A Federal Court judge has backed Minister for Environment Sussan Ley’s approval of Whitehaven Coal’s Vickery mine expansion, but emphasised she has a duty of care to protect the health of children in such cases hereafter.
The latest case against Ley was lodged by nine applicants – eight Australian children and their litigation representative, 86-year-old nun Sister Brigid Arthur.
In consideration of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the Act), Justice Mordecai Bromberg declared Minister Ley (first respondent) must consider the health impacts of such decisions.
“The first respondent has a duty to take reasonable care, in the exercise of her powers under the Act … to avoid causing personal injury or death to persons who were under 18 years of age and ordinarily resident in Australia at the time of the commencement of this proceeding arising from emissions of carbon dioxide into the Earth’s atmosphere,” the Court declared.
Ley was ordered to pay the applicants’ cost of proceedings.
In response, the next day, Minister Ley’s office stated she would not accept the Court’s decision.
“Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley has announced the Morrison Government’s intention to appeal the recent Federal Court judgment in relation to the Vickery Coal Mine decision,” Ley’s release stated.
“After carefully considering the judgment, the Minister has formed the view there are grounds on which to appeal.
“Following the handing down of orders by the Court yesterday, the Minister has now instructed the department to lodge a notice of appeal.”
Bromberg acknowledged the case’s relation to the Vickery mine case in late-May regarding its expansion.
In May, Bromberg dismissed the (same) applicants’ appeal of the expansion, declaring the Minister had not breached her duty of care by approving the project.
“The applicants’ failure to satisfy the Court that a breach of the duty is reasonably apprehended, together with my concern that the applicants have not established that a restraint in the form sought is warranted, suffice to support my conclusion that an injunction should be refused,” she declared in May.
On July 9, fifth applicant and one of the eight children Bella Burgemeister said the Minister’s appeal was embarrassing.
“Our environment Minister thinks she has a duty to do harm. Game on!” Burgemeister stated.
She also tweeted an image saying, “Morrison Government fights for duty to not care about children.”