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EPBC Act review

Federal environment law: EPBC Act Review update

As you know, the future of Australia’s most important piece of federal environment legislation, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC Act) is currently being decided.

Latest update: Tuesday 15 September

Last week saw a positive development regarding the future of Australia’s most important piece of federal environment legislation, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC Act). Three cross bench Senators vowed not to pass the Government’s Bill to devolve federal environmental approvals until the final Samuel Review Report is tabled. 

Jacqui Lambi, Rex Patrick and Stirling Griff (Centre Alliance) publicly stated that they will not vote for the Government’s Bill when the Senate sits next. As you’d recall, the Government passed its Bill through the House of Representatives last sitting week. Analysis by environment groups and experts had shown that the Bill is very similar to the ‘One Stop Shop’ laws introduced by Tony Abbott in 2013. The Bill was opposed by Labor and several crossbench MPs who opposed rushing legislative changes without the final Samuel Review Report and without the National Environment Standards Professor Samuel proposed. 

The Senate had adjourned by the time the Bill passed the lower house, so it is not yet law. The Bill will likely be debated by the Senate in the Budget parliamentary sitting week commencing Tuesday 6 October. The crossbench Senators are now critical players in whether these changes become law. They have all spoken of the desire to wait until the final Samuel Report is tabled before making a final decision.   

Refer to Crossbench senators vow to block Coalition changes to environment lawsThe Guardian.

Continued communication to our Senators – especially the critical crossbench Senators – that we support them not to rush such important changes (as outlined below) remains important. 

The once-in-a-decade review of Australia’s federal environmental law (the The once-in-a-decade review of the EPBC Act, conducted by Professor Graeme Samuel, released its Interim Report last month. The AEGN made a comprehensive submission to the EPBC Review (Review). Submissions to the Final Report have now closed, with the Final Report due in October. 

The Interim Report is quite strong in recognising the negative trajectory of Australia’s major environmental indicators and diagnosing the failures of current laws. It recommends both stronger federal legislative standards and an independent regulator to enforce them. Both these recommendations were important elements of our submission to the Review. 

The Federal Government’s response to the report, however, has concerned the environment movement and many AEGN members. Environment Minister Sussan Ley had publicly stated an intention to introduce legislation to parliament this parliamentary sittingto enable the Commonwealth to accredit state and territory governments to grant federal approvals. There is a significant risk that shifting responsibility for federal approvals to the states at this stage may further weaken federal environmental protections.

We have written to the Minister and the Reviewer Graeme Samuel reiterating our support for stronger laws, an independent regulator, and urging against rushing through legislative changes. We have also reiterated our willingness to participate in the government’s processes for shaping an approach to environmental philanthropy and market measures in funding environmental protection. We think it is critical to emphasise that environmental philanthropy cannot replace strong environmental regulation and government funding for environmental protection.

Thank you to our members

Thank you to our wonderful members who have contributed in any capacity – as funders, constituents, supporters and influencers – to the push for the strongest possible federal environment laws. 

  • Thank you to the almost 40 members who attended our member catch up on 28 July digging into the details of the report and the Government’s response. 
  • Thank you to members who are funding the Places You Love Alliance or one of its 60 member groups 
  • Thank you to members who have written letters, made phone calls, and attended meetings with their local MPs, the Environment Minister and the Prime Minister about these issues. 

You can still take action

A reminder that there are some key tools that we have provided for members who are interested in taking further action:   

Contact us

We are happy to talk through any questions you have: Jessica Panegyres, Environmental Philanthropy Manager jessica@aegn.org.au

We will continue to update members on developments regarding this vital issue.