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Independent Member for Clark, Andrew Wilkie, moved a series of amendments to the Federal Government’s Nature Positive Bills, which would substantially alter the proposed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and introduce a climate trigger to the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC). See above videos for full speeches.

“While it’s good that we’re finally getting some movement on Australia’s environmental laws, there are a number of glaring gaps in the Federal Government’s Nature Positive Bills,” Mr Wilkie said. “For one, the proposed EPA is a shell of what it should be. A well-designed and resourced, independent and accountable EPA that can give expert advice and act as a tough cop on the beat would be a game-changer to protect our natural environment. But that’s not what this Bill gives us. Instead, we’re getting a weak body at risk of interference from governments who have had a terrible track record of protecting our environment.

“My amendments would completely overhaul the Government’s proposal and instead establish a truly independent, strong and transparent EPA that is based on my Commonwealth Environment Protection Authority Bill that I introduced in 2021. This independent body would depoliticise, streamline and strengthen environmental regulation, and to bolster community confidence it will be structurally independent from the Department of Climate Change Energy and Water.

“There is also an urgent need for the Government to finally bring on their reforms to the EPBC Act so the EPA has better laws to enforce. It has long been known, thanks to Professor Graeme Samuel, that Australia’s natural environment is under threat and that our EPBC Act is outdated.

“To address a particularly urgent need, I also introduced amendments that take inspiration from the Prime Minister’s 2005 proposal to introduce a climate trigger to the EPBC Act. They would require projects that would directly or indirectly emit more than 80,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year to be assessed for approval, and prohibit the approval of any action that would emit 100,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide or more. Importantly, they would require the newly established EPA to ensure decisions on projects are consistent with Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions targets as set out in the Climate Change Act.

“At a time when we’re seeing the imminent collapse of precious ecosystems, when Australia is a hotspot for extinctions and deforestation, and we’re already facing unprecedented threats from climate change, a strong independent regulator and environmental laws are more important than ever. The Government needs to stop fiddling while our planet burns.”