Today Australia witnessed a bill that will weaken Australia’s nature laws and transfer development approval powers to state governments rushed through the lower house, according to WWF-Australia.
“This bill is a disaster in the making for wildlife and would put iconic species like koalas on the fast-track to extinction,” said Rachel Lowry, WWF-Australia’s Chief Conservation Officer.
The proposed amendments to the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act would see federal approval powers handed over to states and territories. However the bill in its current form lacks standards to help determine the strength of protection being afforded to nature, and lacks a commitment to ensuring independent compliance.
The bill will now go before the Senate in October.
Ms Lowry said passing a bill that doesn’t address concerns raised in the independent review of the EPBC Act is “a recipe for extinction”.
“The ink is barely dry on the review’s interim report, but the government is already ignoring its recommendations and rushing through changes that would gut environmental protections,” she said.
“There is more than just wildlife at stake here. If approved, this bill will fail Australians at this critical moment in time because it fails to incentivise win-win solutions that stimulate our economy and protect the places and animals we love.”
“Shifting approval powers to the states without an independent regulator to ensure enforcement, would be the most damaging environmental decision to occur within Australia in recent decades.
“The government should heed the expert advice of its reviewer Graeme Samuel and establish an independent ‘cop on the beat’ to ensure the laws that protect Australia’s nature are followed.”
Ms Lowry said that more than 60 environmental organisations as well as leading Australian scientists have sought to secure independent compliance and strong standards during the review process.
“The capacity of the EPBC Act to achieve real environmental outcomes will stand or fall on compliance and resourcing. It must be correctly resourced to do the job and stop Australia’s worsening extinction crisis,” she said.
“Destruction of koala habitat has actually accelerated since the iconic marsupial was listed as vulnerable under the EPBC Act
. It’s hardly surprising that koalas are sliding towards extinction across Eastern Australia. This is our moment in time to stop, rather than accelerate that decline.”
WWF-Australia has joined forces with the Australian Conservation Foundation, the Wilderness Society, Birdlife Australia and the Humane Society International, on a campaign calling for laws that actually protect nature before it's gone
“Australia has suffered its worst bushfires in living memory, with over three billion native animals killed or displaced. The animals that survived this disaster need our protection now more than ever,” said Ms Lowry.
“We have a once-in-a decade opportunity to turn things around for our struggling wildlife. We must strengthen our nature laws and ensure they are properly enforced without political interference.
“If we don’t take action now the loss to Australia will be irreversible.”
Australians can help stop our wildlife extinction crisis by sending a message to their local MPs via the WWF-Australia website: https://www.wwf.org.au/get-involved/end-animal-extinction