Hanson Young: Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act1999 – Consideration: I take note of this report because this is a very, very important review. It is required under the EPBC legislation that every ten years our environment laws are reviewed, that they’re looked at in great detail, that experts consider whether they are fit for purpose and report to both the government and the parliament about the effect of our laws and whether they are doing what they need to do. We know that the government had this report for some 90 days before releasing it. And of course they happened—let’s put this on the record—to release it right in the middle of Mr Albanese’s frontbench reshuffle last week. You’d think that this government would have been a bit more courteous to not publicly release an important document like this in the middle of when other things were going on—unless, of course, this government wanted to cover up and distract from the recommendations in this report.
Let’s go to those recommendations because they are absolutely fundamental. What Professor Samuel says in this review is that our environment laws are in dire straits, that our environment is suffering, that if we don’t act now we will lose our native animal species for good—gone! The biggest threats, of course, to our wildlife and to our environment are climate change and habitat destruction. This report calls on the parliament and the government to take swift action to put in place stronger laws and protections for our environment. We need to take heed of this advice. We need stronger protections and stronger standards. We shouldn’t be allowing new developments and new mines and new destructions to occur without considering the very real long-term impact that these projects are having on our environment. We need laws to protect what we have, because we don’t have much left. We need laws that protect our wildlife before they’re gone for good. This report shows that native species, like the koala, will be extinct before 2050 unless we stop destroying their habitat. It shows that our rivers and our streams and our natural waterways will be polluted unless we stop polluting them with the developments that are just going on and on. It says we have to stop allowing the corporate greed in this country to override the environment and the needs of the community. We need to protect what we have.
Australians love our natural places, they love our special spots, they love our native animals and they want us to protect them. One of the things I’ve noticed out of COVID is that people are reconnecting with their natural surrounds more than ever. They want to be outside enjoying the Australian bush, our beautiful beaches, our coastline. They don’t want to see Australia’s environment trashed any more, they want to see our animals protected and they want a government that will do what it needs to do to stop extinction in its tracks. We need strong laws, we need better protection but we also need an independent watchdog to ensure that these laws are actually upheld, to ensure that, when corporations get a green light, they’re held to account for what they do and what they don’t do.
It’s quite clear in this review that the cosy relationship between corporations in this country and the governments of the day, state and federal, has made our environment suffer. It’s put it in a worse state. We can’t trust that governments will simply do the right thing, certainly not when they’ve got their hands out for election donations. Politics needs to be taken out of this. Dirty politics needs to be taken out of this. The environment needs to be put front and centre, and we need strong laws and a watchdog to make sure our environment is protected for good. This isn’t just for today or tomorrow; this is for generations to come. It’s time we heeded this advice today. I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Attribution: Chamber Senate on 2/02/2021 Item DOCUMENTS – Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act1999 – Consideration Speaker: Hanson-Young, Sen Sarah. Parliament of Australia