Tuesday, 10 September 2019
That the Senate—
(a) notes a study entitled Lotsoflosswithlittlescrutiny:TheattritionofhabitatcriticalforthreatenedspeciesinAustralia, which was published on 8 September 2019, and found that:
(i) Australia has one of the worst extinction rates of any nation, yet there has been little assessment of the effect of the EnvironmentProtectionandBiodiversityConservationAct1999 (EPBC Act), to prevent species extinction,
(ii) 7.7 million hectares of potential habitat for terrestrial threatened species, terrestrial migratory species, and threatened ecological communities has been cleared between 2000 and 2017,
(iii) of this loss, 7.1 million hectare (93%) was not referred to the Federal Government for assessment,
(iv) this non-compliance means that potential habitat for terrestrial threatened species, terrestrial migratory species, and threatened ecological communities have been lost without assessment, regulation, or enforcement under the EPBC Act,
(v) additionally, when an action has been referred, most habitat loss has been approved, sometimes with conditions, and therefore has resulted in large areas of cumulative habitat loss,
(vi) the EPBC Act is ineffective at protecting potential habitat for terrestrial threatened species, terrestrial migratory species, or threatened ecological communities, and
(vii) without strict, comprehensive application and enforcement, as well as explicit guidance and requirements, policies such as the EPBC Act will remain ineffective at regulating habitat loss and protecting biodiversity;
(b) notes that:
(i) last week, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) revealed that the Federal Government authorised the clearing of north Queensland woodland, despite its own environment department finding it was likely to destroy habitat critical to the vulnerable greater glider – former Deputy Prime Minister Mr Joyce had written to the former Minister for the Environment and Energy, Mr Frydenberg, asking for no unnecessary intervention under the EPBC Act in relation to the land clearing,
(ii) GuardianAustralia recently revealed that a company part-owned by Mr Angus Taylor, MP and his brother were under investigation by the Department of the Environment and Energy for alleged unlawful destruction of critically-endangered grasslands when Minister Taylor met with departmental staff, including a compliance officer investigating the clearing allegations, and he also approached the former Minister for the Environment and Energy, Mr Frydenberg, about amending the critically-endangered listing of the grassland species, and
(iii) the ABC revealed last year that the former Minister for the Environment and Energy, Mr Frydenberg, ignored advice from his own Department that he should reject an application for the Toondah Harbour apartment and marina proposal in Queensland because of the damage it would do to an internationally protected wetland, home to critically-endangered migratory shorebirds, instead allowing the project to progress to the next stage of assessment; and
(c) calls on the Federal Government to:
(i) implement the study's recommendations, including that when scientifically determinable, critical habitat is demarcated for listed species and communities, which provides absolute protection that is enforced, monitored, and investigated by the regulator,
(ii) ensure that the current review of the EPBC Act address its fundamental failure to actually protect the environment, biodiversity and conservation, and
(iii) audit all decisions made by Mr Frydenberg in his capacity as the Minister for the Environment and Energy, as they relate to land clearing and critical habitat destruction.
The EPBC Act provides a robust framework to protect the environment against actions that have a significant impact on matters of national environmental significance, including on listed threatened species and ecological communities. This includes protecting critical habit for endangered species and ecological communities. Land-clearing actions must comply with the strict requirements of the EPBC Act in relation to environmental impact. This motion is nothing more than a political stunt. Government decisions are always made in accordance with the act.
Labor will not be supporting this motion from the Greens today. The motion is long, detailed and raises some complex issues. The issues raised in this motion warrant substantive debate in a way that allows all senators to participate if they choose. Placing this motion in formal business does not allow for this debate. If the Greens were to bring this back as an MPI or in general business then Labor would actively engage in that debate.