20 December 2019
Public submissions have opened for the first independent review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act in a decade.
Led by Professor Graeme Samuel AC, the review’s terms of reference includes that the panel makes recommendations to modernise the Act after consultations with State, Territory and other levels of government.
The review’s guiding principles include:
- Australia’s unique environment
- making decisions simpler by reducing unnecessary regulatory burdens supporting partnerships to deliver for the environment
- supporting investment
- creating new jobs.
Meanwhile, Australia’s eight state and territory environmental legal centres recently announced they’ll merge to become the national Environmental Defenders Office – the largest of its kind in the southern hemisphere.
Stronger environmental laws and compliance programs needed!
Wildlife Queensland supports this process if the intention of the review is to strengthen and not weaken environmental laws and ensure adequate and strong compliance programs are in place.
However, we concerned that the outcome of the review may lead to a weakening of the existing legislation all in the name of progress and development.
Wildlife Queensland’s fears would be allayed if Professor Samuel and his expert panel heed recently reported advice from an Australian Panel of Experts in Environmental Law at a symposium conducted by the National Environmental Law Association and the ANU College of Law. Issues highlighted included:
- the need to clarify the scope of governmental authorisation
- greater independence – an independent national Environmental Protection Agency
- greater emphasis on compliance and enforcement
- greater transparency cumulative impact assessments
- increasing resourcing and establishing a secure funding model
- genuinely use the mitigation hierarchy: avoid, mitigate, offset.
Wildlife Queensland will be forwarding a submission prior to February 2020 and looks forward to the outcome. Changes are certainly needed as the current laws are not achieving the objects of the Act.
Have your say
- To have your say on this important topic, respondents can read this discussion paper and make submissions via the EPBC Act Review website (https://epbcactreview.environment.gov.au/)
- Submissions on the discussion paper are due by 5.00 pm (AEDST) Friday, 14 February 2020.
The review will be completed before October 2020.