Submission made in response to the June 2020 Interim Report of the EPBC Act Review
Note: Responses were automatically limited to 255 characters unless otherwise indicated
NATIONAL LEVEL PROTECTION AND CONSERVATION OF THE ENVIRONMENT AND ICONIC PLACES
Legally enforceable National Environmental Standards should be the foundation for effective regulation. The Standards should focus on outcomes for matters of national environmental significance, and the fundamentally important processes for sound and efficient decision-making. Standards will provide certainty—in terms of the environmental outcomes the community can expect from the law, and the legal obligations of proponents.
The goal of the EPBC Act should be to deliver ecologically sustainable development. The Act should require that National Environmental Standards are set and decisions are made in a way that ensures it is achieved. The Act should support a focus on protecting (avoiding impact), conserving (minimising impact) and restoring the environment.
A greater focus on adaptive planning is required to deliver environmental outcomes. Regional plans should be developed that support the management of cumulative threats and set clear rules to manage competing land uses at the right scale.
Not applicable. Not sure what is meant by "adaptive planning" (have looked in the document, but can't find explanation). And "at the right scale" is very subjective.
Strategic national plans should be developed for big-ticket, nationally pervasive issues such as the management of feral animals or adaptation of the environment to climate change. These plans should guide the national response and enable action and investment by all parties to be effectively targeted and efficient.
Agree. In principle, yes. A bit concerned if those national plans are developed by governments that are not taking the threats seriously.
INDIGENOUS CULTURE AND HERITAGE
The National Environmental Standards should include specific requirements relating to best practice Indigenous engagement, to enable Indigenous views and knowledge to be incorporated into regulatory processes.
The national level settings for Indigenous cultural heritage protection need comprehensive review. This should explicitly consider the role of the EPBC Act in providing protections. It should also consider how comprehensive national level protections are given effect, including how they interact with the development assessment and approval process of the Act.
Indigenous knowledge and western science should be considered on an equal footing in the provision of formal advice to the Environment Minister. The proposed Science and Information Committee should be responsible for ensuring advice incorporates the culturally appropriate use of Indigenous knowledge.
Not applicable. I agree that formal advice to the Minister shoudl include both Indgenous knowledge and western science. I'm not sure what "equal footing" would look like.
Where aligned with their aspirations, transition to Traditional Owners having more responsibility for decision-making in jointly managed parks. For this to be successful in the long term there is a need to build capacity and capability, so that joint-boards can make decisions that effectively manage risks and discharge responsibilities.
Improved outcomes for Indigenous Australians will be achieved by enabling co-design and policy implementation.
The role of the Indigenous Advisory Committee should be substantially recast as the Indigenous Knowledge and Engagement Committee, whose role is to provide leadership in the co-design of reforms and advise the Environment Minister on the development and application of the National Environmental Standard for Indigenous engagement.
In the short-term, legislative amendments to the EPBC Act are required to address known inconsistencies, gaps, and conflicts in the Act.
Disagree. I am concerned that a piece-meal approach to reform will reflect the plitical will of the current government ot fast-track development without the comprhensive detail need to safegauard the environment. The devil is often in the detail.
In the longer-term, a comprehensive redrafting of the Act (or related Acts) is required. This should be done following the development of the key reforms proposed by this Review. This sequencing will ensure that legislation is developed in a way that supports the desired approach, rather than inadvertently hindering it.
Strongly agree. Cherry-picking some areas can cause unintended ( or even malignly intended) consequences.
Redrafting could include consideration of dividing the Act—such as creating separate pieces of legislation for its key functional areas.
Not applicable. Do not feel well infomred enougj to comment.
EFFICIENCY - REMOVING DUPLICATION
Devolve decisions to other jurisdictions, where they demonstrate National Environmental Standards can be met.
Not applicable. Important that those Standards are met, always! (not just "can be met").
To base devolution on sound accreditation, quality assurance and compliance, escalation (including step-in capability) and regular review.
Not applicable. Don't really understand the question.
Assessment pathways should be rationalised and implemented with clear guidance, modern systems and appropriate cost recovery. Small investments can dramatically reduce cost and uncertainty and improve decision-making.
Not applicable. Not sure.
These, and other reform directions proposed (National Environmental Standards, regional plans, information and data, modern regulatory systems) create opportunities for significant streamlining and efficiency, including where low risk actions will not require approval.
Streamline provisions for permitting of wildlife trade and interactions with other environmental frameworks.
Not applicable. Not knowledgeable enough to comment.
TRUST IN THE EPBC ACT
Improve community participation in decision-making processes, and the transparency of both the information used and the reasons for decisions.
Strongly agree. Communities often have insights that need to be heard, although they seldom if ever have the resources and lobbying power that corporations proposing developments have. Bodies like NSW's Independent Plannign Commission allow opportunities for input. t.
Provide confidence that decision-makers have access to the best available environmental, cultural, social and economic information.
Strongly agree. It's important to recognise the need for a level playing filed in providing the best infomration. It should be the responsibility of a strong public service to provide that, but that has been undermined in recent decades.
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.
DATA, INFORMATION AND SYSTEMS
A national ‘supply chain’ of information is required so that the right information is delivered at the right time to those who need it. This supply chain should be an easily accessible ‘single source of truth’ on which the public, proponents and governments can rely.
Not applicable. In principle, yes. But I'm concerned about the "single source of truth". Sometimes, analysis, say of impacts on water, or air pollution, or global warming, depends on what questions have been asked.
To deliver an efficient supply chain, a clear strategy is needed so that each investment made contributes to building and improving the system over time.
A custodian for the national environmental information supply chain is needed. The Commonwealth should clearly assign responsibility for national level leadership and coordination. Adequate resources should be provided to develop the systems and capability that is needed to deliver the evidence base for Australia’s national system of environmental management.
A National Environmental Standard for information and data should set clear requirements for the provision of data and information in a way that facilitates transparency and sharing. The standard should apply to all sources of data and information, including information collected by proponents.
To apply granular standards to decision-making, Government needs the capability to model the environment, including the probability of outcomes from proposals. To do this well, investment is required to improve knowledge of how ecosystems operate and develop the capability to model them. This requires a complete overhaul of existing systems to enable improved information to be captured and incorporated into decision-making.
Strongly agree. Restore a strong independent public service, and better funding for ecosystem research. (And no, I am not and have never been a public servant)
MONITORING, EVALUATION AND REPORTING
A coherent framework to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the EPBC Act in achieving its outcomes and the efficiency of its implementation should be developed. The framework must be backed by a commitment to its implementation.
A revamp of national SoE reporting should incorporate trend analysis and address future outlooks to provide the foundation for national leadership on the environment.
Strongly agree. We face enormous change ahead from global warming. We cannot ignore the future, and have to use best science to exstimate and address its impact.
National environmental economic accounts will be a useful tool for tracking Australia’s progress to achieve ecologically sustainable development (ESD). Efforts to finalise the development of these accounts should be accelerated, so they can be a core input to SoE reporting.
The EPBC Act should require offsets to be considered only when options to avoid and then mitigate impacts have been actively considered, and demonstrably exhausted.
The EPBC Act should require offsets, where they are applied, to deliver protection and restoration that genuinely offsets the impacts of the development, avoiding a net loss of habitat.
The EPBC Act should incentivise investment in restoration, by requiring decision-makers to accept robust restoration offsets, and create the market mechanisms to underpin the supply of restoration offsets.
There are opportunities for government to explore policy mechanisms to accelerate environmental restoration including those to leverage the carbon market, which already delivers restoration, to deliver improved biodiversity in suitable habitat types.
There are opportunities for government to explore policy mechanisms to accelerate environmental restoration including those to co-invest with the philanthropic and private sectors, including funding innovation to bring down the cost of environmental restoration, growing the habitat available to support healthy systems.
Agree. Some concerns . The philanthropic sector can be misused by government - conside the debacle of providing massive funds to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation - incredibly ineffective and diverted funds from real actions needed.
COMPLIANCE, ENFORCEMENT AND ASSURANCE
Establish a modern, independent regulator responsible for monitoring, compliance, enforcement and assurance to be a strong cop on the beat.
Increase the transparency of activities.
Effectively draw on Standards, simplified law, and better systems to increase compliance and simplify enforcement and assurance.
Shift focus toward assurance of devolved decision-making and monitoring, compliance and enforcement of national strategic plans, regional plans, offsets and regeneration.
Not applicable. In principle yes. But have some concerns about record of states in making regional plans to pork barrel particular electorates.
Provide the regulator with a full suite of modern regulatory monitoring, compliance, enforcement and assurance tools and adequate funding.
PROPOSED REFORM PATHWAY
Do you broadly agree with the phased approach proposed by the Review?
Agree. The regulator needs to oversee the whole process - or the government of the day may pick certain areas to "reform" and not others.
BROADER VIEWS (no character limit)
What has been missed?
There could be a greater emphasis on the environmental impacts on climate change, for example, a “climate change trigger” and “land clearing trigger” to ensure states can be checked if they are ignoring these issues on significant projects. Whatever the mechanism, the report should emphasise this threat as we are already in an emergency.