Centre Alliance calls for Inquiry into Environmental Law changes

4 September 2020

Centre Alliance cannot consider supporting a Bill to streamline environmental approvals until there is an inquiry into the legislation and more certainty regarding the Government's promised National Environmental Standards.

“We owe it to future generations to get this right. The legislation as it stands today puts the cart before the horse and I couldn't support it when it was rushed through the House of Representatives late yesterday," said Centre Alliance's spokesperson for the environment, Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie.

The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Streamlining Environmental Approvals) Bill 2020 was introduced to the Parliament last week and aims to avert the double-handling of development approvals by delegating the assessment of environmental impacts of some major projects to states and territories.

The Bill passed the Lower House in the final hour of Federal Parliament yesterday after the Government shut down debate.

A Senate motion calling for the legislation to be referred to the Environment and Communications Committee for an inquiry has been postponed until the next sitting of Parliament.

Rebekha said Centre Alliance supported efficiency but not at the expense of less protection for the environment.

“Both the Australian National Audit Office and an interim review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act make it clear that the current laws are inefficient and frankly ineffective," Rebekha said.

"The status quo cannot continue but the Government cannot rush through legislation that delegates environment assessments and approvals to the states without enforceable national standards.

“As a South Australian and the MP for the electorate at the end of the Murray River, I am particularly concerned about potential upstream projects from upstream States not being subject to rigorous federal oversight.

“South Australians are already concerned about the oversight of the river.

“Just this week the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists raised the alarm that for the past eight years 20 per cent of the water expected to flow each year under the Basin Plan never arrived, which has serious consequences for downstream sites.”

Rebekha said all Australians needed to have the confidence that future developments with the potential to impact on national environmental assets, such as the Murray River, were assessed against rigorous national standards.

"The Parliament needs to see these national standards and we need an inquiry into this legislation," Rebekha said.

Centre Alliance Senator Stirling Griff has voted in favour of an inquiry into the changes several times this week.

“It is frustrating that the Government is resisting an inquiry into the Bill,” Senator Griff said.

“We are being asked to make decisions without a thorough understanding of the effects these changes will have.”

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