I am pleased to present the Interim Report of the Independent Review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).
My interim view is that the EPBC Act does not position the Commonwealth to protect the environment and Australia’s iconic places in the national interest. The operation of the Act is dated and inefficient, and it is not fit to manage current or future environmental challenges, particularly in light of climate change.
The purpose of this Interim Report is to set out my preliminary views on the fundamental inadequacies of the EPBC Act and propose key reform directions that are needed to address these. It is not an exposition of all problems, nor does it reference in full depth the comprehensive information, including relevant past reviews, on which I have relied to form my view.
It is unlikely that everyone will agree on all problems or support all the proposed reform directions. Complete agreement by everyone would be a mission impossible. But I have attempted to deal with the issues that have been raised in submissions and flowing from my research in a manner that seeks to satisfy the fundamental objective of Australia having effective and efficient environment protection and biodiversity conservation.
In presenting this Interim Report, I would like to hear the views of interested stakeholders. What I have missed? How could the proposed reform directions be improved? Are there fundamental shortcomings that would require me to rethink? I will consider this feedback and other new information in the coming months.
The level of interest in the Review has been substantial, particularly given that during the course of the Review the summer bushfires and then COVID-19 have presented significant challenges for stakeholders. The Review received more than 3,000 unique submissions as well around 26,000 largely identical contributions. I would like to thank all those who have participated in the Review.
I also thank stakeholders who have been generous in sharing their knowledge of the EPBC Act—members of the Act’s statutory committees, state and territory government departments, Indigenous groups and community leaders, the scientific community, environment and industry groups, and legal experts. I look forward to engaging further with stakeholders as I finalise the Review by October.
I have been greatly assisted by contributions from the Review Expert Panel—Mr Bruce Martin, Dr Erica Smyth AC, Dr Wendy Craik AM, and, until his appointment as Royal Commissioner, Professor Andrew Macintosh. I have valued their counsel, but take full responsibility for the views presented.
In closing, I acknowledge the work of the Review Secretariat. Despite the challenging times, their support to me has been unwavering.
I look forward to hearing your views.
Professor Graeme Samuel AC