Chapter 7 - Accreditation, audit and independent oversight
- Past attempts to accredit the approval processes of States and Territories have been unsuccessful due to concerns that decision-making would be too discretionary and inconsistent with the national obligations and national interest.
- The Commonwealth has a patchy history of demonstrating that it makes and enforces decisions according to the law, and in a way that achieves the objects of the EPBC Act.
- The reforms recommended by the Review include many elements that can build confidence that the EPBC Act is delivering an effective national system of environment protection and biodiversity conservation (Chapter 1).
- To be acceptable and trusted, accredited arrangements need robust structures and processes to provide accountability and enable the community to be confident they are working well.
The key reforms recommended by the Review are:
- Establish, by statutory appointment, the position of an independent Environment Assurance Commissioner to oversee the performance of decision-makers, including the Commonwealth and accredited parties.
- Amend the EPBC Act to establish robust processes to accredit the regulatory processes and environmental management arrangements of other parties (States and Territories and Commonwealth agencies), where they can demonstrate they are capable of meeting the National Environmental Standards.
- Provide transparent pathways to enable the Commonwealth Environment Minister to intervene in a proportionate and escalated way at times when accredited arrangements are not performing well, or failing, or where there is serious risk of environmental harm.
- Subject all types of arrangements to transparent regular and periodic audits by the Environment Assurance Commissioner, to provide community confidence that the National Environmental Standards are applied equally across Australia, regardless of jurisdiction or decision-maker.
7.1 - Past attempts to accredit the approval processes of States and Territories have been unsuccessful
Reducing duplication in development assessment and approval is a sound ambition, and one that governments should continue to pursue. Concerns that states and territories are conflicted, and unable to uphold national obligations and national interest should be addressed. The Commonwealth itself has a patchy history of demonstrating that it makes and enforces decisions according to the law, and in a way that achieves the objects of the EPBC Act. For accreditation to be successful the Australian Parliament and the public need confidence that accredited decision-makers are adhering to the Commonwealth’s regulations and Standards by making correct decisions and properly implementing commitments.
7.2 - Recommended reforms
Robust structures and processes are needed to provide accountability and enable the community to be confident they are working well. The EPBC Act should be amended to establish robust processes to accredit the regulatory processes and environmental management arrangements of other parties based on the National Environmental Standards. Transparent pathways should enable the Commonwealth Environment Minister to intervene in a proportionate and escalated way at times when accredited arrangements are not performing well, or failing, or where there is serious risk of environmental harm. A new, independent, statutory position of Environment Assurance Commissioner (EAC) should be created to provide independent monitoring, audit and transparent public reporting on the operational and administrative performance of all parties operating or accredited under the EPBC Act, including decisions by the Commonwealth.
Supplementary navigation and content
- Key messages
- Executive summary
- About the Review
- Chapter 1 - National-level protection and conservation of the environment and iconic places
- Chapter 2 - Indigenous culture and heritage
- Chapter 3 - Reducing legislative complexity
- Chapter 4 - Trust in the EPBC Act
- Chapter 5 - Interactions with States and Territories
- Chapter 6 - Commonwealth decisions and interactions with other Commonwealth laws
- Chapter 7 - Accreditation, audit and independent oversight
- Chapter 8 - Planning and restoration
- Chapter 9 - Compliance and enforcement
- Chapter 10 - Data, information and systems
- Chapter 11 - Environmental monitoring, evaluation and reporting
- Chapter 12 - The reform pathway
- Appendix A - Stakeholders the Reviewer met with
- Appendix B - Recommended National Environmental Standards
- Further reading