Media Releases - 25 February 2021

Response to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Standards And Assurance) Bill 2021

Suzanne Milthorpe, the Wilderness Society’s National Environment Laws Campaign Manager, provides the following response to the introduction into Parliament of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Standards And Assurance) Bill 2021

With strong nature laws we'd be able to better protect faunal icons like the numbat.

Suzanne Milthorpe says, “Twenty years of environmental decline makes it clear that raising our environmental standards and establishing stronger oversight is sorely needed. And therefore, if this legislation represents a step towards implementing the full package of reforms recommended by the Samuel Review, which we know is needed to turn around Australia's extinction crisis, then we would welcome that.

“But given we haven't seen a full Government response to the Samuel Review and given the legislation itself looks pretty thin, we are deeply concerned that this might be simply a matter of political expediency aimed at helping pass the regressive EPBC devolution Bill. This is a Bill that is out of line with the scientific evidence, the views of the community, and the views of their own expert reviewer. We worry that today might be one small step forward to facilitate the taking of another giant step backwards. 

“From an initial read of this Standards and Assurance Bill, it’s not clear to me that it either raises standards or provides very much assurance. The standards that this Bill puts in place are no more than currently exists in the Act, a standard which we know is locking in extinction. And by having an Assurance Commissioner that is barred from looking at individual approval decisions, it seems to be little different from what the Auditor General already does. We’ve already seen that the recent scathing Auditor General report on the EPBC Act hasn’t led to a systematic rise in standards of environmental protection. 

“It is up to the Government to show that they are acting in good faith to turn around Australia’s extinction crisis by providing a full and substantive response to the Independent Review. The legislation they have introduced today isn’t what we’d call a full and substantive response.  

“We want to see a Federal Government that is serious about protecting Australia’s special places and turning around the extinction crisis, but this step isn’t enough to show that we have that. The Samuel Review is clear that if the Government does not undertake a widespread package of reforms to our failed national environment law they will be choosing ‘to accept the continued decline of our iconic places and the extinction of our most threatened plants, animals and ecosystems’.”

For further comment contact Suzanne Milthorpe on 0408 582396 or Tim Beshara on 0437 878786