Press Release - April 16, 2024

Albanese Government must deliver generational reforms to Australia’s nature laws

Environmental lawyers have expressed disappointment and dismay that the Albanese Government may not deliver once-in-a generation reforms to Australia's nature laws in this term of government.  

Environmental Justice Australia says that Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek's announcement today that the government will establish a national Environment Protection Authority (EPA) and Environmental Information Australia is a baby step forward, but we can't deliver the transformational change needed for our environment without the full package of reforms.

EJA says the proposed form of the new EPA lacks accountability and will be vulnerable to continued interference from vested interests, without an independent board.  

Following the lost decade under the Coalition, Minister Plibersek came to office promising she would "not shy away from difficult problems or accept environmental decline and extinction as inevitable.” 

Today's admission that wholesale reforms may not be delivered within this term of the Albanese Government means iconic animals such as koalas, Gouldian finches, and greater gliders will continue to lose vital habitat to bulldozers and be at greater risk of extinction. 

Not only is Australia a global deforestation hotspot alongside Brazil and Borneo: almost no land clearing is even assessed, let alone approved, under our current national environment law. 

Environment lawyers involved in the consultation process for the new laws are concerned the reforms have been undermined by political interference from the mining sector, and the approach from the Albanese government today signals it has caved to vested interests opposed to effective reforms. 

The Albanese government came to office in May 2022 with a commitment to reform Australia’s nature laws. It is more than three years since the comprehensive and independent Samuel review presented a package of reforms to turn around the dire state of nature in Australia. 

For more information on law reform visit EJA's website

Attribute to  EJA Special Counsel Danya Jacobs 

"Minister Plibersek came to office promising she would end the extinction crisis, but that won't happen if she leaves law reform in the 'too hard’ basket. 

We're concerned that this split in the reforms risks the government turning its back on the extinction crisis and never delivering laws that actually protect threatened species and their habitat from continued destruction.   

The Minister agreed that Australia’s environment laws are completely broken, and she promised ambitious reforms, so she can't walk away from the challenge and should guarantee delivery of the full reforms that nature needs this term. 

Minister Plibersek has taken a baby step forward, but she has the power to actually fix these broken laws, reverse Australia’s horrific trajectories of species decline, and end the system of unchecked discretion that’s vulnerable to powerful influence.  

We’re concerned that the proposed form of the new EPA lacks accountability and will be vulnerable to continued interference from vested interests – to deliver integrity the EPA desperately needs an independent board. 

The new laws have no clear solution to the deforestation crisis that is decimating forests, savannahs and woodlands across the country.  

We’re in an extinction crisis and Australia is a deforestation hotspot - we need new laws now that address land clearing and native forest logging head-on, not just promises to better enforce our broken laws." 

“The simple solution to reverse Australia’s shocking trajectory of species decline is to legislate to protect threatened species and their habitat from continued destruction – the government needs to get on with those reforms urgently, not kick the can down the road.” 

Contact: EJA Media: 03 8341 3100 / [email protected]