Media Releases - 11 May 2023

Government must ensure new EPA is fully independent and meet funding gaps in costing

While the Labor government has made an important step in committing seed funding to Environmental Protection Australia in this week’s Federal Budget, costings detailed today by Andrew Wilkie MP indicate that much more funding is needed for EPA to function as an effective and independent regulator, says conservation organisation The Wilderness Society.

Mr Wilkie’s costings for EPA reveal a significant shortfall between the funds allocated this week by the government ($121 million over four years) and those independently costed ($322.2 million over four years). Mr Wilkie’s legitimate and timely concerns about the funding shortfall are an alarm bell for a government that has committed to establishing an effective environmental regulator.

The costings come in the context of a Federal Budget that committed to establishing new environmental institutions but left vital conservation functions—such as species recovery plans, threat abatement plans and world heritage listing processes—in the cold, with no new funds allocated. Many of the Labor government's promises remain in limbo without adequate funding committed to turn them into tangible action.

Sam Szoke-Burke, biodiversity policy and campaign manager at The Wilderness Society, said, “We welcome Mr Wilkie’s intervention here and agree that if EPA is to play the promised role of ‘a tough cop on the beat’ it will require independence and sufficient funding—neither of which have been confirmed yet by the Labor government. While we commend the seed funding committed to in this week’s Federal Budget, substantially more funds will clearly be needed. The National Anti-Corruption Authority didn’t start with an allocation of seed funding with the remainder to potentially come later and neither should EPA.

“The costings also proceed on the basis of EPA having an independent board, which the government has not committed to, likely because of industry pressure. But an independent EPA board will be a crucial precondition to the government rectifying the integrity crisis engulfing environmental decision-making.

“Every single review of our Commonwealth environment laws and their administration has concluded that they are not trusted by the public. Ceding the new EPA’s independence from day one due to industry pressure is no way to restore that trust.”