Government launches review of Environment Protection Act

The Federal Government has launched a once in a decade review of Australia’s environmental law.

The decision aims to deliver greater certainty to business groups, farmers and environmental organisations.

Led by Monash University Professorial Fellow Graeme Samuel, the statutory review will examine whether the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (1999) remains fit for purpose, and fit for the future within the context of a changing environment.

According to Environment Minister Sussan Ley, Professor Samuel will lead an expert panel including Bruce Martin, Wendy Craik, Erica Smyth and Andrew Macintosh.

“This review is not about ideology,” Ms Ley said.

“The one thing all sides of the environmental debate concede is that the complexities of the act are leading to unnecessary delays in reaching decisions, and to an increased focus on process rather than outcomes.”

Ms Ley said decision making delays are estimated to cost the economy roughly $300 million a year, which frustrates business and environmental groups.

“The act has been a world benchmark in environmental protection, but needs to be adapted to changes in the environment and economy,” Ms Ley said.

“I’ve asked Professor Samuel to look at how we can improve efficiency, and make clear and simple decisions that deliver strong, clear and focused environmental protection.”

Ms Ley said Professor Samuel will be releasing a discussion paper in November and begin initial stakeholder meetings shortly thereafter.

Under the review’s terms of reference, the independent reviewer must provide a report to the environment minister within 12 months of the review’s commencement.

Terms of reference include examining the act’s current operations and the extent to which objectives are being achieved. Furthermore, the reference aims to make recommendations to modernise the act, including considerations of Australia’s international environmental responsibilities and the implementation of relevant agreements between the Commonwealth, states and territories.

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