An independent national environmental watchdog, as proposed in a new bill presented to federal parliament today, is critical to reversing Australia’s extinction crisis and protecting wildlife and ecosystems for future generations.
Basha Stasak, nature program manager at the Australian Conservation Foundation, said ACF welcomed the Commonwealth Environment Protection Authority Bill, introduced to the House of Representatives by Tasmanian MP Andrew Wilkie.
“ACF has long called for a national Environment Protection Authority to independently assess the environmental impact of proposed commercial projects and check for compliance with our country’s laws and regulations,” Ms Stasak said.
“Last year the Australian National Audit Office delivered a scathing indictment of the federal government’s administration of our national environment law, documenting ‘poor and unlawful decision making’ and a failure to manage conflicts of interest.
“The audit office’s concerns were echoed by Professor Graeme Samuel in his thorough review of the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, which found compliance and enforcement of the EPBC Act was weak and ineffective.
“The audit and Professor Samuel’s review show why we need stronger environment laws and an independent regulator to enforce them.
“When political interference shapes what should be independent science-based decisions it hampers the effectiveness of our environment laws and saps the community’s trust.
“Australians expect robust accountability and oversight when it comes to protecting unique species like the koala, the platypus and the bilby, which we hold it trust for future generations.
“Establishing an independent national Environment Protection Authority that operates at arm’s length from government and is free from the interference of vested interest is critical to deliver the protection that our wildlife and ecosystems need and the community demands.
“We commend Mr Wilkie for introducing this bill and urge MPs to examine the proposed legislation closely through a parliamentary inquiry,” Ms Stasak said.