Documents revealed under FOI show pressure was applied to the supposedly independent regulator, the Environment Protection Authority, to force through approvals on dumping of toxic soil from the West Gate Tunnel.
The Age has reported the damming email from a senior staff member of Lily D’Ambrosio’s ministerial office dated 19 August 2019.
Released after a year-long FOI fight, it states:
“As discussed, further advice requested following the meeting between Minister D’Ambrosio, Allan and the Treasurer”
“Options available for streamlined/expedited process to assist soil to be received at [REDACTED] site. Ie. options available to DELWP and the expected timeframe. Inc. Other sites to be explored which may require a planning process”
“Secretary, DPC to lead discussions on a resolution/pathway forward. Cathy, Chris Eccles may contact you shortly”
This is extraordinary evidence of scandalous attempts by several senior Labor Ministers to bully and pressure the EPA into cutting corners and expediting the process.
Interference into the work of an independent agency is crossing the line into outright political manipulation.
This clearly demonstrates that the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning has been pressured to bend to the Andrews Labor Government’s wishes.
The EPA has a clear independent statutory role to protect the safety of our environment, including our air, land and water.
Its role is not to take directions from Labor Ministers.
The EPA and Andrews Labor Government have fought the release of this FOI every step of the way and it’s clear why; they have a lot to hide.
VCAT will shortly hear the case and rule on the massive redactions and the release of the dozens of documents Labor refuses to make public.
Victoria under Labor is a secret state where information is suppressed and independent agencies are interfered with by Ministers and their agents.
Comments attributable to Shadow Minister for Transport Infrastructure, David Davis:
“This is a disgraceful attempt to override proper environmental processes, putting at risk the safety of the community and the environment.
“How can anyone have confidence the EPA is acting fearlessly independently when it is being given political directions by Daniel Andrews’ Ministers to cut corners?
“Labor plans to dump millions of tonnes of toxic soil for its botched West Gate Tunnel Project against the clear view of the affected communities.”
Comments attributable to Shadow Minister for Environment, Bridget Vallence:
“These secret documents make clear the Andrews Labor Government is actively interfering in the processes of the environmental regulator.
“The EPA is supposed to be independent from government control. Yet these secret documents prove the Andrews Labor Government will stop at nothing to get its way and the EPA is in complete turmoil.
“The community cannot trust the Andrews Labor Government or the EPA to keep Victoria’s environment safe.
“It’s now clear the Andrews Labor Government cares more about looking after big foreign-owned corporates on Labor’s botched tunnel projects, rather than the communities which are fighting to stop toxic soil being dumped next to homes and a school.”