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Labor's commitments on environmental law reform

ALP's 2019 Federal Election Commitment on Environmental Law Reform

Environmental law reform

A Shorten Labor Government will ensure the federal government returns to a leadership role in protecting our natural environment by creating an Australian Environment Act and establishing a Federal Environmental Protection Agency.

We will commit $50 million to the law reform process and to establish the new EPA.

The Federal EPA will have a mission to protect Australia’s natural environment. It will be informed by the best available scientific advice, ensure compliance with environmental law, and have the ability to conduct public inquiries on important
environmental matters.

The new legal framework will compel the federal government to actively protect our unique
natural environment and demonstrate national leadership.

Labor will establish a high-powered working group of experts including scientists,environmental lawyers and public policy thinkers to refine the clear concepts that underpin this reform. We will also ensure all stakeholders – including the states and territories, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives, impacted industries and business groups, trade unions and civil society – have a seat at the table.

The Australian Environment Act will aim to tackle problems identified by industry which has identified inefficiencies, delays and hurdles in the current law. The new law will protect the environment while aiming to give business more certainty.

As part of environmental law reform Labor will take urgent action to update the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act to including:

• A National Parks trigger.
• A vegetation management trigger.
• Adding shale gas to the water trigger.

These additions will help to conserve high conservation areas and Australia’s precious water resources.

Stopping broadscale land clearing and habitat loss, reducing threats to threatened species, protecting National Parks and making sure science is central to decision making will all be key aims of the new law. It’s time the law changed from merely requiring the Minister to consider impacts on MNES to being able to protect the environment.

It’s time for Australia’s environmental laws to properly protect our beautiful natural land
and oceans.

Below are the commitments made to LEAN's campaign goals on environmental law reform at the 2018 Conference of the Australian Labor Party

ALP LEADER, BILL SHORTEN'S SPEECH on climate change and environment law

"Delegates, when it comes to climate change, our opponents trade in toxic politics, we deal in simple facts.
Climate change is real: it’s a threat to our economy and our environment.

Ignoring it, or fighting about it, won’t make it go away.

For the sake of our farmers, for the sake of our Reef and for the sake of our kids and grandkids, we have to take action.

We will cut pollution by 45 per cent by 2030.

And today I announce that a Labor Government will pass a new Environment Act and create a new Commonwealth Environmental Protection Authority to preserve our oceans, rivers, coasts and bushland and to protect the native species that call Australia home.

And we will deliver 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030.

We are going to unleash the potential of a renewable energy revolution."

2018 National ALP Platform
Chapter 4, page 81

National environmental law

47. The Australian government has an enduring responsibility to protect Australia’s environment and natural resources. Labor has a proud history of national environmental protection laws. These have been instrumental in protecting Australia’s greatest natural treasures for decades. Labor will not support handing approval powers under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act 1999 to state and territory governments and will terminate any arrangements that give states these powers.

48. Australia needs new frameworks for truly national protection and management of Australia’s natural resources to enshrine federal leadership in proactive and systemic protection of our environment from threats such as climate change, and to protect the value of heritage sites. Labor will:

  • Establish an Australian Environment Act within the first term of government;
  • Ensure the knowledge and rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are central in environment
    protection laws, programs and policies;
  • For the purposes of managing matters of national environmental significance, create strong, well resourced,
    science based institutions to administer the law: including a federal Environmental Protection Agency to
    conduct public inquiries, provide transparent and timely advice to the Minister within a clear decision-making
    framework and enforcement; and ensure there is the capacity in the public service to provide federal
    leadership on the environment;
  • Implement clear management, governance and decision making structures that are transparent, efficient and
    streamlined;
  • Improve regulation and streamline environmental assessment processes;
  • Manage Australia's environment fairly and efficiently as a foundation for ecologically, socially and economically
    sustainable jobs;
  • Protect biodiversity and support resilience in the natural environment; and
  • Direct the Environment Department to establish National Environment Plans that set targets and approaches
    to proactively protect the environment

49. Labor will deliver on our international obligations including Sustainable Development, to protect biodiversity, to protect heritage, restore landscapes, control plastic pollution and improve air quality and water quality to protect human health and productivity. Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. For development to be sustainable, it needs to meet the test of the triple bottom line: Social sustainability, ecological sustainability and economic sustainability. Environment institutions will have a remit to promote our international obligations including sustainable development.

50. Labor will create a land clearing trigger in the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act 1999 and/or successor framework, in the context of a comprehensive response to land clearing and climate change. Labor will also consider a National Parks trigger to protect Australia’s system of National Parks. Labor will expand the water trigger to apply to shale or tight formation gas developments that impact on water resources.

MEDIA RELEASE
DECEMBER 16, 2018
TONY BURKE MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT AND WATER

LABOR WILL ACT TO BRING ENVIRONMENT LAWS INTO 21ST CENTURY

A Shorten Labor Government will ensure the federal government returns to taking a leadership role in protecting our natural environment by creating an Australian Environment Act, and establishing a Federal Environmental Protection Agency.

The current environment act is now 20 years old and has never been significantly reformed.  It is time to bring it into the 21st century.

In 2018, it is bizarre that the national environmental law does not properly factor in climate change.

Labor‘s process will involve undertaking significant reform of Australia’s environmental law, committing to an Australian Environment Act in our first term.

It will be an Act which protects our environment but also supports job-creating development by streamlining and harmonising processes.

Labor will also establish a new agency, a Federal EPA, with the mission to protect Australia’s natural environment. It will be informed by the best available scientific advice and, ensure compliance with environmental law, and have the ability to conduct public inquiries on important environmental matters.

The new legal framework will compel the Australian government to actively protect our unique natural environment and demonstrate national leadership.

Labor will establish a high powered working group of experts including scientists, environmental lawyers and public policy thinkers to refine the clear concepts that underpin this reform. 

We will also ensure all stakeholders including states and territories, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives, impacted industries and business groups, trade unions and civil society have a seat at the table.

The Australian Environment Act will aim to tackle problems identified by industry which has identified inefficiencies, delays and hurdles in the current law. The new law will protect the environment while aiming to give business more certainty.

The Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government has vacated the field in environmental leadership. Under this government, Australia’s natural environment is going backwards.

Under Malcolm Turnbull, Australia took the largest step backwards in conservation by any government anywhere in the world by stripping back Australia’s marine parks and just earlier this year, the Government awarded nearly half a billion dollars to a small private foundation instead of directly investing in restoring the health of the Great Barrier Reef.

It’s time Australia’s environmental laws that protect of our beautiful natural land and oceans.

Recent examples of either the EPBC Act failing or the Government seeming to ignore the law include:

-       Large scale land clearing in Reef catchments in Queensland

-       The ‘mean’ approval time being reported as 860 days

-       Using the Sydney Opera House as a billboard, this action went against the management plan required under the EPBC Act

-       Not using the water trigger for dams and pipelines associated with large coal mines

-       The export of 200 rare and threatened birds to an alleged German organised crime syndicate

Read Labor's election commitments to environmental law reform at the 2019 Federal election here.

Read Labor's commitments to environmental law reform from 2016 Federal election here.

 

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