Generally, the best submissions:
- begin with a short introduction about yourself or the organisation you represent
- are relevant and highlight your own perspectives
- are concise and generally no longer than four to five pages
- emphasise the key points so that they are clear
- outline not only what the issues are but how problems can be addressed – as the committee looks to submissions for ideas to make recommendations
- only include documents that directly relate to your key points
- only include information you would be happy to see published on the internet.
As this bill relates to two key issues – National Environmental Standards and a National Environmental Commissioner – it’s important your submission relates to these two issues.
Getting started on a submission can be tricky. Structure is important as it enables you to communicate your key points. A simple structure you may wish to follow is:
- Introduce yourself
- Outline why this issue matters to you
- Provide suggestions on how to make this law better (we have some suggestions below)
1. Introduce yourself
Start your submission by briefly introducing who you are, why you care about our environment, and why you have taken the time to write your submission.
Emphasise your personal experience or unique perspective. Maybe you have advocated to save a place – like the Franklin River or your local nature corridor/green belt – and encountered unchecked, excessive development.
Maybe you have spoken out to save an Australian species or a local wildlife population – like the Black-Throated Finch or the Leadbeater’s Possum – and did not have the resources or political will to protect it.
Maybe you’re a member of a local revegetation group, you build nesting boxes and insect hotels, or are passionate about echidnas.
All reasons to care about our environment are good reasons.
Don’t go into too much detail here – you’ll need to draw on your personal experiences next when talking about the issues that matter to you.
Remember: keep your submission polite and respectful. The Committee will dismiss submissions that are rude or target individual public servants or Members of Parliament.
2. Outline why this issue matters to you
It’s important that you add your own views on these issues. Whilst legislation can be technical, it is dealing with relatively simple concepts.
It may seem daunting but don’t be discouraged. These processes are important for showing politicians that everyday people care.
At the highest level, try answer the following questions:
- What species or places are important to you? Why should they be protected?
- What kind of environmental outcomes do you want to see in the future – for the places, people and wildlife that you care about?
- How can national safeguards (such as national environmental standards) help in the conservation of these?
- How should the Australian Government ensure that our environmental laws (and standards) are enforced?
Hint: Environmental standards are simply a technical way of talking about what environmental outcomes decision making should deliver. For example, it may mean protecting certain habitats for threatened species, or rules that make sure our World Heritage Areas, like the Great Barrier Reef or the Blue Mountains are safeguarded for future generations.
Similarly, what type of oversight would you like to see if state, territory or local governments are given the primary responsibility for protecting nationally threatened species or World Heritage Areas? For most people, they would be pretty concerned about the federal government handing over their decision making responsibilities, and if they did, they would want to make sure that the states and territories were policed closely to ensure they did it properly.
3. Provide suggestions on how to make the law better
Inquiries always welcome suggestions on how to improve things. Here are some suggestions on how the senate could work to strengthen the legislation:
- The government should respond to the full suite of 38 recommendations presented to it by the Independent Review of the EPBC Act (not cherry-pick reforms).
- The bill should be amended to include strong National Environmental Standards that genuinely protect and restore Australia’s reefs, rivers, forests and wildlife.
- The government’s proposed “interim environmental standards”, which are weak and ineffective, should be abandoned.
- Loopholes that let ministers or industries get out of having to meet National Environmental Standards should be removed.
- The proposed National Environmental Assurance Commissioner should be truly independent and sit within a well-resourced Commission without any constraints on their work.
- The government should establish an Independent Environment Protection Authority.
Below are some suggested key points for your submission. It gets a bit technical, so don’t worry if you can’t cover all of them. You don’t need to say them all, or say them as they are written (actually, it's better if you phrase them in your own words).