Australian news, and some related international items

Australia’s Environment Laws have no teeth, are in much need of strengthening

‘No checks, no balances’: push for change to environment laws, The Age, By Mike Foley, June 14, 2020 Australia’s 20-year-old flagship environmental protection laws are failing badly and in urgent need of an overhaul, the crossbench senator who helped the Howard government install the landmark legislation says.

“Clearly it’s not working well,” former Democrats senator Andrew Bartlett said ahead of an imminent review of the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. “The most obvious failure is despite the fact conditions can be attached to project approvals, there are just so many cases where conditions aren’t adhered to. There are no efforts to check and no penalties.”

Mr Bartlett stared down bitter opposition from some powerful players in the conservation movement and sided with the Howard government against Labor and the Greens to vote for legislation in 1999.

The act was an attempt by the Howard government to modernise environmental protection laws and was controversial because it significantly increased the environment minister’s powers, such as allowing them to intervene in project approvals to protect threatened species.

Since the act’s introduction, Australia’s list of nationally threatened species and ecosystems has grown by more than one-third – from 1483 to 1974.

The act is being reviewed by the former chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Graeme Samuel, who is due to complete his report for Environment Minister Sussan Ley later this month.

Both conservationists and industry are unhappy with the application of the act. Conservation groups say successive governments have not used the powers in the act to protect threatened species, while industry argues the act has delayed development because of so-called “green law-fare”.

Australian Conservation Foundation policy co-ordinator James Trezise said “the idea that vexatious litigation is rife under national environment law is not borne out by the evidence”.

“There have been less than 50 public interest cases under the EPBC Act in 20 years,” he said.

Professor Hugh Possingham, one of the scientists who advised the Howard government on the legislation, said the act had failed to protect the environment.

“There’s no ambiguity in the science, the EPBC Act isn’t delivering,” Professor Possingham told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. ……

The Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists’ submission to Mr Samuel’s review said the “objectives of the [EPBC] act are not being met”…..

June 15, 2020 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, politics

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