Media Release Threatened Species

EPA needs independence, integrity and accountability to properly protect nature and our oceans

July 4, 2024
  • Senate must consider amendments to address shortcomings of Nature Positive legislation and ensure independence and integrity of proposed EPA
  • EPA alone will not deliver on Albanese government’s promise of zero extinctions – government must commit to full package of Nature Positive legislation this term
  • Current nature laws are failing oceans, endangered species, Great Barrier Reef

The Australian Senate needs to improve the environmental legislation passed in the House of Representatives today to properly protect nature and give the proposed national environment protection agency the independence it needs to be effective and accountable, the Australian Marine Conservation Society said.

The legislation to establish Environment Protection Australia and a new environmental data division, Environment Information Australia, has been sent to a Senate inquiry and is expected to be debated in the Senate during the August parliamentary sitting days.

This legislation has been billed as Stage 2 of the government’s Nature Positive reforms. “Nature positive” is an internationally recognised concept of stopping and reversing the loss of species and ecosystems, to enable their repair and regeneration. The definition of nature positive will be enshrined and legislated in Australia through the Nature Positive (Environment Information Australia) Bill.

AMCS Fisheries and Threatened Species Campaign Manager Alexia Wellbelove said: “Establishing the new environmental institutions of Environment Protection Australia and Environment Information Australia should be major and significant progress in protecting and restoring Australia’s coasts and oceans, but the bills that have passed the House need to be substantially improved to make the EPA independent, effective and accountable by reporting to an independent board or parliamentary committee, rather than the minister.

“The bill to establish Environment Information Australia defines ‘nature positive’ and must include a baseline year to measure the progress towards halting and reversing biodiversity loss by 2030 and full recovery by 2050.

“These bills need to be improved to give nature the protection it urgently needs and
meet the scale of threats our oceans are facing. The Albanese government needs to agree to essential improvements to the legislation tabled by the crossbench, such as taking climate change and unacceptable impacts into account when making decisions, to meet the government’s zero extinction commitment and to build community trust and integrity into Australia’s nature laws.

“We would like to thank the House of Representatives crossbenchers who tabled essential improvements to the legislation, and we will be urging senators to make these same improvements once the legislation is introduced to the Senate.

“Even if improved, these environmental institutions on their own will not protect nature and enable the government to meet its national and international commitments to protecting and restoring nature without the full package of Nature Positive legislation the government has promised.

“Our current federal environment laws, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act, are failing nature. The EPBC Act has failed to protect the Maugean skate, which is hurtling towards extinction, with salmon farming increasing 20-fold in its only home after it was declared endangered. Those laws are also failing to protect the Great Barrier Reef from the threats from new fossil fuel developments and tree clearing in Reef catchments, which releases sediment into Reef waters. Offshore oil and gas developments continue to be approved in critical habitats for our unique marine life.

“We need strong new environment laws that actually protect and restore nature and give our endangered species such as the Australian sea lion, Maugean skate, red handfish and threatened ecosystems a fighting chance.

“The Albanese government must introduce the full package of new nature laws before the election, and urgently release a clear plan and timeline for the development and delivery of the key, outstanding components of the reforms to the EPBC Act.”