Act for birds

Another Australian nature laws update

Friday, 23 February 2024

  • Estimated reading time 2min

Another update on the review of proposed Australian nature law reforms

BirdLife Australia’s senior policy and conservation experts are currently in the third session of closed-door consultations on the Albanese Government’s proposals to reform Australia’s national nature laws. These consultations will inform the preparation of Australia’s new nature laws, expected to be introduced to Parliament in the middle of this year. 

Meaningful consultation is an important step to securing positive reforms, but further work is needed. We are approaching the critical moment to ensure these new laws will genuinely protect birds and the places they live.

Click here to learn more about the campaign for strong new nature laws and find out how you can get involved. 

We know the campaign for strong new nature laws is important to you and your community.

This week’s consultation session is the third of an expected four sessions, stretching over six months, in which the components of our new nature laws are being previewed by key stakeholders ahead of finalisation for introduction to Parliament. We have joined other leading environment groups calling on the Minister for the Environment to run broader public consultation before introducing these critical reforms to parliament later this year.

Reporting from Canberra, BirdLife Australia’s Dr Jenny Lau and Andrew Witheford provide a quick update on our initial thoughts on the material provided in Round 3 of the closed-door consultations.

BirdLife Australia’s Dr Jenny Lau, Conservation Strategy and Assurance Advisor and Andrew Witheford, Government Relations Manager in Canberra

First, the good! Some of our key priorities are included in the proposals including:  

  • Formal recovery strategies for every nationally threatened bird.  
  • National environmental standards to support more rigorous and consistent decision making.  
  • An independent national Environmental Protection Agency (to be called Environment Protection Australia) that would be responsible for making decisions on most of the project proposals that could harm threatened birds and important natural areas.  
  • The development of a more robust system for the managementand use of environmental data by a statutory office, Environment Information Australia. 
  • Improvements to how the Government addresses recognised key threats to birds and their habitat (Key Threatening Processes).  

But there are areas that will require more work, including:  

  • The new draft laws, like the current EPBC, retain discretionary and subjective decision-making powers, rather than a requirement for objective decision-making consistent with clearlydefined and enforceable environmental standards. Such an approach is more open to abuse, with bad outcomes for nature.   
  • The Minister of the day will retain a broad general ‘call in’ power that will allow them to make decisions on individual proposals that are deemed to warrant ministerial intervention. We are working to ensure that the use of such a power is strictly defined and regulated to ensure it is only used in exceptional circumstances, and is open to public scrutiny.   
  • The new laws envisage a system of “restoration actions and “restoration contributions” – offsets –to compensate for “residual” environmental impacts.  This system will need to be carefully designed, implemented and monitored to ensure that it supports real improvements for birds and their habitat, and doesn’t facilitate species’ decline and environmental degradation. While improvements have been made to address the widespread concerns about the poor performance of existing offset schemes, we remain concerned that this system, and particularly the ability for proponents to pay a contribution if appropriate direct offsets cannot be identified, creates a system that could deliver bad outcomes for nature. 
  • The proposed model for regional planning falls well short of the potential for wholistic regional conservation planning, instead presenting piecemeal,  industry-focused planning, aimed at facilitating groups of similar projects in localities, without a strong focus on positive environmental outcomes.

We will need your support over the next 12 months to ensure that the Australian Government enacts the strongest package of new nature laws. 

Nature is in crisis. This once in a generation opportunity for strong new laws that will genuinely protect and recover the birds and places we love must not be wasted.  

Click here to learn more about the campaign for strong new nature laws and find out how you can get involved.