Sydney, 24 October 2006
Help stop the weakening and politicisation of Australia's environment laws
Act by 27 October 2006
Federal Environment Minister, Ian Campbell, has introduced an Amendment Bill to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC), 1999, that will profoundly alter our national environment laws if it passes through the Senate unamended. Changes to this legislation will:
- Potentially wipe 500 threatened ecological communities from the current waiting list for protection under the EPBC Act (amounting to millions of hectares of endangered habitat across the country).
- Remove the mandatory requirement to develop a Recovery Plan once a threatened species or ecological community is listed under the law as threatened;
- Remove the mandatory requirement to identify “critical habitat” for threatened species in any Recovery Plans that are developed;
- Make it harder for the public to secure legal protection for threatened species and ecological communities with a new requirement for public nominations to comply with “themes” set by the Minister or risk having their nominations left off lists for consideration;
- Give the Minister arbitrary discretion to remove a publicly nominated species, ecological community, or key threatening process from the annual list of species to be assessed for listing (currently the Minister gives his Scientific Committee repeated extensions to postpone consideration of politically controversial nominations such as commercial marine fish and ecological communities occurring on private farm land – a new amendment will allow him to remove controversial nominations from the Committee's consideration altogether).
- Allow the Minister to further delay, and remove from consideration altogether, public nominations for the listing of threatened species, ecological communities, key threatening processes and National Heritage that have already been submitted. HSI alone currently has nominations for 23 ecological communities, 4 threatened species, 3 key threatening processes, and 7 National Heritage listings outstanding under the current assessment system. Many of these may never be incorporated into the Minister's priority lists, and thus never be subject to statutory deadlines for their assessment.
- Allow the Minister to refuse to have assessed a threatened species previously rejected for protection even if its conservation status has worsened (also open to abuse for controversial species).
- Remove the right to challenge Ministerial decisions relating to listed threatened species, migratory species, whales and other cetaceans, and international wildlife trade. This will allow the Minister to have the final say on controversial decisions without any right of appeal, allowing commercial interests to dominate decision-making, and the further subjugation of community and environment groups.
- Fast-track development proposals, at the expense of adequate environmental impact assessment, under the guise of streamlining the approvals process.
- Further deter concerned individuals and environmental groups from seeking interim injunctions in court against alleged breaches of the EPBC Act, by enabling proponents to seek a guarantee for damages. This effectively restricts public access to environmental law.
There is a vital need for submissions to the Senate Committee regarding the debilitation of our national environmental legislation, and the stifling of democratic processes, resulting from these amendments.
Further information on the Amendment Bill is available at:
Send your comments on the Environment and Heritage Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2006: to email@example.com. Alternatively, submissions may be sent to The Secretary, Senate Environment, Communications Information Technology and the Arts Legislation Committee, PO Box 6100, Parliament House, CANBERRA ACT 2600, or faxed to 02 6277 5818.
Send a copy to Senator Ian Campbell, Minister for Environment and Heritage, Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2600 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The deadline for submissions is 27th October 2006 (apologies for the short notice).
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