Welcome to your update on the major national political news and events that have kept us busy this past month. 

Things moved quickly at the end of the most recent Parliamentary sittings. Environment, nuclear waste and a poor climate bill were stalled and fresh inquiries began into the EPBC Act and new Climate Change Act. 

This tells us our campaigns are working! When people speak out, politicians are forced to listen. A huge thanks to the ACF Community for making sure Parliament hears our collective voice. 

National environment laws face shortest inquiry ever


Photo credit: Holger Detje

After months of pressure, the Morrison Government has reluctantly agreed to an inquiry into its Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Streamlining Environmental Approvals) Bill 2020, but it’ll likely be the shortest Senate inquiry in history!

What does the Bill do? The Bill would see federal approval powers handed over to the states and territories. It puts states and territories in charge of nationally important environmental matters – like world heritage areas and nationally threatened species – without any safeguards.

Minister Ley tabled the Bill in July while a 10-year statutory review of the EPBC Act was still underway. The proposed Bill failed to address the key concerns highlighted by Professor Samuel in his interim report – that our laws are failing to protect Australia’s environment. It does not contain the national environmental protection standards nor the independent regulator recommended in the interim report, and removes safeguards and federal oversight of the water trigger. You can read more about the findings in Professor Samuel’s interim report and the government's Bill here.

How did we get here? After the government gagged debate the Bill was passed by the House of Representatives in August. It’s now in the Senate. As well as One Nation’s two votes, the government needs support from either Senators Jacqui Lambie, Rex Patrick, Stirling Griff, or the ALP or Greens to pass the Bill. The ALP and Greens oppose the Bill, and along with crossbench Senators Lambie, Griff and Patrick, have been calling for an inquiry into the legislation and the release of Professor Samuel's final report.  

Last week the government conceded and the Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee agreed to conduct one of the shortest inquiries in the Senate’s history. It provided less than four days’ notice for submissions, which closed on Wednesday 18 November. This is much shorter than the usual process to allow Senators to hear from relevant groups and the community about such important items of national legislation.

What’s next? Just one day of hearings will be held on Monday 23 November. An inquiry report is due on Friday 27 November, just ahead of the final two weeks of Parliamentary sittings for 2020. ACF will make a submission and ACF CEO Kelly O’Shanassy will provide evidence at the 23 November hearing. 

Professor Graeme Samuel’s final EPBC review report was handed to Minister Ley on 30th October. The Minister must table the report in Parliament within 15 parliamentary sitting days of receiving it, which means it could be released anytime between now and February. 

What can you do? Contact your local Coalition MP or Senator and tell them the public and our elected representatives deserve more time and more information to scrutinise the impacts of these rushed, short-sighted changes to crucial environment laws.

What does this mean for MP meetings? In your meetings with your MPs: 

  1. thank ALP, Greens and Independents for opposing the Bill in the House;
  2. ask National and Liberal MP to speak up within their party for national environment laws that truly protect nature, and an independent regulator to enforce the laws.

Independent MP Zali Steggall's climate change bill tabled


Photo courtesy of Pacific Hydro

In an important move that will spark further debate on climate action in Australia, the House Standing Committee on the Environment and Energy has agreed to hold an inquiry into Independent MP Zali Steggall’s climate change bills tabled on 9 November. 

What would the bills do? If passed, Steggall’s Climate Change (National Framework for Adaptation and Mitigation) Bill would set a net-zero emissions by 2050 target in Australian law. A separate consequential Bill would create an independent Climate Change Commission that would set five-yearly national emissions reduction budgets. The bills closely match the United Kingdom and New Zealand’s climate change laws. “[N]et zero by 2050 is endorsed by our state and territory governments, businesses, peak bodies, civil society groups and our trading partners,” Steggall told the Parliament.

What happened in Parliament? On 9 November, Independent MP Zali Steggall tabled two private members bills to set a national climate change action policy framework and governance structure. Centre Alliance MP Rebekha Sharkie and Independant MP Helen Haines seconded the bills and further debate was adjourned to the coming sittings (though the government will decide what’s on the daily program – so we don’t know if, when, or how much time will be given to debate the bills). 

What happens next? Importantly, the House Standing Committee on the Environment and Energy agreed to hold an inquiry into the bills and submissions are due on Friday 27 November. Centre Alliance MP Rebekha Sharkie called on “all members in this place: with your leadership caucus meetings, please call for a free vote on this bill” when they come back to the Lower House.

What does it mean? Following hard on the US election of Joe Biden as President on a strong climate change platform, including a net zero emissions by 2050 target, Steggall’s bills give the Parliament a fresh chance to seriously debate exactly how the government can tackle climate change, placing more pressure on the Morrison Government to act. Biden has promised to hold an international climate summit within 100 days of taking office to pressure major climate polluters like Australia to increase their ambition. The US adopting a net zero by 2050 target will mean 71 countries are on the same climate change policy path ahead of a major UN climate change meeting in Glasgow starting 1 November, 2021. 

What will we do? ACF will make a submission to the inquiry and encourage all ACF community members to make a personal submission too. We’re also calling on Liberal and National MPs and Senators to listen to their constituents, to agitate within the party room for a free vote so they can support the bills, and to ensure the government allows time in the House of Representatives for a proper debate.

What does this mean for MP meetings? In your meetings with your MPs, you can ask if your Member of Parliament will support the Climate Change (National Framework for Adaptation and Mitigation) Bill, allow debate, and/or put forward their own bill outlining a plan for net zero emissions by 2050.

Inquiry confirms CEFC Bill allows gas investment


Photo courtesy of Lock the Gate

A Senate inquiry has confirmed ACF’s fear that the Morrison Government’s Bill to amend the  Clean Energy Finance Corporation Amendment (Grid Reliability Fund) Bill 2020 would allow the Minister to force the CEFC to invest in gas projects hand picked by the government.

What happened in Parliament? The Senate Standing Committee on Environment delivered its report on an inquiry into the CEFC Bill on 4 November. The inquiry confirmed ACF’s fears the Bill would change the CEFC’s objective to allow it to invest in gas projects. The government has already selected several gas projects for funding under its Underwriting New Generation Investments program, and it’s now clear it expects the CEFC to provide public funding for them. Labor and the Greens Senators recommended against this change in their dissenting reports. Labor Senators also recommended removing the Minister’s power to define new investments by regulation. Greens Senators recommended allowing Parliament to scrutinise and reject regulations that define new investments. They want to remove a restriction on the CEFC using its profits to support the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and to amend the Bill to prevent the CEFC investing in fossil fuel gas and coal. 

Meanwhile, eight former CEFC and ARENA leaders, including CEFC founding Chair, Jillian Broadbent, CEO Oliver Yates and board member Andrew Stock issued a joint statement on 9 November calling on MPs to reject the CEFC (Grid Reliability Fund) Bill.

What’s ACF doing? ACF highlighted in its submission and at an inquiry hearing that the Bill would undermine the CEFC’s independence, profitability and its low emissions remit. 

We’re continuing to talk with MPs and Senators across the Parliament about ensuring our green banks only invest in clean renewable energy technologies. We’re also warning non-government MPs to expect new CEFC and ARENA Bills to be tabled by the government soon. These new bills would help the Morrison Government implement its Technology Investment Roadmap by undermining our green banks . 

What can you do? You can sign our petition calling on Independent and Centre Alliance MPs and Senators to keep our highly successful green banks clean, and not force them to provide public money to polluting gas projects that investors won’t touch. Or you can send Tas Senator Jacqui Lambie and SA Senators Patrick and Griff a personal email.

What does this mean for MP meetings? In your meetings with MPs, you can outline concerns with the Clean Energy Finance Corporation Amendment (Grid Reliability Fund) Bill 2020 and ensure that our green banks only invest in clean renewable energy technologies.

Senate vote on Collinsville coal power funds delayed

A Greens motion in the Senate is set for a vote on Tuesday 1 December in an attempt to stop $3.3 million of public funds being wasted on a feasibility study into a new coal-fired power station in Collinsville in north Queensland.

What happened in Parliament? In the Upper House Senator Larissa Waters’ disallowance motion to stop the Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor’s grant to Shine Energy for the study has been delayed till the last possible day that it can be resolved with a vote. Waters’ motion can only pass if a One Nation or government Senator crosses the floor to vote with the cross-bench, Greens and Labor. On 27 October, it took just two Coalition MP votes in the House of Representatives to block Labor’s Shadow Climate Change Minister Mark Butler similar disallowance motion from passing. 

What’s ACF doing? ACF is continuing to seek information from Minister Angus Taylor and the Department of Industry, Science, Resources and Energy about the circumstances surrounding the grant to Shine Energy for the Collinsville study.

One Nation sends nuclear waste bill to limbo


Photo credit: Randall Cliff

In an important development for the Barngarla Native Title Holders, South Australian activists and ACF supporters, the Morrison Government’s nuclear waste facility bill has stalled indefinitely in the Parliament.

What happened in Parliament? Although listed for debate in the most recent sittings, it became clear that the Morrison Government did not have the Senate numbers to pass the National Radioactive Waste Management Amendment (Site Specification, Community Fund and Other Measures) Bill 2020. One Nation joined Labor, the Greens and others on the Senate cross-bench to reject the proposal for a national radioactive waste facility near Kimba, SA. One Nation Senators confirmed they would not support the Bill that would remove the right of affected communities to legally contest the Minister’s decision to site the facility in Kimba, or the ‘double handling’ of dangerous radioactive waste.

What next? Minister for Resources Keith Pitt says he’s determined to progress the legislation, but the Morrison Government will continue to face significant opposition. SA and national civil society groups, Aboriginal and professional groups, the SA Upper House, SA Labor and Unions SA have all opposed the government’s approach.

Every day without a bad law is a good day and ACF will continue to advocate for responsible and evidence based nuclear waste management. Here’s ACF’s background brief on the Government’s radioactive waste plan. We’ll keep you updated on any further developments.

ACF Community political advocacy

This year, the ACF community has advocated for action on ACF’s Recover Rebuild Renew agenda, to act now to create future-proof jobs that are good for people, nature and our climate, protect nature with strong national laws and stop bad laws that will send us in the wrong direction.

Together, we’ve sent over 13,000 emails to Members of the House of Representatives and Senators and 41 Community groups have conducted 72 meetings with their Member of Parliament. You can see the momentum gained and action in the all updates above!

What can you do next?

What else is happening in the House?


Deborah Nesbitt

Government and Business Relations Manager