Commonwealth fast-tracks demolition of national environment laws
The Federal Government plans to fast-track the disembowelment of Australia’s national environmental protection law have been bolstered by support from big industry, led by the Business Council of Australia and others, and now publicly endorsed by the Prime Minister.
Michael Kennedy, Campaign Director of Humane Society International (HSI) said today that “Proposed amendments to Australia’s premier environment law, due to be tabled in Parliament soon, are aimed solely at cutting red tape for business and “streamlining” decision making processes for industry, at the behest of industry, and have precious little to do with protecting Australia’s diminishing biodiversity.”
“Prime Minister Gillard must soundly refute Premier Newman’s claims to claw back more environmental controls from the Canberra, and instead move to significantly strengthen the Commonwealth’s hand in such matters.”
It took 98 years, since Federation in 1901, to finally give the Federal Minister for the Environment legislative powers over the states and territories to protect matters of ‘National Environmental Significance’, firmly entrenched in the EPBC - Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, in 1999.
“Now, just over a decade later,” Mr Kennedy continued “Government and big business are rubbing their hands together in glee as those essential national powers of protection are being readied for political and legal presentation back to the predatory states and territories.”
Government and industry continually harp on about reducing duplication during environmental assessment process, when in fact, between May 2002 and August 2009, the Commonwealth signed ‘Bilateral Agreements’ with every state and territory to “reduce duplication of environmental assessment and regulation between the Commonwealth and state/territories*.”
Mr Kennedy concluded “What we have before us is a political deal stitched up between the Government and big business that threatens the environment and all ecosystem services in this country, and is an example of very dangerous and unashamed pandering to business interests at the expense of wild Australia. At a time when the Victorian, New South Wales and Queensland conservative governments are winding back hard-won and critical environmental safeguards, Canberra must retain control of all matters of ‘National Environmental Significance’. Failure to do so will destroy indispensable national environmental protection gains that took nearly 100 years to achieve.”
“HSI rejects the Federal Government’s EPBC package of amendments. We also urge the Coalition, Australian Greens and Independents to act to stop this potential environmental disaster.”
* ‘A key function of bilateral agreements is to reduce duplication of environmental assessment and regulation between the Commonwealth and states/territories. Bilateral agreements allow the Commonwealth to 'accredit' particular state/territory assessment processes and, in some cases, state/territory approval decisions. In effect, bilateral agreements allow the Commonwealth to delegate to the states/territories the responsibility for conducting environmental assessments under the EPBC Act and, in certain circumstances, the responsibility for granting environmental approvals under the EPBC Act.’ Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities website, 2012.