Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act reforms return – a missed opportunity?

Last week the Victorian government re-introduced a Bill (Flora and Fauna Guarantee Amendment Bill 2019) proposing reforms to Victoria’s Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 to the Victorian Parliament.

We were surprised and disappointed to see that the Bill has not been improved since the government’s attempt to reform the Act in 2018. The current Bill is almost identical to the 2018 Bill.

We were critical of the changes proposed last year, arguing that the reforms did not go far enough in fixing Victoria’s biodiversity protection laws.

The proposed amendments are a welcome acknowledgement that the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act needs an overhaul –something we have been advocating for over many years. And while there’s some positives – such as the government’s commitment to retaining the “guarantee” – our assessment is that the reforms still effectively leave threatened species protection optional in too many cases.

As it happened the 2018 Bill did not pass the Victorian Parliament before last year’s Victorian state elections – an opportunity to review the reforms, you might think.

There’s a lot that’s happened since last year that we’d hope would have led the government to revising the proposed reforms, with much attention in the last six months to the extinction crisis nationally and internationally.

Monday’s Four Corners is a must watch for anyone concerned about the desperate situation faced by Australian wildlife. “Extinction Nation” clearly documented the failures across both state and commonwealth governments when it comes to our threatened species, with inadequate legal protections for our wildlife being a prominent theme.

The need for substantial reform to nature protection laws was a prominent theme in the recent Federal election, with the Federal ALP committing to an overhaul of our national environmental protection laws in their pre-election commitments.

By simply reintroducing the amendments in the same form as proposed last year, the Victorian government has missed an opportunity for a rethink – to review whether the reforms are up to the task of protecting and restoring Victorian biodiversity, something which if anything is now more important given the lack of continuing lack of commonwealth leadership.

Hopefully the reintroduction of the amendments – they’re presently before the Legislative Assembly – will be an opportunity for the Victorian Parliament to scrutinise the proposed changes.

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