarg

    appalling government .

  10. rossleighbrisbane

    Minister Hunt argued that the dredging near the Barrier Reef was a different sort of dredging. I didn’t follow his argument exactly, but I think that it was “Labor did that so it was wrong, but we’re doing this and we’re just perfect. Didn’t Abbott just give himself an A rating for our first 100 days?”

  11. Keith

    shiner, just wondering who might be in the wings to become leader? Hunt, Turnbull and Hockey have done their dash. They don’t have a talent pool like the Labor Party has, even now when Labor is in Opposition.

  12. shiner2348

    If you ministers are doing things you don’t believe in dump your so called leader he’ll bring you and your party down which is fine with me but your conscience last forever

  13. Gilly

    It is more than the hypocrisy. IMO Hunt does not personally believe in the policies he is implementing, much the same way that i don’t believe Turnbull believes the LNP NBN policy. There is a lack of moral conviction and/or lack of courage to stare down the bully attitudes of their own party machine. Too weak to be given any responsibility to govern..

  14. Gail T

    I sense some nervous breakdowns, attempted suicides and resignations coming on. Sad for the individuals on one hand.Is Workers Comp applicable for parliamentarians?
    LNP is TRULY NEOFASCIST TO THE CORE and will NOT SPARE EVEN THEIR OWN WHO DARE TO SPEAK UP, QUESTION OR ASSERT. KNIVES< KNIVES AND MORE KNIVES and THEY KNOW IT.
    In answer to KEITH I personally do not DOUBT that ABBOTT will be retained.
    Their ideologues have him as THEIR HERO no matter what. HE will do the full distance to the next election.
    They know they have the backing of Murdoch so it does not matter what mistakes they make, what s..t happens they CAN COVER IT UP WITH MORE LIES. NO WORRY.
    Murdoch will ram it down the throats of the electorate.Mark Textor will find some SWILL SLOGANS for him. Gina got her mines through, they GOT THEIR wish and that money pit Holden went so all is well.

  15. Anomander

    Oh, you mean Hunt, with a capital “C”?

    Honestly, you loony lefties make me laugh. If you’d even bothered to read our pretty and very glossy pamphlet, you’d know that the situation is completely different in Queensland than in Victoria.

    Can’t you people see how a man can change his mind about what is important when he becomes an important federal representative (or the miners) and how he has to make tough decisions about what is important to Gina, as opposed to protecting the world’s largest natural living, especially when that resources is situated in in some else’s backyard and not near his luxurious summer residence?

    I mean, I can understand entirely if the beauty of the Mornington Peninsula were being threatened, but this is just Queensland – some backwater run by a bunch of redneck LNP thugs intent on making as much money as fast as possible, because we all know money will insulate us all from the dangerous future we are creating.

    You extremists amaze me with your lack of vision when it comes to economic emergencies – it’s not as though this Great Barrier Reef thingy is important in any way. It’s not as though tourists from all over the world travel there spending hundreds of millions in tourist dollars to see one of the most beautiful destinations on the face of the planet. It’s not as though it has been recognised as one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World and afforded World Heritage status by UNESCO. It’s not like the reef generates $5-6 billion dollars annually in tourism and other activities or is home to a vast array of rare and endangered species and unique ecosystems.

    I’ll have you know that according to Pynepedia, we’re doing the reef a favour because it is almost dead anyway, what with nutrient run-off, pesticide residue, rising ocean levels, temperature increases, acidification and coral bleaching.

    According to our brochure, once we complete our ‘mandate’ of adding all that lovely weightless, colourless, odourless CO2 into the atmosphere, the reef will be long deceased anyway and will be nothing but a hazard to shipping and our ability to ship even more coal.

    We, the government, are merely expediting the process along the path of natural progression.

  16. atkenos

    So he was allowed to be an AEC employee despite his Liberal party membership. I thought that there was a mandatory rule re non bias… I certainly know of a person kicked out despite years of honest toil for the AEC when his local DRO learned he was in the ALP. But then one rule for Liberals and…

  17. Kaye Lee

    Very interesting the smoke and mirrors being employed here.

    Greg Hunt has a new “cumulative impact strategy” for reef protection – whereby projects are assessed in relation to the effect of all projects along the Queensland coast rather than in isolation. The rejection of offshore dumping of 12 million cubic metres of dredge spoils at Gladstone, that will now be used to reclaim further land in Gladstone Harbour for future port development, made it easier to approve offshore dumping of spoils to expand the Abbot Point coal terminal, 25km north of Bowen. Developments aren’t looked at individually, but as a contributor to a cumulative total – say no here means you can say yes to lots of other theres.

    “Dredging at Gladstone Harbour for the $33 billion Curtis Island LNG developments has been surrounded in controversy because of an outbreak of fish disease. Onshore dumping has also been controversial.

    Gladstone Ports Corporation had previously conceded environmental problems caused by a “leaking” bund wall, which was designed to retain dredge spoils.”

    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/policy/gladstone-ports-bid-to-dump-dredge-spoils-on-great-barrier-reef-axed/story-e6frg6xf-1226761473910#

  18. John Fraser

    <

    Surprised Aussies haven't noticed that Greg Hunt is doing an impersonation of Professor Julius Sumner Miller ….. only without the results or the intelligence.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LIfxV7uNZXQ

  19. Kaye Makovec

    It was all to do with “not in my back yard” then, now it’s ‘all the way with Tony A’.

  20. TimePasser

    Time Bomb Tony…. relentlessly ticking away towards oblivion!
    How many will he take with him?

    The Hunts and Turnbulls and Robbs of the LNP…. all uncomfortable with their roles as ‘Defenders of the Indefendisible’ but unwilling to take a moral stand for the sake of their own integrity and peace of mind.

    I would have much admiration for any of them who would apologise to Australia; admit they had been cheating and lying and fabricating and that they didn’t really believe all of the claims and promises they had made! Of course they would never be forgiven by the LNP for such treachery but they might live more comfortably with their own conscience.

    Then again, once you have gone down the path of wrongfully attaining position by deception and intrigue, it is very difficult to undo the damage and it plays on the mind.
    Shakespeare wrote of such a dilemma….

    “I am in blood
    Stepp’d in so far, that, should I wade no more,
    Returning were as tedious as go o’er.” – Macbeth, 3.4.142

  21. Paul Raymond Scahill

    I do not think that Greg Hunt is an environmentalists elbow. Of course he is only one of many Tony Abbott “yes men” that have not gut the guts to stand up for what they truly believe in, but anything that Tony (Imbecile) Abbott says is okay for the faceless LNP. We have here a bunch of absolute spineless individuals who like the parrots they are, just say and do what they are told to, regardless of whether it is right for Australia or Australians. Who do they work for? Are we going to lie down like Shorten, and others in the LNP, and do nothing, or are we going to fight for what is right. Obviously Hockey, Turnbull (who has really turned into a girl) no inference towards girls, Pyne, Morriscum, the Bishops (especially Bronwyn) and probably any others who join the mould should all be sent to Manus Island. Obviously the “BigBwana” should lead them. What they did to Oliver Cromwell should be etched on their souls, or is that soles. They are to me the epitamy of everything evil.

  22. cartoonmick

    The more I hear of this governments decisions, the more I fear for the future of Australia and its people.

    What gets into them in making these crazy decisions?

    There is just so much deception and spin being released, whilst the truth remains classified as either secret, or non-existent.

    I think this cartoon says it all for the reef . . . . . . . . . . .

    Editorial / Political

    Cheers (or not)

    Mick

  23. Roswell

    I heard that someone posted a link to the Herald Sun article on Hunt’s Facebook page and politely requested an explanation. His comment and link were promptly removed.

    Not a very open government, is it?

  24. CMMC

    Beware the rise of the Port Authorities!

    A law-unto-themselves, rabid NeoCon civil engineers flexing iron claws of monopoly.

  25. Bridget Cameron

    HOPE FOR GREAT BARRIER REEF IF WE ACT NOW! Greg Hunt ( Environment Minister) has made the decision to go ahead and dredge and dump at Abbott Point, yet there is still hope if we ring the Great Barrier marine Park Authority on Ph: (07) 4750 0700 and ask them to reject this decision and to Protect the Reef, as the final decision must go through them. Please don’t hesitate…http://fightforthereef.org.au/gbrmpa

  26. Peter Hamrol

    It might be wise if Mr. Hunt goes scuba diving in the Marine Park at Abbot Point … It may give him a lot more insight that the GBR has at least the same amount of potential sensitive environmental impact as does Pt Phillip Bay as he touted in December 2007 when LABOR was the then government … Just goes to show that attaining power in government can switch a person’s viewpoint just to appease the Greedy Mining Corporates … He just simply abandons his own principles; if he ever possessed any in the first -place …

  27. olddavey

    @Peter Hamrol 8:23 pm:
    Funny you should say that about Labor being in power in Vic.
    It’s a pity he does not have even a touch of the the integrity of his late father Alan, who would be disgusted by his hypocrisy.

  28. JohnB

    Hunt has revealed himself as just another corporate sponsored power hungry LNP liar.
    He didn’t mean any of the words of his 2007 plea in support of the environment – he was in opposition and was playing to the LNP script to attain power – the proof is in his actions upon being elected to government.

    He wrote in his 1990s Masters thesis ‘A Tax to Make Polluters Pay’, that the current regime for controlling industrial pollution is grievously flawed and should be replaced by a market-based waste management system.
    His thesis was apparently written with only one thing in his selfish mind – to achieve a degree.
    He now twists and squirms to escape the meaning of his own words by disingenuously arguing that co2, though a pollutant, should not be regulated by a market based management system as it is but a by-product of generating electricity; as a ‘carbon price’ can be interpreted as a ‘tax’ on electricity, gas and essential services.
    To justify the contorted logic, he then contends that an incentive based regulation system (“direct action”) is the proper tool to use to change consumption patterns of electricity, gas and essential services.
    In taking this stance he is (conveniently for the polluting industries) shifting away from directly pricing a pollutant at source to regulating some other related product by incentive funding.

    Yet another example of saying whatever is necessary to deliver profits to his ‘generous’ corporate sponsors, with no regard for citizens welfare or environmental protection.

    He has zero personal/professional integrity.

  29. doctorrob54

    After reading his letter this makes it more efen incredible.I actually thought,and by his appearance,that he was just an idiot kid that new not what he was doing.When in fact he is an intelligent,but sniveling,gutless,pathetic little prick.How dis-honourable can one go,to the public he promised to do what is right,YET,he is doing the complete opposite and obviously by his writing,knows it.FFS,how did we get to this.
    ,

  30. doctorrob54

    Yea Hi Michael,thanks for the quick reply.Nothing can be done about a bloke like that Hunt,He must be so piss weak.Whats he going to tell his kids and grand kids when they grow up.They are going to know their Pop was a gutless coward who did nothing when he could have fought for what he new was right.
    We must rally up the voters that didn’t vote last time when they could/should have.Hopefully that will get us over the line,also with the ones that will suffer badly in the next three years that voted for the coalition,thats some more.Anyway can’t lose sleep tonight worried about this prick.Past my bed time Michael.Night mate.

  31. Michael Taylor

    Hi doctor rob. Like I said, his hypocrisy is breath-taking. Believe in one thing, do the other. Tony commands it.

  32. Kyal

    Greg’s a what?

  33. doctorrob54

    Greg’s a what?
    Intelligent enough to know what he’s doing,therefore he must be a dishonest,piss weak,gutless coward.And an environmental vandal of the most dangerous type.

  34. doctorrob54

    Gee that’s wonderful,now I feel a whole lot better.I feel so stupid that I was worrying about nothing.I am just so glad they have got all the bases covered.Silly me.Oh shucks.

  35. Kaye Lee

    Having searched Tony’s new 32 page glossy self-assessed security blanket, I can allay your fears about climate change and the environment. They have a plan. Here it is.

    Deliver a cleaner environment

    The Government will appropriately manage the balance between the environment and the needs of communities, and will take direct action to reduce carbon emissions.

    Commitment

    The Minister for the Environment will instruct his Department to start implementing the Coalition’s Direct Action Plan on climate change and carbon emissions.

    Action Taken

    Implementation of the Government’s Direct Action Plan commenced with the release of the terms of reference
    for the White Paper on the design of the Emissions Reduction Fund on 16 October 2013. A Green Paper will be released in December 2013.

    Status

    In progress

    A Cleaner Environment
    The Direct Action Plan on climate change will be implemented. It is a practical, affordable and effective way
    to reduce emissions and to improve the environment without harming the economy. During 2014, the Green
    Army will begin its work to improve environmental and heritage conservation. The Green Army will begin
    with 250 projects in 2014–15 as part of its steady build up to 1,500 projects in 2018–19.
    We will also be implementing our Reef 2050 Plan to ensure the iconic Great Barrier Reef is protected into
    the future.

    And there you have it. That is the detail of our plan to tackle climate change and our progress so far. Ok…allay might not have been the right word.

  36. Marg1

    What a sad day for Australia with these idiots in charge, making such incomprehensible decisions. This man will never be able to look his children or grand children in the eye.

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