Chapter 5 - Trust in the EPBC Act
The community and industry do not trust the EPBC Act and the regulatory system that underpins its implementation. A dominant theme in the 30,000 contributions received by the Review is that many in the community do not trust the Act to deliver for the environment.
The avenues for the community to substantively engage in decision-making are limited. Poor transparency further erodes trust.
The lack of trust is evident in high community interest in development applications, high-profile public campaigns, legal challenges to EPBC Act decisions, and a growing rate of both Freedom of Information (FOI) applications and requests for statements of reasons.
The EPBC Act is not trusted by industry. They generally view it as cumbersome, pointing to duplication, slow decision-making, and legal challenges being used as a tool to delay projects and drive up costs for business (often called ‘lawfare’).
The key reform directions proposed by the Review are:
- improve community participation in decision-making processes, and the transparency of both the information used and the reasons for decisions
- provide confidence that decision-makers have access to the best available environmental, cultural, social and economic information
- amend the settings for legal review. While retaining extended standing, provide for limited merits review for development approvals. Legal challenges should be limited to matters of outcome, not process, to reduce litigation that does not have a material impact on the outcome.