Carmichael shows the law is working well

By EDO NSW Executive Director Jeff Smith

7 August 2015

It’s been suggested over the last few years and again today that legitimate legal cases, such as the appeal against the Adani Carmichael coal mine, are really just attempts to frustrate or delay major projects.

This misrepresents the importance of the rule of law, the Court process and the substantive legal protections the law rightly provides for the environment in Australia.

Earlier this week, the Federal Court of Australia set aside the decision of the Federal Environment Minister to approve the Carmichael mine because his decision was legally flawed, to the extent that it was fatal to the approval.

It is important to remember that the Environment Minister actually acknowledged he had made the legal error, writing to the Federal Court and conceding that his decision should be set aside.

As the Prime Minister said today, it is necessary to adhere to the rules and when that doesn’t happen, people have a right to go to court. Equally important is the fact that all courts have mechanisms in place to ensure that people cannot bring matters without merit – so-called “frivolous or vexatious proceedings”.

EDO NSW is celebrating its 30th anniversary, being established to work with communities to protect the environment through law. We have a proud history of doing so and a first-class reputation and track record for holding governments and corporations to account. The Carmichael decision is the latest example of this endeavour and evidences our professionalism and expertise.

The Carmichael decision is a wonderful example of the rule of law working well. The community approached us (a specialist community legal centre), a legal error was identified and the Environment Minister conceded this aspect, ensuring that an unlawful decision was set aside.

For our response on whether the decision constitutes a ‘technical hitch’ see: http://www.edonsw.org.au/carmichael_not_a_technical_hitch