Media release

Latest EPBC reforms won’t halt extinctions

Tuesday, 16 April 2024

  • Estimated reading time 2min

Newly announced EPBC reforms won’t halt extinctions

CANBERRA, Australia: BirdLife Australia says an announcement by Minister Plibersek today is not enough to save Australian species from extinction, and is calling on the Albanese Government to table a complete package of nature law reforms this year if it is to fulfil its commitment to do so.

Minister Plibersek today announced legislation to establish Environment Protection Australia (EPA) and Environment Information Australia, with a focus on enforcing the current Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC).

BirdLife Australia CEO Kate Millar says more needs to be done. “Australia’s broken nature laws need to be fixed, and then properly enforced. Doing one without the other will not halt extinctions.

“We’re yet to see the detail to be assured that these new bodies will operate with integrity. The Ministerial powers in our current laws risk undermining any chance of a genuine ‘tough cop on the beat’.”

“What we do know is that without stronger upfront protections – like legislating to stop destruction of important habitat – and measures to support the recovery of threatened species – Australia’s nature will continue to decline. How can we expect EPA to halt extinctions when the laws that it is enforcing are fundamentally broken?”

In 2020, a comprehensive Independent Review of the EPBC Act led by Professor Graeme Samuel concluded the EPBC Act was failing both the environment and business. The following year, the 2021 State of the Environment Report confirmed the continuing extinction crisis in Australia. In 2022 the Federal Government recognised the gravity of the situation, outlining its ambition for reform, followed in 2023 by intensive and extensive stakeholder consultations on the way forward. Ms Millar says the time for action is now. “2024 is the year the Government must deliver to fix Australia’s broken nature laws.”

Last week, Minister Plibersek announced her intention to reject a private development on a globally significant wetland at Toondah Harbour in Queensland. We applaud her for that decision, but it comes more than a decade after a previous minister pushed the real-estate project forward using discretionary powers, powers that are still yet to be properly addressed in the reforms. With the current laws, that project could be brought back from the dead and succeed, should a future minister choose to approve it.

“Minister Plibersek has shown that she is prepared to stand up for the environment against those who seek to profit from its destruction. We’re calling on the Government to fulfil the commitment it has made to protect Australia’s nature for future generations of Australians by passing a comprehensive and effective package of nature laws this year. Nature can’t wait.”

Kate Millar, BirdLife Australia CEO is available for comment.

BirdLife Australia Media Enquiries: Please contact James Johnson on 0423 659 324 or at media@birdlife.org.au