Why Should Taxpayers Fund Job-destroying Eco-warriors?

Written by:
19 January 2024
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In this article,  Saxon Davidson contextualises and disseminates the findings of the IPA’s research into the economic cost of net zero, conducted as part of the IPA’s Net Zero Program.

The IPA’s Net Zero Program aims to research the various ways net zero policies negatively affect Australia’s energy security, national security capabilities, and household electricity prices.

It is not unreasonable for working Australians to expect their governments to spend the tax that is taken out of their weekly pay packet to help them get ahead and invest in the national interest.

However, what has been witnessed recently in relation to the legal dramas surrounding the Barossa gas project north of Darwin has proved the exact opposite.

As remarkable as it sounds, in Australia today, Federal, State and Territory governments are using taxpayers’ money to fund the activists clogging our courts with legal actions aimed at preventing nation-building projects such as Barossa from going ahead, and the investment and job creation that go with them.

Most recently it was the Environmental Defenders Office, an environmentalist legal firm whose specialty is representing anti-development activists in legal challenges to critical resource projects, such as mines and gas pipelines. Astonishingly, the EDO has received more than $7 million in the past five years from State and Territory governments.

The election of the current Federal Government was a boon for this cottage industry of obstruction, with the EDO awarded an extra $8m in funding over four years.

On top of this, the Federal Government will furnish it with $2.6m in annual, ongoing funding to be shared with their fellow travellers, Environmental Justice Australia.

How can our leaders look workers in the resources and primary industries sectors in the eye and say they have their interests at heart when at the same time these politicians are funnelling millions in taxpayers’ money to groups determined to see those very workers on the dole queue?

On Wednesday, Premier Roger Cook, who admits he channels the money of WA taxpayers to groups such as the EDO, said that environmental lawfare is the “modern reality”. What a cop-out from a leader who should know better, given the recent political scars he received over his Aboriginal cultural heritage laws, which would have taken environmental lawfare to a whole new level in WA. The Premier was obliged to make a humiliating backdown over that legislation, but he seems to have learnt nothing.

In the process of losing its case against the Barossa gas project in the Federal Court, the EDO came in for some harsh criticism by judge Natalie Charlesworth who presided over the matter. Justice Charlesworth was scathing in her assessment of the EDO’s standard of argument, noting that the evidence the EDO provided was “so lacking in integrity that no weight can be placed on them”.

Yet Cook, and his colleagues, seem perfectly happy to continue to fund this group which has as its core purpose the destruction of our most productive industries, and those communities in regional Australia that depend on them. Even when these baseless legal challenges fail, they serve to delay projects, and in so doing undermine their viability – a key tactic of the EDO and like-minded organisations.

What they are trying to achieve has alarming implications for the broader economic development of regional Australia. Economic analysis by the Institute of Public Affairs found that the economic and employment cost of cancelling the Barossa gas project would be astronomical. If the EDO were successful in its lawfare, it would have prevented more than $8.8b in economic activity from occurring and prevented the creation of more than 14,000 direct and indirect jobs.

Next on the EDO’s hit list is the Scarborough gas project, with the court case to prevent it going ahead set to begin in September this year. The Scarborough project is valued at $16.5b, and IPA analysis found that the cancellation of the project, which is EDO’s aim, would have $25.1b in economic activity forgone, and prevent the creation of more than 40,000 direct and indirect jobs.

The cancellation of these projects not only cancels jobs and economic development, but it compromises our standing as a reliable trading partner of countries such as Japan and South Korea, which puts our soft power in the Asia-Pacific region at severe risk.

Our leaders cannot simply wash their hands of their responsibility to constituents by declaring environmental lawfare a “modern reality”. It doesn’t have to be, but they are making it so.

How dare they be actively complicit in activities aimed at destroying the sector which generates the wealth that pays for our defence, our schools, our roads, and our hospitals? It not only defies logic, it is immoral.

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