Media Releases - 04 April 2019

Australia’s environment laws ‘incapable’ of stopping extinction crisis

  • Senate Report finds Australia’s extinction rate increasing over last 20 years
  • Recommends “complete overhaul" of Australia’s environment legislation
  • Calls for a new Environment Act and independent Environment Protection Agency

Last night, the Senate Inquiry into Australia’s Faunal Extinction Crisis released a powerful report detailing the spiralling rates of extinction of animals in Australia.

The Committee’s Interim Report found that our existing approach to the protection of threatened and endangered species "is incapable of addressing" our current extinction threat.

The Committee called for the Federal Government to enact new legislation that can "limit the drivers of faunal extinction" like deforestation and climate change and establish an independent EPA with "sufficient powers and funding to oversee compliance with Australia's environmental laws".

In response, on the eve of the 2019 Federal election, The Wilderness Society has called on all parties and candidates contesting the election to explicitly outline the policies they will pursue and the funding they will commit in response to this damning report.

Lyndon Schneiders, Wilderness Society National Campaign Director, said: “The buck needs to stop somewhere. Australians will be horrified by the evidence presented to this Inquiry and failures of successive governments to take real action. Real change will only come through strong and decisive leadership and real funding by the national government. We can turn this crisis around. Countries like the USA have already done so, but only with strong and prescriptive laws and a strong independent agency, like a national EPA, with the teeth to hold governments and vested interests to account."

Suzanne Milthorpe, Wilderness Society National Nature Campaign Manager, says: “The evidence is clear—Australia is in an extinction crisis. We’re number two in the world for species loss, and if we keep turning a blind eye to major threats to wildlife like deforestation, even iconic animals like the koala will go.

“We welcome the recommendation for strong national environment laws that can actually stop the threats to wildlife, and an independent watchdog with teeth to enforce them.

“But we need more than recommendations. Positive action on the environment is showing up as a huge issue in both national polls and the recent NSW election. What that tells us is neither party can be a credible candidate for government without having detailed, costed policies on how they’ll deal with major causes of extinction, like the legacy of 200 years of inappropriate deforestation and the worsening impacts of climate change.

“With Australia losing three unique species in the last decade, and scientists expecting that number to skyrocket to 17 over the next 20 years, a key test for the next government will be turning around Australia’s grim extinction record.

“Laws will not be enough—we need a new approach to protecting our environment. Following six years of chaotic Coalition environment policy, Australia needs the leadership of a national Environment Commission to drive a national approach and ensure that Australia has world best-practice policy that supports our wildlife and natural places. We welcome the additional comments from the Greens Senators on the Committee calling for the Commission," she concluded.

More information

For further information or comment, please contact Suzanne Milthorpe, Wilderness Society National Nature Campaign Manager, on 0408 582 396.

Read the Environment and Communications References Committee Interim Report into Australia’s faunal extinction crisis.