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Date: Sun, 23 Nov 97 15:50:00 CST
From: rich%pencil@LISTS.PSU.EDU (Rich Winkel)
Subject: GL: Oz: Howard's policies worst attack on the env. in 30 years

Howard's policies: "Worst attack on the env. in 30 years"

Tim Doyle interview with Emma Webb,
in Green Left Weekly
17 October 1997

Dr TIM DOYLE is a founding member of the Environment Institute of Australia, founding president of the Ecopolitics Society, a founding member and current secretary of the Ecopolitical Association of Australasia and a member of the Political Studies Association of Australasia. He is a senior lecturer at the Mawson Graduate Centre for Environmental Studies at the University of Adelaide and was elected president of the Conservation Council of South Australia (CCSA) on October 17. Doyle spoke to Green Left Weekly's EMMA WEBB about environmental politics in Australia today.

Doyle, who has been active since the late '70s in many campaigns, including Antarctica, wet tropics, uranium and the urban environment, described the Howard government's policies as the worst attack on the environment in more than 30 years.

"It is absolutely appalling. They don't even want to talk about green issues -- [environment minister] Robert Hill talks about 'brown' issues instead. They advocate free-market solutions to the environment crisis. This view that the environment is good for business and vice-versa is just waffle. I don't believe the free market can monitor itself. There is still a role for government to actively involve itself in environmental monitoring, regulation and finding social solutions. Solving the environmental crisis is not just about efficiencies, it's about much more fundamental change.

"It was the Labor government that opened the door for a lot of these attacks on the environment now. Environmentalists shouldn't have any illusions in, or false allegiances to, the ALP."

Doyle strongly supports actions and campaigns to oppose the government's anti-environment policies, such as the Australian Conservation Foundation's (ACF) national day of action to protest the Australian government's stance on greenhouse gas emissions planned for November 30.

"By global standards the Howard government lags severely behind on this issue. Not only is the government refusing to commit to binding greenhouse gas emission cuts, it is actually arguing that Australia should be able to increase its emissions! With the Kyoto climate conference in December, now is the time for environmentalists to take action and put demands on the government around this issue.

"There is a huge public sentiment against the government's position. As many people as possible need to be involved in organising, building and participating in the national day of action. Here in Adelaide there is a committee with a range of different organisations and individuals working together to organise and build the day", said Doyle.

The Howard government has attempted to silence its critics by "taking away funding from their critics in the green movement. Friends of the Earth (FoE) lost all its funding, the ACF lost one-third, and so on. The government is sending a message that if you are even remotely critical you will lose your funding."

This is part of the reason for the different responses to the Howard government from the environmental peak bodies, says Doyle. "They're in survival mode at a time of funding cuts. Some have taken a more courageous line than others". The political climate requires political courage rather than political retreat, he adds. "I see a role for the World Wide Fund for Nature-type organisations which can work with conservative governments and corporate interests. I also see the need for the FOE-type organisations which work in active opposition to government and corporate interests."

Doyle would like to see the CCSA take a more social approach to environmental issues. "There has been a lot of focus on non-human conservation in the past. I will be working to include the human environment -- where people live and work -- as well as the non-human environment."

"Another priority", said Doyle, "is finding non-government sources of funding". He explained: "To gain political and economic independence, funding must be derived from sources other than government. However, when we talk about being less reliant on government that is not to say we are becoming more corporate. I am vehemently opposed to offering corporations associate membership -- this has been a disaster for non-government organisations in the US.

"The bottom line is an ethical one and this limits the sources of funding. We are currently doing an analysis of the best way to go about raising funds."

Doyle believes the CCSA needs to change its approach to volunteers, staff, committees, members and groups that use the council and become a more grassroots, less top-heavy organisation. He also wants to see the council take broader political action. "The council needs to take different political pathways than merely lobbying government. It has to be more diverse in its political responses. One of things we will be doing more in the future is building alliances with unions, universities, indigenous groups and so on", he said.

"Our campaign priorities at this stage will be uranium, greenhouse, Coongie Lakes and defending the CCSA from legal proceedings over the Hindmarsh Island campaign", he added. Doyle believes that at a time when the environment crisis is escalating and the green movement is under attack, environmentalists need to develop political resilience. This was the theme of his recent address to last month's Ecopolitics Conference. "A resilient ecosystem can come back after a major disturbance. Resilience is about being around for the long haul."

This article was posted on the Green Left Weekly Home Page.

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