Environmental laws are an essential element of a healthy society. They not only protect our fragile ecosystems, they also protect our health, our communities, our economy and future generations.
Our system of environmental laws:
- Recognise at their core the value of the environment, and can seek to ensure that decisions are made in accordance with the principles of ecologically sustainable development.
- Protect the community’s right to be informed of, and participate in, decision-making processes that affect the environment.
- Ensure that a rigorous, science-based assessment of environmental impacts is applied in the decision-making process.
- Provide enforcement mechanisms where environmental laws are breached.
- Ensure that our international environmental obligations are upheld.
Recently, there have been bold moves by industry and government to wind back our country’s system of environmental laws, in the name of reducing ‘green tape’. This built on further Government proposals to weaken our federal environment law, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC Act).
On 13 April 2012, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) released a communiqué, announcing its intention to implement major changes to environmental laws across Australia. The reforms are directed at both federal and state laws, with a particular emphasis on ‘streamlining’ environmental assessment processes.
In practice what this means, is handing state and territory governments the power to assess and approve projects in their state, rather than the federal government having the current and very important oversight role, necessary for our biodiversity that moves across state boundaries.
These proposed reforms represent a grave threat to hard won environmental protections, which have been in place for decades. In response to this unprecedented and coordinated assault on Australia’s environmental laws, environmental organisations from across the country have come together to form an alliance to let Australian Governments and business know that we will not stand by while our environmental laws are wound back.