Twelve months have passed since the Federal Government released the Samuel Review, which warned Australia’s national environmental laws were outdated, ineffective and not fit for purpose.
Professor Samuel’s review made 38 recommendations to fix and strengthen the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC), to help put a halt on Australia’s extinction crisis.
“Australians love our natural places. We take our families to beaches, forests and mountains to play and marvel at this beautiful country we live in. Our unique wildlife is part of what we cherish as defining Australia,” ACT Greens MLA for Kurrajong, Rebecca Vassarotti, said.
“Australians rightly expect governments to protect our unique environment. By failing to act to improve our national laws, the federal government is failing us all. Since the review was published on 28 January 2021, the Federal Government has done nothing but introduce legislation that sets out a framework for national environmental standards, which are weak and merely reflect the existing flaws of the EPBC.
“Meanwhile, over the last 12 months scientists have identified 19 ecosystems across Australia that are collapsing, including the Great Barrier Reef and the rivers of the Murray-Darling Basin. Even bogong moths, so abundant just five years ago in Canberra, have been added to a global endangered species list.
“Nothing has changed but Australia’s extinction crisis, which is already one the world’s highest, gathers pace. Despite Professor Samuel’s warning to ‘avoid the temptation to cherry pick from a highly interconnected suite of recommendations’, the Federal Government has chosen the bits they like and thrown the rest away.
“As the ACT’s Environment Minister, I have called on the Federal Government to deliver the fundamental reforms that are needed: national leadership, strong environment protection laws that genuinely protect Australia’s natural and cultural heritage, and a well-resourced independent regulator to enforce them.
“To shy away from the fundamental reforms recommended by this review is to accept the continued decline and extinction of our most threatened plants, animals and ecosystems. The future of our environment is at stake.”
ACT Greens candidate for Canberra, Tim Hollo, said the EPBC Act is not living up to its name and needs fundamental reform.
“Our Commonwealth environment laws don’t deserve to be called ‘environment protection and biodiversity conservation’ because they’ve done the opposite,” Tim Hollo said. “What we’ve got is a system of managed destruction of Australia’s precious environment, giving government backing to industrial development that is driving the climate crisis and sending countless animals, plants, and ecosystems to extinction.”
“The Samuel Review provided an excellent starting point for rewriting these laws, but we know all too well that we won’t get the changes we need until we get corporate money out of politics and close the revolving door between corporate lobbyists and Ministerial offices.
“Canberrans have elected Greens in our local Assembly to ban donations, bring in an anti-corruption commission and deliver excellent results for people and the planet.
“We can do the same in the Federal parliament at this election by electing Greens in both houses to boot out the environmental vandals in the Coalition and pull a Labor government to go further and faster.”
ACT Greens candidate for the Senate, Dr Tjanara Goreng Goreng, also highlighted that the report recognises a failure to engage with and utilize Indigenous knowledge.
The report (Chapter 2) notes “There is a culture of tokenism and symbolism. Indigenous knowledge or views are not fully valued in decision-making. The Act prioritises the views of western science, and Indigenous knowledge and views are diluted in the formal provision of advice to decision-makers”
“It has never been a strength of the Coalition to recognise the thousands of years of First Nations knowledge about their own country and its environment and sustainability needs,” Dr Goreng Goreng said.
“The ACT Greens would welcome the recommendation of a National Environment Standard for Indigenous engagement, ensuring that it is self-determined and that recommendations and advice it gives are ensured to be utilised now and into the future.
“This would ensure that future Federal Governments recognise and include the wealth of generational knowledges that exist and can be utilised to take Care of Country. Such a standard needs to have a strong legislative perspective so that that knowledge is used.”