WWF-Australia cautioned that proposed changes to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act (EPBC) proposed by the Federal Government increase the risk of corruption by removing checks and balances in Government decision-making.
WWF CEO Dermot O’Gorman said that an independent legal review of environmental approvals was the best safeguard against corruption, and had been specifically cited by the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption as a disincentive for corrupt decision-making.
In 2012, ICAC said that third party appeal rights have the potential to deter corrupt approaches by minimising the chance that any favouritism sought will succeed. ICAC also said the absence of third party appeals creates an opportunity for corrupt conduct to occur, as an important disincentive for corrupt decision-making is absent from the planning system.
Mr O’Gorman said: “The ability to take legal action to test decisions made by governments reduces the risk of corruption and gives the community confidence that decisions are being made for the right reasons. Far from damaging the economy, merit appeals promote good government decision-making and transparency and therefore a stronger economy.
“The EPBC Act was brought in by the Howard Government to create a transparent, accountable process, that put in place the appropriate safeguards and checks and balances on major development projects,” he said.
Mr O’Gorman said that the recent Federal Court decision on Adani’s mine is to be commended. It shows that people can trust the courts to uphold our laws.
“It is incorrect for the Government to blame the laws when they don’t get the result they want”.
“The EPBC Act that the government proposes to repeal – on the spurious ground that they are detrimental to the economy – have been in the Act for the last 16 years, ever since it was enacted under the Howard Government. This period has been a period of continuous economic growth,” Mr O’Gorman said.
The NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption report, Anti-corruption safeguards and the NSW planning system on page 22, states:
Third party appeal rights have the potential to deter corrupt approaches by minimising the chance that any favouritism sought will succeed. The absence of third party appeals creates an opportunity for corrupt conduct to occur, as an important disincentive for corrupt decision-making is absent from the planning system...
The Commission has recommended that the right of third parties to a merit appeal should be extended on numerous occasions. The Commission continues to support enlarging the categories of development subject to third party appeals. In order to balance the need to curb the potential for real corruption with the need to avoid unnecessary delays in the planning system, the Commission believes that third party appeals should be limited to “high corruption risk” situations.
WWF-Australia Media Contact:
Mark Symons, Communications Coordinator, 0400 985 571, firstname.lastname@example.org