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The Government will establish a new Environmental Protection Agency

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The Government will establish an Environment Protection Agency (EPA) to enforce Australia's environment protection laws.
The Government will establish a new Environmental Protection Agency

The Government will establish an Environment Protection Agency (EPA) to enforce Australia’s environment protection laws.

It’s one of several changes announced today by Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek in response to an independent review which found existing environmental laws were “outdated” and need “fundamental reform”.

Background

An independent review into federal environment laws was completed in 2020 by Professor Graeme Samuel.

Samuel concluded the laws did not allow the Federal Government to protect the environment effectively. Problems included a lack of clarity, poor co-ordination with states, and poor engagement with First Nations leaders.

Its key recommendation was to create new, enforceable National Environmental Standards to guide Government decisions of environmental significance.

Government response

Plibersek announced the Government’s response to Samuel’s recommendations today. The Government will develop national standards using Samuel’s recommendations as a “starting point”.

The Government will also establish an EPA to assess decisions against these standards and to enforce compliance. It will include measures to consult with First Nations communities and to require the disclosure of emissions implications.

Opposition response

Shadow Environment Minister Jonathon Duniam said today the Government’s response lacked “detail” and “clarity” and had “duplicated and deferred” work started by the Coalition. Duniam also claimed the announcement created “more uncertainty and more doubt for the business community”.

When in government, the Coalition announced its own response to the Samuel Review. It supported developing standards, but only ones consistent with principles in the existing law. At the time, the Coalition said some of Samuel’s recommendations went “well beyond” existing requirements and beyond what had been agreed to by states and territories.

Greens response

Greens Environment Spokesperson Sarah Hanson-Young welcomed the response but said the Government “lacks any sense of urgency”.

The Greens have called for a ‘climate trigger’ to be added to environmental laws, which would require large-scale mining, drilling and land-clearing projects to be formally assessed for climate impacts.

The Government says it is still working through a mechanism for assessing large projects.

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