Labor commits to big new nature laws and a national EPA

The Wilderness Society provides the following response to Labor’s comprehensive environment election announcement.

The Wilderness Society’s, National Campaigns Director, Lyndon Schneiders said, “This is a historic commitment to completely rewrite our failed national environmental laws and create a strong and powerful independent institution in the form of a national Environmental Protection Authority (EPA). 

“As outlined by Mr Shorten, ‘It is time to fundamentally change our approach to addressing the environmental crisis.’ These commitments provide the means to make that change.

“Australian is in the midst of an extinction crisis in which beloved animals species such as the Koala are under real threat. Tinkering around the edges and throwing good money after bad will not stop this crisis. Real action and strong laws are what is required.

“Bill Shorten’s policy announcement could be seen as one of the most significant comprehensive environmental policy statements since Bob Hawke’s Statement on the Environment at Wentworth in 1989.

Mr. Shorten has committed his Government, if elected, to rewrite Australia’s environment laws to ‘obligate’ the federal government to take responsibility to address environmental decline and to not just sit passively and watch as the crises deepen.

“It’s no coincidence that we’ve had both the Prime Minister and the Opposition leader making environment announcements in this election campaign. The public are rightly concerned about all the environmental crises we’ve been facing. We knew this from our research and from the direct contact with voters. We have no doubt that this latent concern has surfaced in all the parties own research. The public are looking for genuine leadership on addressing these issues. 

“The Wilderness Society set out at this campaign to change the laws of nature, that is to elevate the need to remake our environment laws and establish a truly independent and well-resourced environmental watchdog in the form of a national Environmental Protection Agency. Of the two parties competing for Government, the Liberals have offered a grab-bag of green grants that don’t make up for their previous environmental budget cuts, but Labor have now put forward their proposal which is substantive structural reform with the intent to get the job done, not just to look like they are.

“To deliver the change required to protect Australia’s environment and address extinction crisis will require very substantial funding over time - beyond what has been committed in this announcement. However, the priority is to get the fundamentals right. No amount money helps if the laws are toothless and unenforceable. 

“Another important issue to be clarified is the relationship between these laws and the failed Regional Forest Agreement which presently exempt forestry operations from national environment laws. No other industry gets this free pass and this should end.”

“We said in response to the Liberal’s announcement yesterday, that it is going to take more than bandaids to address our environmental crises and end species extinctions in Australia. And Labor have offered a substantive reform pathway that goes beyond bandaids. But it is a positive step to see the Prime Minister and alternative Prime Minister make positive environmental announcements after the last six years of attacks on ‘green tape’ and ‘green lawfare’ and using our environment as a tool in the culture wars.

“In this election we have seen many environmentally-minded independents such as Andrew Wilkie, Kerryn Phelps and Julia Banks sign on to the need for new nature laws. We have seen the Greens offer leadership in putting forward a comprehensive environmental funding package that they have committed to push for in the new parliament. The time is right for these reforms. And we urge all voters at this election to use their vote to change the laws of nature,” he concluded.

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NB: We are available for interview or additional commentary as needed.

Media contact: Tim Beshara (Federal Policy Director) 0437878786

4 May 2019  

Authorised by L Schneiders on behalf of The Wilderness Society Ltd, 132 Davey Street, Hobart Tasmania 7000.