The Federal Government is about to make changes to the national environmental laws to cut “green tape” and speed up project development in a post-COVID-19 plan to amend the Federal EPBC Act.
A review into the Act was commissioned with top businessman Graham Samuel, heading the inquiry. He will release the completed report in October, but the Environment Minister is already ruling out the key recommendation – appointing a Federal Independent Regulator (to police the process).
The cutting of “green tape” will have the Federal Government hand over the assessment of impacts and decision-making processes to the States, which have shown they can be weaker and more vulnerable to the pressures of development and the corporate sectors in seeking economic outcomes, rather than protecting the environment.
Recent examples of this State vulnerability are:
- Western Australia: Rio Tinto blasted a 46,000-year-old indigenous heritage site.
- New South Wales: gave approval for coal mining under one of Sydney’s drinking water reservoirs.
- Victoria: State-owned Vic Forests violated a Federal law by logging the habitat of threatened species.
- Queensland: The State Government urged the Federal Minister to approve the Toonah Harbour environmental assessment – which he did. An Independent Regulator is imperative.
The current EPBC Act is being proven a failure in protecting sensitive habitats, threatened species, key natural assets – the Environment! A review was needed but the outcome may not be what government and business wanted. So cherry-picking what they see as economic imperatives appears to come first.
The recommendations from Graham Samuel’s report can make improvements to national environmental standards, but only if the States are held to account. This is where the community can now step up (and urgently!).
The key recommendation of an Independent Regulator will be shortly put to death by the Minister through the Parliament. It has to pass through the Senate though, and this is where we can express our opinions and provide our voice. With cross-benchers, Greens and the Federal opposition, there is a chance to ensure Samuel’s Report is fit for purpose – to protect our natural environment, habitats and wildlife. We can have an effect on the Senate’s decision, if we have a go.
You can make yourself aware of the issues and consequences; write to or contact your local Federal Member; post on social media encouraging your networks and others to do likewise. Please consider.
We, the grassroots community, with the tangible threat of COVID-19 affecting our lives, may have forgotten the massive bushfires that killed over a billion native animals. But, we have a responsibility and an opportunity to give voice to our Australian environment, which is an essential part of our national well-being.
We cannot have a thriving economy with a bankrupt ecology.
Bulimba Creek Catchment Coordinating Committee