Australia's poor most exposed to polluting facilities

Friday, 16 November, 2018

Australia's poor most exposed to polluting facilities

The Australian Conservation Foundation has revealed that 90% of polluting facilities reported in the National Pollutant Inventory (NPI) are in postcodes with low–middle weekly household incomes, while only 0.1% are in high-income areas.

The report ‘The dirty truth: Australia’s most polluted postcodes’ examined emissions data from the NPI and weekly household income data from the Australia Bureau of Statistics (ABS). It showed that of the five most polluted areas — Newman and Collie in WA, Mount Isa in Queensland, the Hunter region in NSW and the Latrobe Valley in Victoria — coal-fired power stations are the largest emitters in three, while mining operations create the most emissions in the other two.

“Air pollution is a climate issue and a class issue in Australia,” said Matthew Rose, Economics Program Manager for the Australian Conservation Foundation. “Poorer Australians who live around mines or refineries or in the shadows of coal-fired power stations are unfairly bearing the burden of pollution that is a by-product of the goods and services all Australians use.

“Air pollution kills around 3000 Australians every year and worsens conditions such as asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis and other respiratory diseases.

“Children and the elderly are particularly vulnerable to the direct health impacts of air pollution.”

According to Rose, “Australia’s air pollution standards are fragmented and — where they exist at all — are in many cases weaker than the standards recommended by the World Health Organization.

“Australia needs new, nationally consistent air quality standards and an independent body to regulate and enforce the rules.”

Speaking on behalf of the Australian Greens, Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said the report proves Australia’s environmental laws are “not up to scratch” when it comes to protecting us from pollution.

“We need environmental laws with teeth and national standards that view every Australian as equal, no matter where they live,” Hanson-Young said.

“It shouldn’t matter what state you live in or what your postcode is — we all have the right to breathe clean air. Our environmental laws must do more for not only the natural environment but the people who call Australia home.

“We cannot clean up our air pollution crisis and break down the divide by sticking to business as usual. The Greens in the Senate are standing up to big polluters and the politicians that give them free reign to pollute.

“The Morrison government cannot be trusted to reverse this dirty pollution trend and end the dirty politics that allows it to continue.”

Image credit: © Gutenberger

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