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A big win for law reform to protect the Places You Love

Last weekend, at the ALP National Conference, we had a big win for the places and wildlife we love. Bill Shorten committed to a new generation of environment laws and a national EPA to oversee them if Labor wins government. This is testament to years of campaigning by the Places You Love (PYL) alliance made up of 54 organisations including EJA and supported by over 1.5 million Australians.

We’re proud to be both a legal advisor and part of the leadership team of PYL. This year we worked with alliance leaders WWF, ACF, the Wilderness Society, EDO NSW, Humane Society International, Birdlife Australia and the many other members to get commitments from both major parties for a new generation of national environmental protections to end Australia’s extinction and pollution crisis.

Nearly 2000 unique Australian plants, animals and ecosystems already at risk of extinction and the list keeps growing. Since our current national environmental laws came into effect about 20 years ago, an area of threatened species habitat, larger than Tasmania, has been cleared. Air and plastic pollution is a huge threat to community and environmental health and current responses are not good enough.

Seeing Australia’s failed national environment laws fixed is the highest priority for the Places You Love Alliance heading into the next federal election and we’ll be working with all sides of politics to make sure protecting the places and wildlife we love is on the agenda.

Read the PYL statement below in response to the ALP’s commitment last weekend.

The Places You Love alliance of 54 environment groups has welcomed the Australian Labor Party’s commitment to stronger new laws that will actually protect nature and an independent national environment protection watchdog to enforce them.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten committed to the reforms on Sunday in his speech to the party’s 48th National Conference in Adelaide. The final wording of Labor’s agreed national platform reflects Mr Shorten’s commitments.

“The ALP’s commitment to stronger laws that will help end the decline of nature and our extinction epidemic, and an independent national watchdog to enforce those laws, represents a step by a major political party towards rectifying decades of neglect of Australia’s environment,” said Lyndon Schneiders, National Director of The Wilderness Society.

“Seeing Australia’s failed national environment laws fixed is of the highest priority for the Places You Love Alliance heading into the next federal election.

“Today’s announcement provides a clear platform for a more detailed election commitment from the party in coming months.”

“National political leadership is needed now more than ever if we are to recover our threatened wildlife, safeguard our forests and ensure we have clean air to breathe and water to drink,” said Kelly O’Shanassy, Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Conservation Foundation.

“Australia is facing an extinction crisis with nearly 2000 unique Australian plants, animals and ecosystems already at risk. An area of threatened species habitat larger than Tasmania has been cleared since our current national environmental laws came into effect about 20 years ago.

“If Labor wins the next federal election, the Places You Love alliance looks forward to working with a Shorten Government to shape the details of these reforms and make sure they quickly end Australia’s pollution, deforestation and extinction crises.”

In the lead up to the 2019 federal election, the Places You Love alliance will be campaigning for strong new laws to deal with Australia’s extinction, pollution and deforestation crises; an independent watchdog to implement those laws; and national leadership that sets policy direction and strong national standards that protect nature for the long term.

While the ALP commitment does not include a national Environment Commission to set binding national standards to protect our natural world, it does provide a strong platform for a more detailed commitment on new nature laws in coming months. Ultimately, Australia needs multi-party support for strong new environment laws and institutions. The Places You Love alliance will continue to urge and work with all sides of Australian politics to protect the people, places and wildlife we love.

Background

The Places You Love alliance of 54 environment groups has been advocating for:

  1. A new Australian Environment Act to enshrine national leadership
  2. A national Sustainability Commission to set binding national standards
  3. A national Environment Protection Authority to enforce the law
  4. Community rights in environmental decision-making

The final wording adopted at the ALP National Conference states:

Australia needs new frameworks for truly national protection and management of Australia’s natural resources to enshrine federal leadership in proactive and systemic protection of our environment from threats such as climate change, and to protect the value of heritage sites. Labor will:

  • Establish an Australian Environment Act within the first term of government;
  • Ensure the knowledge and rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are central in environment protection laws, programs and policies;
  • For the purposes of managing matters of national environmental significance, create strong, well resourced, science based institutions to administer the law: including a federal Environmental Protection Agency to conduct public inquiries, provide transparent and timely advice to the Minister within a clear decision-making framework and enforcement; and ensure there is the capacity in the public service to provide federal leadership on the environment;
  • Implement clear management, governance and decision making structures that are transparent, efficient and streamlined;
  • Improve regulation and streamline environmental assessment processes;
  • Manage Australia’s environment fairly and efficiently as a foundation for ecologically, socially and economically sustainable jobs;
  • Protect biodiversity and support resilience in the natural environment; and
  • Direct the Environment Department to establish National Environment Plans that set targets and approaches to proactively protect the environment
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