Media Releases - 08 December 2022

Still to be resolved if proposed nature laws will better protect the environment or continue to facilitate ongoing development and destruction

The Wilderness Society welcomes the Albanese Labor Government’s commitment to establish an Independent Environmental Protection Agency and apply new National Environment Standards to forestry, but warns other elements of their response to the Independent Review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act risks leaving in place a system still too heavily geared towards facilitating destruction of the natural environment rather than towards protecting it.

The National Campaigns Director for the Wilderness Society, Amelia Young provides the following comments on the Albanese Government response to the once-in-a-decade independent review of the EPBC Act, handed to Commonwealth Government in 2020:

“Australia’s current national environment law is over 22 years old and was put in place by the Howard Coalition Government in a very different time and context to today. Many at the time, including environment groups and the then Labor opposition, said that law was not fit for purpose at the time, and it’s even more so the case today.

“It’s abundantly clear that Australia’s natural environment is in decline and all governments need to do better. When the Commonwealth Government succeeds in its job of protecting and restoring the environment then the bar is raised for everyone else. The job of Australia’s environment law is to set that bar high for state governments and business and to make sure it is the bar that nature needs, and that it is met and surpassed. But it’s not clear from the announcements made today how the community can be confident that reform of the EPBC Act will ensure the Commonwealth succeeds in this important role.

“Over the last few years, the Wilderness Society and many other groups together with tens of thousands of members of the community have campaigned strongly for these laws to be overhauled. The important Samuel Review pointed to key essential reforms, like strong environmental national standards and consistency of application to all industries and sectors, including forestry, which has enjoyed decades of sanctioned avoidance of national environment law.

“In July, Minister Plibersek released the latest State of the Environment report which was a sobering read and a clear sign all is not well in our natural world. It showed that the well-known problems of deforestation and invasive species are now joined by climate-driven disasters as the key threats to nature.

“It’s imperative that there is a major shift in emphasis in national environment law if each successive State of the Environment Report will no longer continue to be as bad as the ones that came before. And for that to be the case rivers have to have a fair share of their own water, plants and animals have to come off the threatened species lists rather then be added year on year, millions of hectares of forests and bushland cannot continue to be logged and bulldozed annually, and environment laws must actually protect nature, not facilitate development and industrial expansion into some of the most globally-significant ecosystems in the planet.

“We are alarmed at the proposed constellation of reforms around regional development planning, biodiversity offsets and the supposed ‘nature repair market’. These measures risk reducing oversight in environmental assessments, introducing ‘corruption risk’ into decision-making, and inviting the expansion of the financialised destruction of nature.

“Over the coming weeks and months we'll be working with our supporters, allies and other stakeholders to continue to advocate for a redrawing of the long-standing imbalance between nature destruction, and protection and restoration.”

For further information please contact: Jenita Enevoldsen, Senior Campaigner: 0405 941 500