Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

Morrison government rushing to make Austraia’s environment laws even weaker: a recipe for extinctions

‘Recipe for extinction’: why Australia’s rush to change environment laws is sparking widespread concern

Critics argue shifting approval powers to the states without an independent regulator will fail to protect the environment,   Guardian,  Lisa Cox– 6 Sept 20

Anger over proposed changes to national environmental laws is escalating, with legal, health and conservation groups urging that they not pass the Senate, with some warning it would increase the extinction rate.

The government rammed its legislation to change Australia’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act through the lower house on Thursday night, prompting outrage from Labor, the Greens and crossbench.

WWF-Australia says the bill in its current reform is a “recipe for extinction” and lacks standards that would ensure strong protections for nature, as well as a commitment to an independent regulator to enforce the law.

“There is more than just wildlife at stake here,” Rachel Lowry, WWF-Australia’s chief conservation officer, says. “If approved, this bill will fail Australians at this critical moment in time because it fails to incentivise win-win solutions that stimulate our economy and protect the places and animals we love.

“Shifting approval powers to the states without an independent regulator to ensure enforcement would be the most damaging environmental decision to occur within Australia in recent decades.”

The government’s bill would amend Australia’s environmental laws, clearing the way for the transfer of development approval powers to state and territory governments.

The prime minister, Scott Morrison, and the environment minister, Sussan Ley, have argued the changes are necessary to aid Australia’s economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The proposed changes passed the lower house on Thursday night after the government used its numbers to gag debate on the bill and amendments proposed by Labor and the crossbench.

No member of the government spoke on the bill, which still has to pass the Senate and will likely be debated during the October budget sittings.

Rachel Walmsley, the policy and law reform director at the Environmental Defenders Office, says the government is trying to avoid scrutiny.

She warns the bill has the potential to undermine the statutory review of the EPBC Act, chaired by the former competition watchdog head Graeme Samuel, which is not due to table its final report until the end of October.

The key finding of Samuel’s interim report was that Australia’s system of environmental protections had failed and the decline of wildlife and habitat was unsustainable.

“It was a fairly atrocious process that, moments before adjournment, they rammed it through,” Walmsley says.

“The gagging of the debate, the fact they prevented voting on amendments and the fact no government MP stood up to justify the policy – it prevented proper parliamentary scrutiny.”

The Climate and Health Alliance, which is a coalition of Australian health organisations, has called on the Senate to block the amendments.

“Australia’s natural environment is declining on every possible measure. We lead the world in animal extinctions,” says the alliance’s executive director, Fiona Armstrong. “There is no economy without a healthy environment.

“The government is trying to rush through amendments to our environmental protection laws that would weaken them in favour of expanding gas and fossil fuel projects that harm the environment and threaten human health.”

The Law Council of Australia has called for the bill to be put before a parliamentary committee for inquiry and not rushed through the Senate.

The government and One Nation have blocked several attempts by the Greens to have a parliamentary committee examine the bill.

International obligations

The Law Council says the government needs to make sure it retains oversight of matters of national environmental significance if it enters into bilateral approval agreements with state and territory governments.

The council says this is particularly important for ensuring Australia still meets its obligations under some 33 international treaties and protocols to which it is signatory, including for world heritage sites…….. https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/sep/06/recipe-for-extinction-why-australias-rush-to-change-environment-laws-is-sparking-widespread-concern

September 7, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, politics | Leave a comment

Environment Law: Scott Morrison’s government shows its disdain for ZaliSteggall and the cross-benchers

Independent MPs furious as government rams environmental law changes through lower house, https://www.sbs.com.au/news/independent-mps-furious-as-government-rams-environmental-law-changes-through-lower-house  4 Sept 20 The Morrison government has been branded a “bully in action” for pushing its environment law changes through the lower house without following usual process.

Independent MPs are furious with the Morrison government for throwing due process out the window and ramming controversial environmental laws through the lower house.

Crossbench MP Zali Steggall flagged amendments to the bill but the government refused to allow them to be voted on.

Instead, the coalition used its numbers to shove the bill through the lower house on Thursday night.

Ms Steggall described the government as a “bully in action”.

“The PM and every coalition MP made a mockery of due process for legislation and bulldozed environmental and water protection,” she said.

“And they were laughing while doing it. This is how they represent you. If you care, contact your MP.”

The changes to the national environment protection laws pave the way for states to take over approvals.

The states would have to abide by a set of national environment standards, which have not been developed.

The changes are in response to an interim review conducted by former competition watchdog Graeme Samuel.

Professor Samuel also recommended installing an independent environmental umpire, but the government has rejected that.

Independent Tasmanian MP Andrew Wilkie says the changes will water down environment protection.

“(The bill) hands decision-making to state and territory governments who have shown time and time again to be conflicted and incapable of protecting the environment,” he said.

“The passage of the amendment through the House of Representatives was also a chilling demonstration of the government’s complete contempt for democracy.

“Most members of the house were prevented from speaking, and foreshadowed amendments were blocked without debate. The government acted again like an elected dictatorship.”

Environment Minister Sussan Ley was quick to defend the changes after outrage over the process.

“There will be more reforms to follow,” she said.

“We will develop strong Commonwealth-led national environmental standards which will underpin new bilateral agreements with state governments.”

The bill is likely to be referred to a Senate committee for scrutiny, pumping the brakes on its progress.

Labor and the Greens oppose the legislation.

September 5, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, politics | Leave a comment

Australian government, masks its anti-environment action under the cover of Covid-19

September 5, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, politics | Leave a comment

Aussies call for tougher environment laws

Aussies call for tougher environment laws, Deniliquin Pastoral Times by AAP NEWSWIRE  4 Sep 20, The equivalent of the national capital’s population has supported a petition calling for stronger environmental protection laws.The petition is the most supported in the Australian Conservation Foundation’s history, with close to 410,000 people signing it.

ACF’s chief Kelly O’Shanassy has sent it to Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his Environment Minister Sussan Ley, who are in the midst of tweaking the national protection laws.

The changes are in response to an interim review of the laws, but rather than strengthening environmental standards the first move is to cut red tape.

ACF’s petition calls on the government to create a “new generation of national laws to protect nature and funding to restore ecosystems to bring our wildlife back from the brink”.

In his interim review, former competition watchdog Graeme Samuel found the current laws were ineffective and Australia’s environmental trajectory is unsustainable.

He recommended an independent environmental watchdog, which has been rejected by the government.

Instead the first changes set the stage for states to take over environmental approvals.

They will have to abide by a set of national environmental standards, which have not yet been developed…….

Labor and the Greens oppose the government’s changes, and want Ms Ley to wait until Professor Samuel’s final report is handed down next month before changing the laws. https://www.denipt.com.au/national/2020/09/03/1566977/aussies-call-for-tougher-environment-laws

September 5, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment | Leave a comment

Murray-Darling River system; mysterious loss of more than 2 trillion litres of water

The mystery of the Murray-Darling’s vanishing flows, ABC By national science, technology and environment reporter Michael SlezakMark DomanKatia Shatoba, Penny Timms and Alex Palmer 3 Sep 2020

It might be the biggest whodunnit — or what-dunnit — in Australia.

More than 2 trillion litres of water — enough to fill Sydney Harbour four and a half times — has gone missing from our largest and most precious river system — the Murray-Darling Basin.

And it’s happened in what was already one of the driest periods the basin has seen.

According to an investigation by some of Australia’s top water scientists, shared exclusively with the ABC, 20 per cent of the water expected to flow down the rivers from 2012-2019 was simply not there. That’s despite almost $7 billion being spent to protect the health of the system’s rivers and ecosystems that rely on them.

Was it stolen? Was it lost? Has climate change made it go up in steam? Or was it simply never there in the first place?

There are clues scattered up and down the rivers but one simple message is clear in the scientists’ findings. For the first time, they provide evidence that the Murray-Darling Basin Plan — the most expensive environmental program in Australia’s history — is delivering much less water than was expected.

And the implications could be huge……. EXCELLENT INTERACTIVE GRAPHICS HERE

…..“It’s a huge discrepancy to be missing a fifth of the water that’s meant to be in the rivers,” said Jamie Pittock from the ANU. He’s an expert in water management and a co-author of the Wentworth Group’s report.

“It means that there are all sorts of things that Australians value that won’t be sustained … like more water for towns … the floodplains, growing grass for sheep and cattle, in terms of biodiversity being conserved, waterbirds, red gum forests and conserving our fish.”…………

there are clues. Lots of them. We’ve seen water go missing up and down the river with clear explanations before. And looking closely at the new report, many of those explanations are consistent with the new data.

Clue one: tampered meters and criminal prosecutions

One possible explanation for the shortfall is that some of the missing water has been stolen.

An investigation by Four Corners in 2017 put water theft in the spotlight — much of it around the Barwon-Darling catchment in the Northern Basin.

Irrigators there, according to official figures, use 3 per cent of all the water taken from the entire Murray-Darling Basin.

But on top of those official figures, there has been significantly more water taken in that area. The Murray-Darling Basin Authority itself estimated that in the Northern Basin, as little as 25 per cent of surface water take has been metered.

Some of the water that went unmetered was stolen.

Peter Harris, who was named in the 2017 Four Corners, was this year found guilty of water theft just upstream from those gauges at Brewarrina.

Anthony Barlow, another person named in the program, was found guilty and fined $190,000, for water theft just upstream again.

Since the Natural Resources Access Regulator (NRAR) was formed in NSW in 2018, 15 additional charges have been laid in these locations across the state for water theft and related actions, according to an NRAR spokeswoman.

Emma Carmody, a lawyer at the Environmental Defenders’ Office, said the criminal prosecutions do not represent how widespread water theft has been.

“I’d actually go so far as to say that this situation pre-2018 was catastrophically bad in those northern catchments in relation to compliance and enforcement,” Dr Carmody said………..

Clue two: shadow take

Travel further upstream along the Macquarie River towards Dubbo, and you land in the internationally protected wetlands of the Macquarie Marshes………

In a landscape so flat, structures like roads, engineered channels and small levee banks can divert staggering volumes of floodwater — potentially shepherding it across a farmer’s fields where it is left to soak into the ground, or even pumped into dams.

This water taken by irrigators and graziers from the floodplains — rather than from the rivers — has hardly ever been measured.

Using satellite imagery, flood paths appear guided by seemingly innocuous structures, or completely cut off by others.

Richard Kingsford is a river ecologist at the University of New South Wales who has studied the Macquarie Marshes and the impacts of floodplain harvesting.

He says water that spills over floodplains often drains back into rivers, and interrupting its flow can have big impacts, including contributing to the missing flows.

“There are very few places where we have an accurate estimate of how much water is being taken from the floodplain. And to me, this has been a yawning gap in the policy,” he said…………

Clue Three: The cash splash

If we head all the way to southern NSW, we see a completely different clue.

Billions have been spent subsidising “efficiency measures” to help farmers save water there.

That can be done by upgrading old irrigation systems to deliver water directly to roots, or lining water channels, for example. Then about half of the water saved by the farmers gets handed to the government for the environment.

But according to some experts, the “inefficiencies” prior to the upgrades just meant some of the water used by irrigators flowed back into the rivers. The upgrades mean that “return flow” stops happening………..

In a report published in 2019, Professor Williams estimated that at least 280 billion litres of water per year might have been lost from the rivers — and are unaccounted for — due to this problem.

“That must be a major reason that we’re not getting the flow regimes that we need,” Professor Williams said.

The MDBA commissioned its own analysis of the issue and concluded the loss of return flows was reducing water in the rivers by 121 billion litres a year.……..

Clue Four: Climate change

There is one issue, however, that most experts do agree is a major reason for the missing water in the basin.

“The MDBA considers a changing climate to be the primary contributory factor,” said the MDBA’s Vicki Woodburn.

Since the basin plan was introduced, heat records across the area have been broken in four of the eight years. The last three years have been the hottest ever recorded in the basin.

According to the South Australian royal commission into the Murray-Darling basin plan, the MDBA “completely ignored climate change” when determining how much water needed to be saved.

If true, that means the overall target may have been set too low — that more water needs to be recovered from irrigation to save the river system.

But the same models used to set those targets have also been used to manage the rivers, and now to calculate how much water should be in the rivers. And by inadequately accounting for climate change, those models are likely over-predicting how much water is being recovered.

Climate change means more water is likely being lost between gauges, as it flows along — lost into the dry river beds and the hot air…………..

Clue five: The water was never there

In a twist worthy of any whodunnit, could it be that some of the missing water was simply never there in the first place?

According to the Wentworth Group, the government modelling used to predict how much water we should see in the river has some fundamental flaws which likely exaggerate the volumes.

For example, in 2018, the Murray-Darling Basin Authority found its modelling “has trouble predicting low flows”.

That meant that when water stopped flowing in the river, the model would still show water flowing — something that could have been particularly problematic over the past seven years when low flows were very common………….

What it all means

If there’s less water in the rivers than we ever planned for, what’s to be done about it?……………..

Professor Vertessy, who advises the MDBA, thinks this sort of shortfall could contribute to a rethink of the long-term water recovery targets.    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-09-03/the-mystery-of-the-murray-darlings-vanishing-flows/12612166?nw=0

“We may have to — I think everyone would accept that these sustainable diversion limits aren’t quantities which you ossify for posterity,” he says.

“They’ve got to be adjusted to fit in with the new climate realities and the social preferences of the day.”

And the scientists say whatever the response to the findings, something has to give.

“The current basin plan tries to pretend that we can do everything with a smaller and smaller cake,” says Professor Pittock.

“What this really means is that society is going to have to make some hard choices. How much irrigated agriculture do we want as a society versus how much do we want to retain by way of wetlands and ecosystems [or] of sites of cultural value to Indigenous people?”   https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-09-03/the-mystery-of-the-murray-darlings-vanishing-flows/12612166?nw=0

September 3, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment | Leave a comment

Australian government seeks to regurgitate Tony Abbott’s anti environment laws

August 31, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment | Leave a comment

Cut through the propaganda. Population growth is NOT good for Australia

More pro-population growth propaganda, Crispin Hull 28 Aug 20,There was more fear-mongering, self-serving, and flawed guestimates over population this week – this time from the quintessential accountant and consultant to big business and government, KPMG.Shock, horror, Australia’s population would be 1.1 million less by 2029-30 because of the reduction in immigration caused by Covid. That would be a “$117 billion” hit to the economy over the decade by dragging down economic growth, KPMG calculates. That would leave every Australian $2850 worse off each year, KPMG says.

So, KPMG and its big-business clients hope that the masses will be lulled into supporting a return to higher immigration. Well, let’s hope a bit of counter-propaganda will prevent that.

Even on KPMG’s figures, this hit to the Australian economy and therefore living standards of Australians is suspect.

KPMG’s says GDP would be $117 billion lower each year by 2029-30 if we do not have these 1.1 million extra people, and that would leave every one of the 28 million Australians by then $2850 worse off each year – that is a total of $79.8 billion, let’s say $80 billion.

Bear with me with the figures.

Population growth propaganda

There was more fear-mongering, self-serving, and flawed guestimates over population this week – this time from the quintessential accountant and consultant to big business and government, KPMG.

Shock, horror, Australia’s population would be 1.1 million less by 2029-30 because of the reduction in immigration caused by Covid. That would be a “$117 billion” hit to the economy over the decade by dragging down economic growth, KPMG calculates. That would leave every Australian $2850 worse off each year, KPMG says.

So, KPMG and its big-business clients hope that the masses will be lulled into supporting a return to higher immigration. Well, let’s hope a bit of counter-propaganda will prevent that.

Even on KPMG’s figures, this hit to the Australian economy and therefore living standards of Australians is suspect.

KPMG’s says GDP would be $117 billion lower each year by 2029-30 if we do not have these 1.1 million extra people, and that would leave every one of the 28 million Australians by then $2850 worse off each year – that is a total of $79.8 billion, let’s say $80 billion.

Bear with me with the figures.

But if instead we have the extra immigrants, that $80 billion will not be “lost” because of the extra $117 billion in GDP the immigrants would provide. Take that $80 billion for the existing population away from KPMG’s $117 billion, it leaves $37 billion a year for the 1.1 million immigrants themselves, which comes to just $33,636 each immigrant per year, well below the Australian average income. So they are dragging their heels. They are a cost to the Australian community not an asset.

There is clearly something wrong with these “plucked-from-the-air” figures.

KPMG’s study looks at what would happen if there was no vaccine – and therefore no immigration – after one year and after two years.  ……

But the 5.5% drop is not down to no immigration. Rather, it is down to all the other economically horrible things caused by a no-vaccine environment: closed businesses, closed borders, lack of confidence etc etc. But KPMG, to suit its own purposes, puts all of the lower GDP ($117 billion) down to no immigration and says the absence of immigration will cost every Australian $2850…..

Covid aside, there are good grounds for concluding that the John Howard-inspired high-immigration policies since the late 1990s have cost Australians dearly, not just in economic terms but also in environmental and lifestyle costs.

It is all very well bringing in immigrants with their immediate incomes which add to overall GDP in the short-term. But GDP per head in the long term is cruelled by that. Schools, hospitals and transport infrastructure have to be built to accommodate them. That might be good for KPMG’s big-business clients just as their immediate consumption needs might similarly benefit them.

But it is not so good for existing residents. Increased congestion and agricultural and wilderness land being consumed by housing are just some of the costs.

High immigration has become a self-perpetuating myth. It was a great thing for Australia from 1945 to about 1970, but thereafter it should have been questioned, but was not……..

The KPMG report is just one more bit of a continuous stream of pro-population propaganda. Couched in statistics and the “science” of economics, it goes unchallenged especially by media that should do better: the ABC, SBS, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. They rarely if ever challenge high immigration because of a misguided fear of being branded racist or anti-multicultural.

You don’t have to agree with high immigration to prove you are not a racist or anti-mulitculturalism. You can do that by merely supporting Australia’s laudable non-race-based refugee intake…….

The fact is, existing multicultural communities have the most to lose from high immigration because it puts extra pressure on the very services they need most: public transport, translation services, schools, health services and so on.

Covid, of course, poses a real threat to the present pro-population Ponzi scheme. If Australia experiences a couple of years’ relief from the high-immigration, high-population mantra, ordinary people might like the result. There would be less pressure on schools, hospitals, public transport, housing costs and so on.

Suddenly, people might revolt against high immigration and high population growth which enriches the few at the expense of the many and at the expense of the natural environment and its non-human inhabitants.

Small wonder KPMG and others like them are serving up the scare-mongering manipulated figures they did this week – continuing to serve their big-business clients against the interests of the vast bulk of Australian residents.

Among the many things that Australians should question and change as a consequence of Covid, high immigration should be near the top of the list….. http://www.crispinhull.com.au/2020/08/28/more-pro-population-growth-propaganda/?utm_source=mailpoet&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=crispin-hull-column-16-nov-2019_99

August 29, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment | Leave a comment

Slowing of population growth could be a good thing for Australia

August 22, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, politics | Leave a comment

David Noonan: a new Submission to Senate Environment Inquiry – on BHP Olympic Dam

David Noonan, Independent Environment Campaigner and Consultant, has  provided a “BHP Olympic Dam Case Study” submission to a federal parliament JSCNA Inquiry, which has now made public by the Committee: “A case study on BHP Olympic Dam mine in SA under the Prime Minister’s ‘fast track’ EPBC Act mine expansion Assessment and Approvals“.

FYI – This submission includes a Joint ENGO Briefing Paper “BHP LEGAL PRIVILEGES IN THE OLYMPIC DAM INDENTURE ACT 1982 OVERRIDE SA LAWS (June 2019) and refers to the Joint ENO Recommendations & Submission to federal government on Olympic Dam mine in Dec 2019.

David Noonan will be variously distributing this submission over the weekend – welcome to discuss any related matter if and as may suit & as raised in the sub.

In addition to the 1982 Indenture over riding Aboriginal Heritage and the PM’s ‘fast track’ assessment & approvals to BHP, my submission raises required protection of GAB Springs and associated cultural heritage from BHP water mining and proposed doubling of GAB water extraction for Olympic Dam mine expansion to 50 million litres a day (annual average) for a 25 year period.

See the JSCNA Inquiry Home Page:

https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Joint/Northern_Australia/CavesatJuukanGorge

Submissions:

https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Joint/Northern_Australia/CavesatJuukanGorge/Submissions

Submission  No.73 Mr David Noonan B.Sc., M.Env.St. (PDF 330 KB)

https://www.aph.gov.au/DocumentStore.ashx?id=f6b111ae-8125-4cb0-8edb-6f64dbd613c2&subId=690802

August 8, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, politics | Leave a comment

Despite Minerals Council lobbying, Australia’s Environmental Law prohibits nuclear and limits uranium mining

K-A Garlick, Nuclear Free WA, 22 July 20, This week, the interim report of the review into the Environmental Protection Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act – Australia’s federal environmental laws was released. This found that the Federal government should maintain the capacity to intervene in uranium mining and that there be no change to the existing prohibition on nuclear activities, including domestic nuclear power.

Environment groups have given a cautious welcome to this continuation of the status quo, especially in the face of lobbying by the Mineral Council of Australia to weaken nuclear protections and scrutiny. This outcome is a tribute to the efforts of those who have worked hard over years to highlight the deep community concerns with the nuclear industry.

While no amount of regulation can make uranium mining socially or environmentally acceptable, it can reduce the impacts.  The reports sensible approach means it is now incumbent on both State and Federal government to ensure the highest standards or rigour, transparency and public interest.

The nuclear power ban has been retained despite years of concerted effort by the Mineral Council of Australia and pro-nuclear lobbyists to have this removed. Again, this is testimony to the power, importance and effectiveness of sustained community advocacy and action.

In future updates, there will be more information on further developments and action to take, but in the meantime zip over to the excellent resource page, Don’t Nuke the Climate, Australia for all information and myth-busting to keep sharing that nuclear power cannot solve the climate crisis.  Click on website link https://dont-nuke-the-climate.org.au/

July 25, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, politics | Leave a comment

Minister Against the Environment, Sussan Ley, in a hurry for Environment Laws to help mining industries?

Environment Minister Sussan Ley is in a tearing hurry to embrace nature law reform – and that’s a worry The Conversation  Peter Burnett, Honorary Associate Professor, ANU College of Law, Australian National University, July 20, 2020  The Morrison government on Monday released a long-awaited interim review into Australia’s federal environment law. The ten-year review found Australia’s natural environment is declining and under increasing threat. The current environmental trajectory is “unsustainable” and the law “ineffective”.

The report, by businessman Graeme Samuel, called for fundamental reform of the law, know as the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act. The Act, Samuel says:

[…] does not enable the Commonwealth to play its role in protecting and conserving environmental matters that are important for the nation. It is not fit to address current or future environmental challenges.

Samuel confirmed the health of Australia’s environment is in dire straits, and proposes many good ways to address this.

Worryingly though, Environment Minister Sussan Ley immediately seized on proposed reforms that seem to suit her government’s agenda – notably, streamlining the environmental approvals process – and will start working towards them. This is before the review has been finalised, and before public comment on the draft has been received.

This rushed response is very concerning. I was a federal environment official for 13 years, and from 2007 to 2012 was responsible for administering and reforming the Act. I know the huge undertaking involved in reform of the scale Samuel suggests. The stakes are far too high to risk squandering this once-a-decade reform opportunity for quick wins.

‘Fundamental reform’ needed: Samuel

The EPBC Act is designed to protect and conserve Australia’s most important environmental and heritage assets – most commonly, threatened plant and animal species.

Samuel’s diagnosis is on the money: the current trajectory of environmental decline is clearly unsustainable. And reform is long overdue – although unlike Samuel, I would put the blame less on the Act itself and more on government failings, such as a badly under-resourced federal environment department.

Samuel also hits the sweet spot in terms of a solution, at least in principle. National environmental standards, legally binding on the states and others, would switch the focus from the development approvals process to environmental outcomes. In essence, the Commonwealth would regulate the states for environmental results, rather than proponents for (mostly) process.  …….

From the outset, the government framed Samuel’s review around a narrative of cutting the “green tape” that it believed unnecessarily held up development.

In June the government announced fast-tracked approvals for 15 major infrastructure projects in response to the COVID-19 economic slowdown. And on Monday, Ley indicated the government will prioritise the new national environmental standards, including further streamlining approval processes……..

Here’s where the danger lies. The government wants to introduce legislation in August. Ley said “prototype” environmental standards proposed by Samuel will be introduced at the same time. This is well before Samuel’s final report, due in October.

I believe this timeframe is unwise, and wildly ambitious……

The government’s fixation with cutting “green tape” should not unduly colour its reform direction. By rushing efforts to streamline approvals, the government risks creating a jumbled process with, once again, poor environmental outcomes.  https://theconversation.com/environment-minister-sussan-ley-is-in-a-tearing-hurry-to-embrace-nature-law-reform-and-thats-a-worry-141697

July 21, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, politics | Leave a comment

Indigenous Australians have been  failed by the nation’s environmental protection laws, a review has found.

July 21, 2020 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, politics | Leave a comment

Federal environment law review calls for independent cop, but Morrison Government rules it out

Federal environment law review calls for independent cop, but Morrison Government rules it out, ABC News, By national science, technology and environment reporter Michael Slezak  21 July 20, 

A landmark review into Australia’s national environment laws has called for a major overhaul, including establishing an “independent cop” to oversee them.

Key points:

The 124-page interim report comes 20 years after the laws were first implemented by the Howard government
The report’s author has called for a “strong, independent cop” on the environment beat
The Federal Government has accepted some recommendations, but rejected the report’s call for an independent regulatorThe independent review into the 20-year-old Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC), released this morning, also flagged legally enforceable “national standards” to stop the decline of Australia’s natural environment.

“The foundation of the report was that there is too much focus on process and not enough focus on outcomes and that should be changed entirely,” Graeme Samuel, the review’s independent author, said.

He concluded that Australia’s environment was getting worse under the laws designed to protect it.

“Australia’s natural environment and iconic places are in an overall state of decline and are under increasing threat,” he said.

Environment Minister Sussan Ley immediately moved to rule out an “independent cop”, which was policy taken to the last federal election by the Opposition.

But the Federal Government accepted the recommendation for national standards, which she said would form the basis of agreements with states, allowing federal approvals to be devolved to the states.

If brought into law it would establish a “one-stop shop” or “single-touch approvals”.

The devolving of federal approval powers to states has long been the aim of the Federal Government.

The report calls for the Government to maintain the power to step in on any decisions it deems important, or when a failure of state processes has been identified.

The 124-page interim report comes 20 years after the laws were first implemented by the Howard government……….

Independent cop call

In his review, Professor Samuel, the former chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, said a “strong, independent cop on the beat is required”.

“An independent compliance and enforcement regulator, that is not subject to actual or implied political direction from the Government Minister, should be established,” he said.

“The regulator should be responsible for monitoring compliance, enforcement and assurance. It should be properly resourced and have available to it a full toolkit of powers.”

The call echoes Labor Party policy from the last election, which called for a federal environmental protection agency — a move backed by the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF).

ACF chief executive, Kelly O’Shanassy, said at the moment protecting nature was “optional”.

Regardless, Ms Ley moved quickly to rule out any new regulator……….

Funding cuts and approval delays

The review began in November 2019 but its findings were delayed by the bushfires and then the coronavirus crisis.

While the report was being prepared, the Auditor General released a report finding 80 per cent of approvals under the laws were non-compliant or contained errors.

Federal Labor analysed those findings and concluded that since the Coalition came to power, there had been a 510 per cent blowout in the number of environmental approvals delayed beyond time frames indicated in the laws.

The delays came as the government cut funding to the environment department, which Labor said was now 40 per cent lower than it was before the Coalition came to power……. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-07-20/epbc-act-environmental-review-report-recommends-independent-cop/12392594

July 21, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, politics | Leave a comment

Nuclear status quo in federal environmental law review

The EPBC review interim report was released today. Here is the link to the report. https://epbcactreview.environment.gov.au/resources/interim-report. There are some meme’s attached – please share – or share directly from the Don’t Nuke the Climate pages. Thanks!
In summary
no change to nuclear power prohibition
uranium to stay a “matter of national environmental significance”
– federal government should maintain powers to intervene in uranium mining
– set up national environment standards – to devolve assessments to state and territory governments *** this is the bit to worry about – this is largely already the case and has led to much poorer outcomes. The “national environment standards” have the potential to be deficient and have weak regulation as is already the case.

 Mineral Policy Institute and Friends of the Earth Australia,  20 July 2020
National and state environment groups have given a cautious welcome to the continuation of long-standing protections against nuclear risks in the current statutory review of the Environmental Protection Biodiversity Conservation Act – Australia’s federal environmental laws. The interim report released today has stated that the Commonwealth should maintain the capacity to intervene in uranium mining and made no recommendation to change existing prohibitions on nuclear activities, including domestic nuclear power.

Civil society groups made a joint submission to the EPBC review calling for the retention of the long standing ban on nuclear power and continuing federal oversight of uranium mining. The EPBC review committee’s interim report has flagged an intention to continue both protections despite lobbying from the Mineral Council of Australia to weaken these.

However, environment groups are concerned about a possible weakening of uranium mining regulations flagged in the interim report. Associate Professor Gavin Mudd, Chair of the Mineral Policy Institute, said: “The interim report proposes the further devolution of uranium mining regulation to states and territories, coupled to the establishment of ‘National Environmental Standards’. An obvious risk is that the standards will be weak, enforcement will be deficient as is already the case, and devolution will weaken the already inadequate oversight of uranium mining.”

“Uranium mining is different to other types of mining. Australia’s uranium mining sector has been dominated by license breaches, accidents, spills and a persistent failure to rehabilitate as promised. The last thing we need is a weakening of regulations and oversight. Apart from SA and NT every state and territory have a ban or prohibition on uranium mining. It is unsafe and unpopular and needs greater scrutiny, not less,” Assoc. Prof. Mudd said.

The Review’s interim report makes no recommendation to repeal the long-standing prohibition on domestic nuclear power. “Nuclear power is expensive, dangerous and unpopular,” said Dr Jim Green, national nuclear campaigner with Friends of the Earth Australia. “The prohibition in the EPBC Act reflects this. Nuclear is thirsty, produces high level nuclear waste for which there are no safe storage options and produces materials that can be diverted into nuclear weapons. It is a profound security and safety risk. And nuclear power is absurdly expensive.”

“Recent comments from the current Environment Minister and Opposition Leader show a clear bipartisan rejection of nuclear power. There is broad opposition among civil society as shown through a joint statement by over 60 organisations representing millions of Australians. Given the lack of social license for nuclear power in Australia we welcome the continuation of this prudent prohibition,” Dr Green said.

Following the Australian uranium-fuelled Fukushima nuclear disaster the UN Secretary General called for all uranium producing countries to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of the industry. Groups have called on the Morrison government to now hold an independent review of the uranium sector.

July 20, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, politics | Leave a comment

Doubts on the independence of the reiew of Australia’s national environmental laws

Frustration grows over delayed release of review into Australia’s environmental laws
‘Questions naturally arise’ about review’s independence, environmental group says,
Guardian,   Lisa Cox   17 Jul 20, Environment groups are increasingly anxious and frustrated as they wait for the release of an interim report from a review of Australia’s national environmental laws.

The review’s chair, the former competition watchdog head Graeme Samuel, handed his report to the environment minister, Sussan Ley, almost three weeks ago.

It had been due for release shortly after that but the government pushed back its publication, which is now expected sometime next week.

“When the review was announced, Minister Ley was very clear that this was meant to be an independent report. But when the report is delayed by government, questions naturally arise about how independent that process is,” said Suzanne Milthorpe, the national environmental law campaign manager at the Wilderness Society.

“If they are serious about this, they should release it so that all Australians can see and engage with the findings of this report.”

The review of Australia’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act is a once-in-a-decade statutory requirement. It has the potential to shape policy for the next 10 years in an area that is highly politicised.

The interim report and its recommendations will inform the next period of public consultation before Samuel delivers a final report in October.

In submissions to the review, environmental and industry groups have put forward proposals that involve the development of national environmental standards.

They agree Australia’s environment is in decline, but they hold different views on what a set of national standards might look like.

Industry continues to advocate for reductions in environmental regulation, while conservationists have called for stronger protection and an independent national environmental authority.

Just this week, Australia’s oil and gas lobby, APPEA, called for regulatory reform, and in particular the cutting of so-called environmental “green tape”, to support economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. …..

James Trezise of the Australian Conservation Foundation said a recent national audit office report that examined the assessment and approval of projects under the act had identified serious failures in governance.

That included findings that the government had been ineffective in managing risks to the environment and had failed to ensure developers were meeting the environmental conditions of their project approvals.

Trezise said reforms were needed to ensure Australia’s laws were better focused on delivering outcomes for the environment and that one way of achieving that was “through setting clear national standards” for environmental protection…….

James Trezise of the Australian Conservation Foundation said a recent national audit office report that examined the assessment and approval of projects under the act had identified serious failures in governance.

That included findings that the government had been ineffective in managing risks to the environment and had failed to ensure developers were meeting the environmental conditions of their project approvals.

Trezise said reforms were needed to ensure Australia’s laws were better focused on delivering outcomes for the environment and that one way of achieving that was “through setting clear national standards” for environmental protection……… https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/jul/17/frustration-grows-over-delayed-release-of-review-into-australias-environmental-laws

July 18, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, politics | Leave a comment