Update on the Australian Government’s Environmental Reforms

The final report following the Independent Review into the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) led by Professor Graeme Samuel was handed down in October. You might remember the interim report didn’t mince words.  The report’s summary points, make for sober reading.

The EPBC Act is ineffective. It does not enable the Commonwealth to play its role in protecting and conserving environmental matters that are important for the nation. It is not fit to address current or future environmental challenges.

The final report will be publicly released no later than February 2021. Meanwhile, the Australian Government is endeavouring to streamline environmental approvals with amended legislation.  The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Streamlining Environmental Approvals) Bill 2020 proposes to devolve environmental approval powers to State and Territory Governments.

We welcome streamlined processes but hope that the standards for environmental protection ensure that Australia’s heritage is conserved and enhanced.

As Gough Whitlam said in 1970, ‘The Australian Government should see itself as the curator and not the liquidator of the national estate’.