Media Releases - 29 March 2023

The Wilderness Society makes the following statement regarding the Safeguard Mechanism

The Wilderness Society commends Chris Bowen and Adam Bandt and appreciates their constructive work to improve Australia’s Safeguard Mechanism.

However, there’s a lot more work to do for Australia to have the right policy settings to address the joint biodiversity and climate crises we all face. The starting place is twenty years behind where we need to be and there is no time to lose.

After the 2022 election, Wilderness Society highlighted that Australians’ demands for credible environmental and climate reform had been made clear and that the parliamentary numbers are there to do so. A failure to achieve the sorts of reforms the community, business and nature urgently need would reflect very poorly on our political system and demonstrate concerning political capture by powerful private actors.

Climate Minister, Chris Bowen and Greens Leader, Adam Bandt were able to sit down and come to an agreement that advances and improves upon the government’s original proposal. A cap on emissions is a necessity. As are constraints on new fossil fuel developments. And it was not acceptable or credible to have unlimited carbon offsets as national policy to achieve the country’s climate goals.

We urge the Labor Government, the Greens and others across parliament to urgently prioritise achieving further negotiated outcomes on climate and nature. Regarding climate change policy, action is urgently needed to:

  • End the offshore acreage release process and discontinue federal government finance for onshore fossil fuel projects including ceasing public funding through Geoscience Australia of pre-competitive petroleum exploration

  • Reform the offshore petroleum permitting system so that companies can surrender existing permits without having to financially contribute to petroleum exploration elsewhere

  • Make the offshore decommissioning levy permanent and reform provisioning requirements

Regarding nature policy, we urgently request that:

  • Labor, the Greens and other cross-bench parliamentarians begin preliminary negotiations now regarding the reforms to the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act, including the creation of a strong and binding Community Consultation, Participation and Access to Justice standard

  • Increased funding for nature conservation, management and restoration be considered in all budgetary discussions

In order to satisfactorily restore the community’s trust and confidence to environmental decision-making, as committed to by the government, these nature policy reforms must be a priority for the government in both the legislative agenda, and in the budget.

The safeguard mechanism resolution shows that this Parliament can deliver outcomes that are better than the status quo. It also shows that ongoing dialogue that starts well before Bills emerge for debate is critical. We hope that this continues in the climate space and develops in the nature and environment space.