Australian news, and some related international items

Australian government stops listing major threats to species under environment laws

May 9, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, politics | Leave a comment

Rampant, unmonitored use of water by Australia’s coal industry in time of drought!

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

Current Review of  Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC) ? – it’s all about promoting the polluters

The Government puts business ahead of the environment , Independent Australia, By Sue Arnold | 22 April 2020, The writing is on the wall for the environment. And it doesn’t look good.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has promised to:

‘Fast-track new and existing major infrastructure projects and adopt an aggressive pro-business strategy ahead of the October budget to help the country claw its way out of an expected virus-induced recession.’

Tax breaks for big business, deregulation and wide-scale industrial relations reform will form part of the Morrison Government’s attempts to lift the nation out of the economic black hole, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

Environmental organisations, ecologists, wildlife shelters and Australia’s biodiversity are facing an Armageddon as a result of state and federal governments’ absolute failure to protect the environment in the face of a serious economic recession.

Yet this is the nation which has lost over one billion animals to the catastrophic bushfires. A nation with dying and dead ecosystems, and thousands of hectares of burned-out forests. The forests will take many years to recover and ecosystems may never be rehabilitated.

A glimpse of what’s in store can be gained from the current review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (‘EPBC Act’), undertaken under the chairmanship of Professor Graeme Samuel AC.

The review is required under the EPBC Act every ten years, to examine the operation of the legislation and the extent to which its objects have been met.

An expert panel was set up to support Professor Samuel.  Panel members include Bruce Martin, an inaugural member of the Prime Minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council and President of the Cape York Peninsula Live Export Group.

Dr Erica Smyth AC is a panel member with over 40 years’ experience in the mineral and petroleum industry, having worked for ten years in the oil and gas industry managing government approvals for offshore facilities, LNG and methanol facilities……

With no ecologists, environmental lawyers, or conservation organisations, the review and its panel completely fails the pub test.

It is important to note that in accordance with section 522A of the EPBC Act, the review is supposed to examine:

‘The operation of the Act; and

The extent to which the objects of the Act have been achieved.’

Added to the terms of reference is the following statement:

‘The review will make recommendations to modernise the EPBC Act and its operation to address current and future environmental challenges.’

The terms of reference may be at odds with section 522A of the Act, if the phrase ‘modernise the Act’ is interpreted as code for change to focus on economic growth at the expense of the environment.

Further evidence of the focus of the Government’s dirty business can be found on the EPBC website which lists as one of the objectives of the EPBC Act to:

‘Provide a streamlined national environmental assessment and approvals process.’ 

The legislation contains no such provision, and other objectives have also been changed ‘to promote the conservation of biodiversity” to ‘conserve Australia’s biodiversity’.

More importantly, the following legal objective wasn’t included:

‘To promote a cooperative approach to the protection and management of the environment involving governments, the community, land-holders and indigenous people.’

In October 2019, Environment Minister Sussan Ley said that cutting delays in project approvals could save the economy $300m a year,”  with the Morrison Government promising to “tackle green tape”.

No one should be surprised by the review’s focus or the outcome.

The review will be ‘guided by the principles’ which include:

……… Making decisions simpler, including by reducing unnecessary regulatory burdens for Australians, businesses and governments;

…….. Obviously, the first principle should be the predominant, sole guiding focus of the review given the catastrophic state of Australia’s biodiversity and environment.

Instead, the evidence of a drastically changed focus favouring the growth and the economy is made abundantly clear by the guiding principles and panel choices. There’s no explanation of the extraordinary failure to focus on the inability of the EPBC Act to have fulfilled any of its objectives.

April 17 was the final day for submissions to the review’s lengthy discussion paper. Six major environmental groups asked the Federal Government to delay the submission deadline and the review as a result of the chaos caused by the COVID-19 pandemic……..

Australia is currently cursed with governments and politicians who continue to ignore the environment.    It’s almost incomprehensible that after the bushfire catastrophes, the environment should sink to the bottom of the pile…….,13819

April 23, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, politics | Leave a comment

PLanning for waterways – a vital need, as Australia’s river systems are affected by global heating

April 21, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, environment | Leave a comment

Amid climate change threat to the Murray Darling river system, the States haggle

April 18, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, environment, water | Leave a comment

13 Australian peak Non Government Organisations seek stronger Environmental Law on Nuclear Issues

Joint ENGO Submission on Nuclear Issues as they Relate to the Environmental Protection & Biodiversity Conservation Act Review 2020

This submission is made on behalf of the following national and state peak environment groups:

    • Australian Conservation Foundation,
    • Australian Nuclear Free Alliance,
    • Friends of the Earth Australia,
    • Greenpeace Australia Pacific,
    • Mineral Policy Institute,
    • The Wilderness Society,
    • Arid Lands Environment Centre,
    • Environment Centre NT,
    • Environment Victoria,
    • Conservation Council SA,
    • Conservation Council WA,
    • Nature Conservation Council NSW and Queensland Conservation Council.

This submission outlines the importance of retaining s140A of the EPBC Act which prohibits nuclear power; the retention of uranium exploration and mining in the definition of a Nuclear Action and the inclusion of Nuclear Actions as a Matter of National Environmental Significance (MNES).

This submission is made in consideration of the broader objects and principles of the Act and is based on evidence from recent inquiries into both nuclear power and uranium mining. There is clear evidence that nuclear activities can have a significant environmental and public health risk and, in many cases, irreversible impacts, and this is consistent with the current dedicated legislative prohibitions for both nuclear power and scrutiny for uranium mining.

While the current Act does not include a prohibition on uranium mining we strongly advocate that there be a national ban on uranium mining consistent with state legal or policy prohibitions in New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania, Victoria and West Australia   Written by Mia Pepper, Jim Green, Dave Sweeney, David Noonan & Annica Schoo.

Summary of Recommendations


• that uranium mining and milling be included in s140A prohibitions as nuclear actions that the Minister must not approve, on the basis that the nuclear industry has failed to successfully remediate any uranium mine in Australia and has impacts inconsistent with the objects and principles of the EPBC Act.

• if the above recommendation is not adopted that uranium mining and milling remains within the definition of a ‘nuclear action’ and that nuclear actions continue to be listed as MNES and the protected matters continue to be listed as the ‘environment’ and so be subject to full environmental assessment at the state level

• DAWE to initiate an inquiry into the human and environmental impacts of uranium mining, as advised by the UN Secretary General following the Fukushima nuclear disaster, noting that Australian uranium was present in each of the Fukushima Daiichi reactors at the time of multiple reactor meltdowns

. • regulatory reform for existing operating mines • that the review committee recommend DAWE prioritise the rehabilitation of abandoned uranium mines and processing facilities, exploration sites and uranium mines that have been in care and maintenance for more than two years.

Nuclear Power:
• the retention of s140A of the EPBC Act 1999 which states “No approval for certain nuclear installations: The Minister must not approve an action consisting of or involving the construction or operation of any of the following nuclear installations: (a) a nuclear fuel fabrication plant; (b) a nuclear power plant; (c) an enrichment plant; (d) a reprocessing facility.”

Other Matters:
• a National Environmental Protection Authority be established
• the effectiveness of assessment bilateral agreements be reviewed, and approval bilateral agreements are not pursued
• legislate requirements for mine closure, address activities that are used to avoid mine closure and to work with states and territories to remediate existing legacy mine sites
• there be established internal process for DAWE to pursue the listing of newly identified species by referring to the Threatened Species Scientific Committee
• that the principles of free, prior and informed consent become a mandatory operational principle within the EPBC Act along with a governance mechanism to operationalise this principle……… .

April 17, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, legal, politics, reference | Leave a comment

A brief Submission to the the Review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999

I first tried to use their online formal submission form.  I found several of the questions they posed to be confusing, and obfuscated the issues.    So, I gave up on their form, and just wrote my own ideas


It is patently obvious that the EPBC Act is nowhere near strong enough  to protect Australia’s unique wildlife. A scorecard released recently by Australian National University researchers  reveals the worst environmental conditions in many decades, perhaps centuries, and confirms the devastating damage global warming and mismanagement are wreaking on our natural resources. Australia’s environmental condition score fell by 2.3 points in 2019, to a very low 0.8 out of ten. 1

It is obvious that the polluting industries, especially mining, are keen to further weaken Australia’s environmental protection laws.

Announcing the statutory review of the commonwealth’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC) last October, the Morrison government pitched it as an opportunity to weaken the Howard era laws even further and make it easier still for environmentally destructive projects to be approved.  2

A particular case for scrutiny is in the uranium/nuclear industry. A very telling example of the weakness of the EPBC Act is in the sudden approval given by the then Environment Minister, Melissa Price, for the Yeelirrie uranium project to go ahead, in complete contradiction of its rejection by  WA Environmental Protection Agency . The current EPBC Act specifies protection for species at risk of extinction.  Still, the approval went ahead, the EPBC Act apparently  a toothless tiger. 3

Australian governments, State and federal, are under relentless lobbying by the nuclear industry. There are several nuclear Inquiries going on at State level, and one Federal nuclear Inquiry.  Despite the clear knowledge of nuclear power’s high costs, safety dangers and terrorism risks, the global nuclear lobby’s push is to remove Australia’s nuclear prohibition laws. The EPBC Act contains two strong nuclear prohibitions, which should not be changed  – EPBC Act 1999 section 140A  No approval for certain nuclear installations and EPBC Act 1999 section 22  What is a nuclear action?


April 17, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, politics | Leave a comment

Call for Australian government to delay review of its Environment laws

April 16, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, politics | Leave a comment

Conservation Council of Western Australia stresses importance of submissions to strengthen environmental protection


K-A Garlick   Nuclear Free WA Campaigner, 10 Apr  20, The webinar, Yeelirrie – A Case for Environmental Law Reform was a great success, with a wealth of information from our four stellar speakers, on the urgent need for improved environmental laws using Yeelirrie as a case study for environmental law reform. We reviewed the Yelirrie uranium mine assessment process and how we can improve the agility in the Commonwealth environment department to identify and classify threatened and endangered species.

If you missed the webinar or would like to see the highlights again ~ click here for some great information to help you form your submission to the EPBC Act review.

Keynotes from the webinar, include;

  • The importance of retaining the prohibition of nuclear power and the retention of uranium exploration and mining and the inclusion of nuclear actions as a matter of national environmental significance (MNES) under the EPBC Act,
  • Environmental protection laws should protect against the extinction of species,
  • Opportunity to introduce a merits review in a reformed EPBC Act as an independent, expert court or tribunal to ensure worlds best practice for community participation, accountability and environmental protection,
  • We need an independent authority to administer the EPBC Act,
  • We need increased open and transparent assessment processes, and
  • We need a national EPA as there is no equivalent body at the federal level. A national EPA could undertake independent and technically expert assessments of projects, ensuring that the scientific evidence is put into focus.

The push for the nuclear industry and the Minerals Council of Australia to remove the prohibition on nuclear power and to remove the trigger for uranium mining is a serious push and real threat.

To retain these parts of the EPBC Act we encourage you to write a submission.

The new dont-nuke-the-climate website is a great tool to help you understand the nuclear issues and threat. There is a really useful nuclear ban page, to support your submission writing.  

Submissions are due 17 April 2020.

Make a submission to the The Independent Review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999

The committee ask that you complete and submit this cover page with any submission via e-mail or post. All submissions that include this cover sheet will be considered by the review.

April 9, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, politics | Leave a comment

The importance of strengthening the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC)

On April 2, environmentalists across Australia met online, in a webinar focussed on the EPBC Act.   The federal government is holding a Review of the  Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act , with Submissions due 17 April The Conservation Council of Western Australia, and Nuclear Free WA hosted the webinar.  The case of the Yeelirrie uranium project was discussed, as a case especially relevant to the EPBC Act.  As it turns out, the EPBC is weak, in relation to having power over this project. It relies on the Western Australian EPA for the relevant decision.  Extraordinarily, in this case, the EPA advised against the project. However, the Environment Minister at the time, overrode this advice, and approved the project anyway.

Piers Verstagen, of CCWA, outlined the history of CCWA’s work in holding the Wester Australian EPA’s assessments to account. The  Yeelirrie uranium project would threaten the extinction of up to 11 stygofauna, which are tiny groundwater species. The EPA therefore did not recommend the project. However, in approving the project , the Minister also inserted a clause into the legislation, which now will allow the extinction of any species.  CCWA has challenged that approval. The project has not proceeded.

But – this Yeelirrie case is a fine example of the reasons why the EPBC Act needs to be strengthened, not weakened. Weakening the Act is the goal of the Mining Council and others, who seek unfettered development of mining and other polluting projects.

Ruby Hamilton pointed out the need for Australia’s Environmental Protection Act to relate to international treaties on environment.

Mia Pepper, Mineral Policy Institute spoke of the absolute need for keeping the nuclear power ban and uranium triggers on the EPBC Act and to link people to the don’t nuke the climate website for more information:
This wonderful resource has all the information clearly for people to make a submission.

ACF’s Environmental Investigator described ways in which the Act should be strengthened, emphasising that:

  • We need to keep  the right for 3rd parties to challenge bad decisions.
  • We need an independent authority to administer the EPBC Act.
  • WE need way more transparency in the way that the Act is used


April 4, 2020 Posted by | environment, Western Australia | Leave a comment

A major scorecard gives the health of Australia’s environment less than 1 out of 10

March 30, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment | Leave a comment

With the pandemic, and the bushfires, we now must strengthen the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC)

in the immediate term we need to advocate for vital improvements to the EPBC. It is extraordinary that the Howard legacy of deliberately excluding a project’s climate impacts from the triggers to require assessment still hasn’t been remedied. That must now be fixed, as must the fact that there is no mechanism for assessing the cumulative ecological impacts of various proposals. After this summer’s destruction of huge areas of remaining healthy ecosystems, we need to institute, in both legislation and the practice of assessment, a presumption of protection instead of a culture of managed destruction.

March 28, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, politics | Leave a comment

Legal challenge about Adani’s planned water use for giant coal mine

Morrison government faces legal challenge over Adani pipeline plan, Brisbane Times,  Peter Hannam, March 16, 2020 The Morrison government’s failure to activate the so-called “water trigger” when assessing the proposed Adani coal mine in Queensland will be challenged in the Federal Court.

Lawyers acting for the Australian Conservation Foundation will test the government’s decision not to refer Adani’s North Galilee Water Scheme, a pipeline supplying the mine, for a thorough assessment as intended by the law.

The water trigger, introduced by the Rudd-Gillard government in mid-2013, was meant to require the government to assess the impact on water of all large coal mines and coal seam gas developments.

However, the government treated Adani’s plan to draw 12.5 billion litres a year from the Suttor River in central Queensland as a pipeline that was not a “large coal mining development”, nor did it involve one.

Similarly, it viewed the pipeline proponent, Adani Infrastructure Pty Ltd, as “a different legal entity” from the coal mine proponent, Adani Mining Pty Ltd.

The foundation plans to test both reasons for the failure not to activate the water trigger in court, arguing that the government made an error in law by ignoring infrastructure that was critical for the coal mine to proceed.

Tony Windsor, the former independent MP who was a key architect of the trigger, said reliable long-term access to clean water was “vital for regional communities and demands that we sustainably manage our rivers and aquifers”.

“Allowing companies to split up mining projects and assess them in isolation makes a nonsense of the process,” he said. “You don’t see much looking at just one piece of the jigsaw – you need to look at the whole puzzle.”……..

March 17, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, legal | Leave a comment

A nuclear waste dump for Eyre Peninsula conflicts with the Strategic Plan for the Eyre Peninsula Natural Resources Management Region – 2017-2027

Susan Craig shared a No Nuclear Waste Dump Anywhere in South Australia

 March 10    A nuclear waste dump for Eyre Peninsula does not fit within the Natural Resources Management Act 2004 nor the Strategic Plan for the Eyre Peninsula Natural Resources Management Region – 2017-2027 The enforcers of this act, our Premier Steven Marshall and DAVID SPEIRS environment and water minister need to uphold this act. Peter Malinauskas Susan Close MP Eddie Hughes MP Love EP Just a reminder, as to what is at stake here for South Australia, both economically and ecologically. No Radioactive Waste Facility for Kimba District Senator Rex Patrick

March 12, 2020 Posted by | environment, Federal nuclear waste dump, South Australia | Leave a comment

The Kimba nuclear waste dump will take a huge toll on the Murray River’s water

Annette Ellen Skipworth    No Nuclear Waste Dump Anywhere in South Australia, 25 Feb 20
Where is the water coming from to compact the nuclear dump site and the 31 kms of dirt road to the dump site.
I spent some time as a remote road contractor and I learnt a little bit about roads and site works.
To take the weight of the truck load, a road has to be compacted to gain the strength to take the semi plus the load on the tray.
From asking questions and scouring internet sites, I have found out, the casks containing the high grade nuclear waste.. excuse me ..the intermediate nuclear waste are very very heavy.
Now when we were building a road for a mine where the loads were heavy, we used a huge amount of water so the road doesnt blow out.
It wasn’t advisable to use water that is very salty.. it rises to the top and makes the road slippery.
As Kimba’s only water supply comes from the precious Murray River, and the local underground water is salty and unusable.. where is the water needed coming from?
I think you lot in Kimba that want to host a nuke dump and think it will only affect Kimba are very naive..

February 25, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, Federal nuclear waste dump | Leave a comment