Monday, 9 December 2013
Environment Legislation Amendment Bill 2013; Consideration in Detail
I thank the minister for his remarks and for giving us notice of this late amendment on the government's part. I will make a few remarks about the origin of this amendment. It has its origin in a decision of the Federal Court earlier this year which invalidated a decision of the former minister, or the then minister, on the grounds that the conservation advice for a listed species, the Tasmanian devil, which was impacted by the controlled action submitted for approval, had not been placed before the minister at the time he made the approval decision. It is quite clear from reading the Federal Court decision and from reading the minister's decision on that matter that he had very extensive regard to the position of the Tasmanian devil and the potential impact of the controlled action on the Tasmanian devil, which is obviously a threatened species in Tasmania—and a very high-profile threatened species.
If you look at the decision you will see that there are a number of conditions imposed by the minister on the controlled action to take account of the position that the Tasmanian devil is in in Tasmania, which I think all members of the House know is relatively precarious. I think it is fair to say that the Federal Court decision, with the greatest respect, was something of a technicality. It is quite clear that all of the information contained in the conservation advice was before the minister in other forms through a lengthy process of his consideration of this application. So the full gravamen of those matters in the conservation advice were reflected in his decision.
The opposition is willing to support this amendment to give some certainty to controlled actions, which have been considered in the past—often through lengthy and expensive processes of EIS and public consultation and other processes—to ensure that those controlled actions comply with the spirit and, as far as possible, the letter of the EPBC Act. I think it is a good compromise that the minister has proposed, and we are willing to support it. We would not have supported an amendment that would have barred any legal action, ad infinitum, into the future because a minister had not had a conservation advice placed in front of him or her. This is a strong compromise, and the opposition will support this amendment.