Test of integrity for government
The integrity of the Commonwealth Government will now be put to the test in the aftermath of the disastrous amendments to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act, passed in the Senate yesterday.
The changes to the assessments of threatened species, ecological communities and heritage nominations were optimistically described as “strategic provisions” in Minister Campbell’s media release. “In effect these changes relegate real threats to species and communities to a secondary position behind the whim of the Environment Minister” said Michael Kennedy, Humane Society International (HSI) Director.
“Australia’s biodiversity is at risk now more than ever, and now nominations to protect it will have to fall into a theme arbitrarily appointed by the Minister. Even if they fall into that theme, they still have to run the gauntlet of a ‘priority assessment list’, again which the minister has the right to amend on any grounds which he chooses”.
HSI has currently 38 nominations for threatened species, ecological communities and heritage pending with the government. Fourteen of these are overdue, of which 12 were first submitted in 2000. These 38 nominations represent a significant financial investment, as well as hundreds of hours of time from HSI staff, consultants and dedicated volunteers.
“These nominations were made in good faith that they should be assessed according to the system under which they have been submitted. The government would be grossly abusing the good faith with which they were submitted if it were to allow them to fall into the gaps created by the new process,” said Mr Kennedy.
“HSI is now waiting for a response from the Minister to our written request that our nominations will be dealt with as they deserve” added Mr Kennedy.