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Archer Mountain Earth Community

Submission in response to discussion paper

Some have argued that past changes to the EPBC Act to add new matters of national environmental significance did not go far enough. Others have argued it has extended the regulatory reach of the Commonwealth too far. What do you think?

It does not go far enough and needs a more proactive approach. It does not address land clearing, climate change, water management, genuine indigenous engagement and does not have effective implementation enforcement. Lacks an over-sighting authority with teeth. Since the Act was written the Earth and Australian landscape have deteriorated significantly. The matters the Act deals with need to be central to the way we live and the way we plan for the future to live on this continent.

How could the principle of Ecologically Sustainable Development (ESD) be better reflected in the EPBC Act? For example, could the consideration of environmental, social and economic factors, which are core components of ESD, be achieved through greater inclusion of cost benefit analysis in decision making?

Sustainability is a dated concept. We need to look at recovery as well as protection. It is also the loss of cultural significance for the first national peoples. The international UN Agenda is now ground in the Universal Declaration of Mother Earth which recognises that at the negotiation table regarding the environment Earth must have an equal voice in law with corporations, government, scientists, landowners, indigenous etc. For example the Whanganui River has juridical personage in law in NZ so the voice of the the River is represented at the negotiating table by those who know and appreciate the river as a life force for present and future generations. There needs to be cost benefit analysis in all decision making which are much more than dollar costs e.g. quality of life, resources for future generations, the right to have clean air and water and spiritual nourishment offered by wilderness areas. It is not just about the national GDP and jobs. It has to be about the whole quality of life.

Should the objects of the EPBC Act be more specific?

The objects need a complete revamp to be more specific in the light of the present and projected impact of climate change. The voices of authority particularly scientists need to be listened to and acted upon. Objective outcomes need to be monitored and evaluated and results made public. The verbs are very passive and are easily ignored. In each objective there needs to have clear targets that can be measured through monitoring and evaluation.

Should the matters of national environmental significance within the EPBC Act be changed? How?

Climate change and land clearing need to be named specifically as 'matters'.Why not wetlands of local and national significance?
Each matter should cover local, national and international if we are to be responsible citizens of both our local community and the planet.

Which elements of the EPBC Act should be priorities for reform? For example, should future reforms focus on assessment and approval processes or on biodiversity conservation? Should the Act have proactive mechanisms to enable landholders to protect matters of national environmental significance and biodiversity, removing the need for regulation in the right circumstances?

This way of approaching a review of the Act is flawed because it is based on oppositional thinking. All the elements above are interdependent and hence all elements of the Act are important.
Regulation cannot be relaxed.

What high level concerns should the review focus on? For example, should there be greater focus on better guidance on the EPBC Act, including clear environmental standards? How effective has the EPBC Act been in achieving its statutory objectives to protect the environment and promote ecologically sustainable development and biodiversity conservation? What have been the economic costs associated with the operation and administration of the EPBC Act?

The most important high level concern it the survival of biodiverse life on the the planet. We are in a very different place now than when the Act was written.
+ fires that usually begin in summer began August 9th 2019
+ tropical rainforests which have never burnt are now burning e.g. rainforest west of Mackay
+ Australia has 25% less rainfall now than when the Act was written
+ climate change and pollution are diminishing oxygen from our oceans
+ water level are rising, storms are stronger and permafrost are melting requiring communities to move e.g. Newtok in Alaska
+ Kiribati is now inundated by seawater and planned mass translocations of the people of Kiribati to Fiji is underway
+ the list of nationally threatened species continue to grow with 426 animals species and 1339 planet species listed as threatened under the EPBC Act
+Australia has the largest documented decline in biodiversity of any continent over the past 200 years
Once there is a hierarchy of needs then we fail to address the key issue of interdependence. We are at a critical stage in history and so this can't be put on the bottom of the pile of government priorities. It has to be a whole Government approach.
What we need is moral leadership!

What additional future trends or supporting evidence should be drawn on to inform the review?

We need to take notice of the science that clearly says climate change is now a priority for all governments to act upon. Listen to the scientists, they have done the research and they have the evidence. We need a broad strategic approach that is holistic and addresses the endurance of the biodiversity of life. We are all integrally entangled as a species with every other species. We need to look into a National Environmental Protection Authority with a strong focus on local Bioregions.

Should the EPBC Act regulate environmental and heritage outcomes instead of managing prescriptive processes?

What is needed is a collaborative approach among key bodies so that prescriptive precesses deliver measurable outcomes. At State Government and local levels there are too many disconnected regulatory authorities that make it very difficult for environment groups, industry and developers to protect the bioregion and promote reasonable development. It is important that the law is clear, standards are set and regulations are streamlined and there is one national independent authority that can be relied upon.

Should the EPBC Act position the Commonwealth to take a stronger role in delivering environmental and heritage outcomes in our federated system? Who should articulate outcomes? Who should provide oversight of the outcomes? How do we know if outcomes are being achieved?

The current system is not working effectively and is failing shown by the loss of biodiversity etc. The law is not followed through by the overseeing authority e.g. the law regarding tree clearing Queensland has strengthened in recent years but the rate of clearing has increased.
We think a National Independent Authority can improve the present situation with voices from Scientists, First Nations, Politicians, Industry and Community.

Should there be a greater role for national environmental standards in achieving the outcomes the EPBC Act seeks to achieve?

In our federated system should they be prescribed through:

  • Non-binding policy and strategies?

  • Expansion of targeted standards, similar to the approach to site contamination under the National Environment Protection Council, or water quality in the Great Barrier Reef catchments?

  • The development of broad environmental standards with the Commonwealth taking a monitoring and assurance role? Does the information exist to do this?

Non-binding policies are not effective.
The scientific community has to be at the centre of the conversation and decision making. They have done the research and can identify the standards that need to be set.

How can environmental protection and environmental restoration be best achieved together?

  • Should the EPBC Act have a greater focus on restoration?

  • Should the Act include incentives for proactive environmental protection?

  • How will we know if we?re successful?

  • How should Indigenous land management practices be incorporated?

Given where we are at this stage of history, we need both environmental protection and environmental restoration and recovery.
The Act does need to have incentives. For example the incentives around solar panels were effective.
However clear enforced laws are also needed.

Are heritage management plans and associated incentives sensible mechanisms to improve? How can the EPBC Act adequately represent Indigenous culturally important places? Should protection and management be place-based instead of values based?

It is complex and it cannot be reduced to simple strategies and actions.
Protection and management needs to be values and place based attending to each bioregion.
No one technology fits all situations.
A huge problem is that layers of government are not cooperating and so the red tape is prohibitive.
Another problem is that the scientists are not being listened to.
The indigenous voice needs to be included in all negotiations and ask First Nations People how best they can tribute.

Should the EPBC Act require the use of strategic assessments to replace case-by-case assessments? Who should lead or participate in strategic assessments?

Not sure

Should the matters of national significance be refined to remove duplication of responsibilities between different levels of government? Should states be delegated to deliver EPBC Act outcomes subject to national standards?

National standards need to be clearly articulated and then an Independent National Authority oversees these laws. It is implemented in the various bioregion. Currently there is too much competition between the various regulatory authorities.

Should low-risk projects receive automatic approval or be exempt in some way? How could data help support this approach? Should a national environmental database be developed? Should all data from environmental impact assessments be made publicly available?

Who determines what is low-risk? This is good in principle. The level of risk needs to be assessed by an independent authority not by a political body.
Data needs to be on one data base available in a national archive. This allows the sharing of data more easily. There needs to be clear criteria and procedures on how decisions are going to made.

Should the Commonwealth?s regulatory role under the EPBC Act focus on habitat management at a landscape-scale rather than species-specific protections?

No there has to be common standards across borders that are nationally set. Regulation needs to be both landscape and species specific.

Should the EPBC Act be amended to enable broader accreditation of state and territory, local and other processes?

This is a simplistic approach; it has to be done differently. A new paradigm needs to be thought through. This legislation can be in conflict with the mining act e.g. so it has to be a holistic approach but the foundation is the protection and restoration of the earth community.

Are there adequate incentives to give the community confidence in self-regulation?

Unfortunately is an ideal but the Murray Darling demonstrates it does not work in all cases.

How should the EPBC Act support the engagement of Indigenous Australians in environment and heritage management?

  • How can we best engage with Indigenous Australians to best understand their needs and potential contributions?

  • What mechanisms should be added to the Act to support the role of Indigenous Australians?

Talk to First Nation Peoples and ask them how best to engage with them and what mechanisms are needed.
Include their voice as an equal voice with corporations, government, the Earth, science and industry.

How should community involvement in decision-making under the EPBC Act be improved? For example, should community representation in environmental advisory and decision making bodies be increased?

Community involvement is discouraged due to the current number of regulatory authorities that need to be engaged with when one is trying to take a stand to protect the environment or to engage in local projects to improve the environment.
Yes depending on the quality of the people. It is not 'more' onto committees but getting those who have local knowledge and experience. Need a transparent process for selection.
It has to be genuine engagement not just tokenism.

What is the priority for reform to governance arrangements? The decision-making structures or the transparency of decisions? Should the decision makers under the EPBC Act be supported by different governance arrangements?

Top priority is to both reform structures and ensure processes and decisions are transparent. For example the number of closed council meetings (over 200 in a 12 month period) regarding the building of the Sunshine Coast airport and environmental concerns does not demonstrate transparency.

What innovative approaches could the review consider that could efficiently and effectively deliver the intended outcomes of the EPBC Act? What safeguards would be needed?

While the Act has a traditionally regulatory approach it has failed to enforce the law.
What is happening in other countries that are protecting and restoring the environment better than we are?
What is best practice?
An interesting approach to the whole Act it to think it through using a different paradigm of interconnectedness and Earth Rights.

Should the Commonwealth establish new environmental markets? Should the Commonwealth implement a trust fund for environmental outcomes?

Why not use the Future Funds for the environment as if we don't protect the environment we won't have a future.

What do you see are the key opportunities to improve the current system of environmental offsetting under the EPBC Act?

If offsets are provided they must be genuine and not manipulated to fit the letter of the law.

How could private sector and philanthropic investment in the environment be best supported by the EPBC Act?

  • Could public sector financing be used to increase these investments?

  • What are the benefits, costs or risks with the Commonwealth developing a public investment vehicle to coordinate EPBC Act offset funds?

Some big companies are moving to renewable energy sources more aggressively than the government. This is done because profits depend ons public perception that corporations have to be good citizens. It is also because renewables have financial benefits. See Ross Garnaut

Do you have suggested improvements to the above principles? How should they be applied during the review and in future reform?

- Our responsibility as a global citizen for earth's future (not just as an Australian citizen)
- Integrated and aligned decision making across National, State and Local
- Yes Indigenous knowledge and experience voice equal at the table. Also scientific knowledge and experience needs to be named specifically
- Inclusion and transparency is integral in the new paradigm.
-The environment, economy, social and cultural are interconnected- not in competition.
- Agree we need integrated planning across all areas - environment, social, economic and cultural.

Is the EPBC Act delivering what was intended in an efficient and effective manner?


How well is the EPBC Act being administered?


Is the EPBC Act sufficient to address future challenges? Why?

No. It was written 20 years ago and we are in a very different place with a significant climate crises to manage.

What are the priority areas for reform?

To see climate risk as the priority in terms of the future of our planet.

What changes are needed to the EPBC Act? Why?

Already answered. See above!

Is there anything else of importance to you that you would like the review to consider?

It is important we move from an either/or (economic Vs environment) to a both and (economic and environment).
We need to move past seeing humans as dominant over the environment to a position where we see the Earth herself has Earth Rights as Humans have Human Rights. Without this evolution in consciousness we not survive as a species.

Additional information

Supplementary navigation and content


Submission ID

In response to

Discussion paper
Archer Mountain Earth Community


Threatened species
The objects of the Act
Matters of National Environmental Significance
International obligations
Indigenous Australians
Great Barrier Reef
Environmental Impact Assessments
Cumulative impacts