Let’s change the laws for nature

Let’s change the laws for nature

We can secure strong new national laws that actually protect the environment.

We live in a truly special country. But weak environment laws and government inaction have made Australia a world leader in extinction and deforestation.

Self-interested corporations are riding roughshod over communities to damage our environment & health. They're taking advantage of our weak laws to trash our forests, wildlife & climate.

Right now, the Government is running a once-in-a-decade review of Australia’s failed national environment laws. This is a chance to deal with Australia’s appalling extinction record by bringing in strong new national nature laws that work and independent watchdog to enforce them.

Australia’s failed national environment law

The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC) is Australia’s national environment law. It has a very important job. The EPBC is meant to stop iconic threatened species like the Tasmanian devil, koala and Leadbeater's possum from going extinct, safeguard our natural places and ensure all governments work together to protect Australia’s environment and natural diversity of life. 

Yet our current protections and laws leave many of Australia's animals facing extinction. The Government is required to review the EPBC every ten years, and in 2019-2020 we have a once-in-a-decade chance to deal with Australia’s extinction and deforestation crises

We have sought to get as many community submissions as possible made into this review, to tell the government that we expect strong new nature laws. Many of our supporters have added their voices and stories about why nature is important to them by making a public submission to the review. 

They're people like Annie from Brisbane, who used her Movement For Life training to generate 26 submissions from her community. The Wilderness Society has also made a submission outlining the essential changes required to the EPBC Act if it is to serve its purpose protecting Australia's wildlife and wilderness.  

Having strong, effective environment laws is vitally important as right now Australia leads the world in mammal extinction and is second only to Indonesia for biodiversity loss. We’re seeing the increasing impacts of climate change on our communities and landscapes, including the catastrophic 2019-2020 bushfires and the recent bleaching events on the Barrier Reef.

To credibly respond to these challenges, both the EPBC Review and the Government’s response must achieve the following aims:

Keep Australia's environment healthy now and into the future, in the face of the growing impacts of the climate crisis and:

    • Acknowledge and address Australia’s extinction & deforestation crises, and the related growing impacts of climate change. National leadership is needed to ensure we have the laws, watchdog, funding and action needed to restore degraded landscapes and protect existing places and wildlife.
    • Stop the destruction of Australia’s most important ecosystems and most endangered wildlife. This includes endangered wildlife and their habitat; high-conservation value ecosystems like intact landscapes, old-growth forests and carbon sinks; and iconic landscapes like World Heritage Areas.
    • Apply the law equally to everyone - there should be no exemptions for any destructive industries or sectors. For example, native forest logging is currently exempt from the EPBC Act under the Regional Forest Agreements.

Guarantee community rights when governments make environmental decisions, including:

  • The right to participate in environmental decision-making, including early engagement in planning and to be consulted and heard at all key stages of decision-making.
  • The right for communities and NGOs to access up-to-date, accurate and comprehensive information required to properly take part in decision-making and planning.
  • The right to challenge environmental decisions on their merits and hold governments to account if they don’t follow or enforce their own laws.

The Government has to choose if they’ll fix these problems or be persuaded by the calls from big business to weaken our wildlife protections even further.

Vested interests are destroying nature

At the heart of the problem is this: our national environment laws are not currently working to protect the environment.  

Nothing is off-limits for destruction. Old-growth forests are being bulldozed and logged. Oil drilling still threatens the pristine waters of the Great Australian Bight. Projects that clear the habitats of critically-endangered wildlife are rubber-stamped and species are going extinct with no-one taking action to stop it. Vital water catchments are being mined and drained by big businesses with communities powerless to protect their environment.

The EPBC doesn’t even mention or deal with the escalating problem of climate change.

The EPBC is actually locking in environmental destruction. Almost all projects (99.7%) assessed by the Federal Government get rubber-stamped, with just 2% later knocked back by the courts. 

How Australian laws have failed nature—and you

Australia’s forests, waterways and wildlife are now in crisis—and once they’re gone, they're gone forever. Consider these facts:

  • Australia has the one of the worst rates of species extinction on the planet yet the government keeps turning a blind eye to their continued destruction and it refuses to act to help bring them back from the brink.  
  • Old growth forests and homes to endangered species are still being clear-felled for woodchips. In fact, 48 of our forest fauna species are threatened by logging in Australia. See: Abandoned: Australia’s forest wildlife in crisis.
  • Deforestation rates in Australia are now up there with the destruction of the Amazon which kills wildlife and impacts air and water quality in all communities.
  • Climate change is wreaking havoc on our river systems, water supplies, forests and the Great Barrier Reef.
  • Australia has the one of the worst rates of species extinction on the planet yet the government keeps turning a blind eye to their continued destruction and it refuses to act to help bring them back from the brink.   
  • River pollution and over-extraction of water is decimating our water supplies and natural assets like the Murray-Darling and the Great Barrier Reef.
  • The opening up of huge new polluting coal, gas and oil mines threatens the health and livelihoods of local communities and continues to worsen climate change.

Our vision

We need to secure a real future for the native wildlife we care about and protect the forests and landscapes they live in, with cleaner air, more resilient soils, healthy oceans and a climate we can rely on. We need to properly protect and restore our environment so Australia can be resilient in the face of climate change.

To truly protect and restore Australia’s nature, we need a new Australian Environment Act that commits the Australian Government to end deforestation of old-growth forests and critical habitat for endangered animals, to end extinction and to protect our vital waterways and catchments.

We need a National Environment Commission that can be an independent voice for the environment and lead a national approach to planning for the future. The Commission will develop National Environment Plans so:

  • We’re all working to the same goals.
  • They set binding clear national plans and standards  - businesses and communities aren’t dealing with unclear, inconsistent regulation.

We need an independent National Environmental Protection Authority to:

  • enforce the law, without political interference.
  • ensure that damaging projects are assessed independently by experts, not decided on through back room deals with paid lobbyists.

We need to give power back to communities by guaranteeing community legal rights to ensure that environment laws are enforced fairly and transparently, to have decisions reviewed on the basis of their merits and to ensure all communities have a say in decision-making.

The plan

  • Maintain political pressure on the government to commit to strong nature laws and institutions that actually work to end Australia’s extinction crisis. Key focus is on the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC) review during 2019 and 2020. 
  • Undertake research and investigations to expose the crisis in the media.
  • Build a broad movement of people for change by inspiring, recruiting, training and supporting experts and volunteers.
  • Communicate the challenge through bold, targeted advertising to get key audiences on board with our push for new nature laws and institutions.
  • Play active leadership role with the Places You Love Alliance, made up of 54 environmental organisations with a combined 1.5 million supporters, to activate audiences for reform.
  • Hold governments accountable to make sure that the new national plans and standards are enacted, enforced and funded to guarantee high-level outcomes.

What success looks like

  • Zero destruction of primary, remnant, old growth or high conservation value forests and bushland.
  • No more fauna or flora extinctions.
  • Measurable recovery of numbers or extent and quality of threatened, endangered and critically endangered species and ecosystems.
  • Measurable recovery of freshwater ecosystems, including the Murray-Darling Basin.
  • Measurable recovery of large, intact and functioning ecosystems (wilderness areas);
  • Twenty percent (20%) of every terrestrial and marine bioregion in Australia are protected in a nationally coordinated and consistent system of conservation agreements.
  • Federal Government leads the country in ensuring environmental indicators improve.
  • Environmental regulation, planning and decision making independent from political parties. These are adequately resourced to achieve outcomes, conducted transparently and fully enforced.
  • Community has legislated right to open standing, merits review and third-party enforcement rights under national environmental laws.
  • Community and NGO sector have access to consistent, regularly updated and reliable government data on environmental values and greenhouse gas reporting on disaggregated by sector and between sequestration and emissions.