This week we are finally able to breathe a sigh of relief and celebrate ending the year without the Senate agreeing to weaken Australia’s environment laws. The Senate had the opportunity to pass legislation[1] that would hand state and territory governments the power to approve projects with impacts on nationally protected species, but once again our supporters stepped up and asked them to say no. They heard you loud and clear and declined to support the Government’s Bill, instead calling for a full package of reforms, national environmental standards and much-needed safeguards.


This is no mean feat. The Government had stated that getting this legislation through before the end of the year was a priority—a priority recommitted to at last week’s National Cabinet meeting. However thanks to a huge movement-wide effort by environment groups, under the umbrella of the Places You Love alliance[2], our concerns have been heard. Thanks to hundreds of thousands of people raising their voices against the Government’s plans, our native animals can also enjoy this breathing space for a little longer.


For me this is a proud culmination of many years of work, having helped found the Places You Love alliance back in 2012, and fighting to defeat a similar devolution bill in 2014. This year we again rallied the strength of our alliance and we managed to get more than 22,000 submissions to the Senate inquiry on the new bill in only a handful of days—a truly amazing effort. These submissions made it clear that the community does not support the legislation, which is being rushed whilst an important statutory review is underway and before the full package of reforms has been put on the table.


Throughout the year a groundswell has been building in support of greater protection for our most threatened species and their habitats, after ‘a black summer’ that resulted in the loss of nearly three billion animals.[3]


HSI has invested significantly in this campaign throughout the year, devoting countless hours to ensure that we provided the review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 or EPBC Act with our full and detailed view of where the law is currently working and where improvement is needed. We have been part of consultative group processes advising the government on how the proposed national environmental standards can be as strong as possible. HSI believes that having these standards will help ensure that better environmental decisions are made but only if they are strong and legally enforceable.


Now we await the final report of the review of the EPBC Act which must be tabled in Parliament by early February. Our hope remains that this review will provide the impetus to reset the level of environmental protection needed, especially following the terrible bushfires that started off the year.


We will continue to voice our opposition to the proposed devolution of environmental decision making and advocate strongly for the strongest possible framework which will ensure the protection of our most threatened wildlife and their habitats. Thank you for staying with us and taking action at every critical point of this long and arduous campaign. We hope you will stay with us in the new year as the battle is far from over, and we will need your strength to hold the Government to account.


Subscribe to stay informed with our regular blogs and campaign updates



Alexia Wellbelove is a Senior Campaign Manager at the Humane Society International (HSI). She joined the organisation in 2009. With over two decades of experience in conservation, her current focus is environmental policy, marine conservation (particularly marine mammal and fisheries bycatch) and wildlife trade. She helped found the Places You Lovealliance and serves on a number of state and federal government committees. She has represented Australia as a member of the delegations to both the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS).



[1] The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Streamlining Environmental Approvals) Bill 2020

Safeguarding Australia’s Wildlife: Lessons from the 2019-20 'Black Summer' Bushfires Critically Endangered platypus and koala habitat declared