A government-controlled Senate committee today recommended that a controversial Bill to strip back Australia’s environmental protections be passed into law.
The proposed changes to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act (EPBC) would remove a key check and balance in government decision making – by eliminating the right of most Australians to challenge bad decisions in court.
The recommendations of the Environment and Communications Legislation Committee have been made despite a 2012 ICAC report that found 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.
WWF-Australia CEO Dermot O’Gorman said the ability to take legal action to test decisions made by governments reduces the risk of corruption and gives the community trust and 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,” Mr O’Gorman said.
“Enacting EPBC Act was a remarkable achievement by the Howard Government, which has been followed by 16 years of economic growth unimpeded by strong environmental protections.
“Rather than reverse John Howard’s environmental legacy, we call on the Turnbull Government to preserve these modern 21st century environmental laws that serve all Australians.”
WWF-Australia Media Contact:
Daniel Rockett, National Media Manager
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.