Aerial view of Hardy\

Fish-eye aerial view of Hardy Reef, Great Barrier Reef © Viewfinder Australia Photo Library

We need strong new national environment laws and institutions

18 May 2016

Keywords
  • great barrier reef
  • kimberley
  • places you love
  • western australia
The Places You Love alliance is calling on all political parties this election to commit to a new environmental law system as Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt and the shadow minister, Mark Butler, debate at the National Press Club today.

The Places You Love alliance of more than 40 environment groups representing more than 1.5 million Australians believes the current system is failing us all. Our national environment is in significant decline and our national law, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act1999 was written at a time when the pervasive threats to our environment were less well known, especially the significant impacts of global warming.

We have come to conclusion that the current laws have failed us because:
  • More than 1200 Australian plants and nearly 400 animals are threatened with extinction. 
  • More than half of the Great Barrier Reef’s coral has been lost in the past 30 years. 
  • More than 3,000 Australians die every year from air pollution-related illness. 
  • 1 million hectares of Australian native vegetation was destroyed in the first decade of this century.
  • There are 50,000 unremediated mine sites in this country. 

The key, costed reforms we are advocating in this election include:
  1. A new Commonwealth Environment Act providing national leadership on environmental protection and a transition in the interim, improving the EPBC Act.
  2. Expand the scope of Commonwealth oversight of environmental matters and increase the accountability of State and Territory governments.
  3. Create a new, independent of government Environment Authority to administer the new Act, including: monitoring, compliance and enforcement, transparent advice to the Minister, a central repository of environmental data, publishing State of the Environment reports, and coordinating environmental regulatory activities with state and territory agencies.
  4. Enshrine accountability, integrity and transparency in decision making, including open standing provisions and standing extended to merits review of decisions.

“The next generation of national environment laws must reflect our international obligations, including the Paris Climate Agreement, UN Sustainable Development Goals and Aichi Targets under the Convention on Biological Diversity,” said Dermot O’Gorman, CEO, WWF-Australia.

“These new laws must be based on twenty-first century principles of smart regulation in order to deliver streamlined, strategic and effective outcomes for the environment, for government and for business,” said Samantha Vine, Convenor, Places You Love.

“The fundamental problem is that the Australian Government has stopped leading. It has withdrawn from using the powers available to it to manage a national system of environmental protection that draws on the strengths of each level of government in our federal system to deliver effective environmental protection,” said Lyndon Schneiders, The Wilderness Society.

We believe changing the current failed system provides real benefits for all:
  • Benefits to the environment: clear responsibility for protection of the environment in the hands of the Australian Government, an independent national Authority acting as regulator, and the ability to better track progress on policy goals.
  • Benefits to government: a clear decision making authority, a high quality source of information and data for both policy making and decisions, and increased public confidence and less disputation.
  • Benefits to business: a single point of entry for development proposals, simpler, more efficient regulatory process, and decreased business uncertainty due to a better decision-making process.

“The Places You Love alliance believes the next generation of environmental laws need to protect land, water and life in Australia – our bush, our beaches, our rivers, our critters and our air and water,” concluded Glen Klatovsky, Director, Places You Love.

WWF-Australia Media Contact: Daniel Rockett, National Media Manager, 0432 206 592, drockett@wwf.org.au

© Sian Breen / WWF-Aus

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