The current independent review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC Act) released its interim report in July 2020, with the final report due in October.
The interim report found that Australia’s environment is in an unsustainable state of decline and recommends a full suite of reforms to turn this around, including national environmental standards to protect wildlife and ecosystems, an independent watchdog to enforce the law and proper community participation in and oversight of the decisions governments make.
But the Morrison Government is this week rushing a bill before Parliament that would hand environmental protections over to the states before the independent review is finished and without strong assurance safeguards in place.
The Morrison Government has also rejected calls for an independent watchdog, despite a recent Auditor-General report outlining ongoing, systemic failures by the Environment Department to enforce the laws and manage conflicts of interest.
Any amendments to the EPBC Act brought to Parliament to facilitate bilateral approval agreements with State Governments should be treated with scepticism. Without vital safeguards in place, the Government’s bill represents a hasty and thoughtless devolvement of Commonwealth powers and responsibilities to states and local governments that are often the proponents of regulated projects.
Right now, there's been no consideration of its contents and implications, and the process is rushed and hasty - it’s time to slow down and get it right.
I ask you and your Senate colleagues to:
- Oppose attempts to rush through amendments to the EPBC Act that could make our environment laws even weaker;
- Ensure the Morrison Gov’ts bill is given the full and proper scrutiny it requires, including whether it contains sufficient safeguards to ensure environment laws will be transparently and rigorously enforced; and
- Support important reforms to fix our failed environment laws including strong national environmental standards to protect wildlife and ecosystems, an independent watchdog to enforce the law and proper community participation in and oversight of the decisions governments make.
In a country still reeling from the ecological catastrophe of the 2019-20 bushfires, we need national leadership to safeguard the ecosystems that support us, build resilience in the face of climate change, support communities to recover and protect our globally important wildlife.
You have the power to ensure our precious wildlife and forests don’t go the way of the Tasmanian Tiger. We need your leadership now.
Yours sincerely,Peter Campbell