Referral of the inquiry
On 18 June 2014, the Senate referred the following matter to the
Environment and Communications References Committee (the committee) for inquiry
and report by the third sitting day in 2015:
Abbott Government's attacks on Australia's environment, and their effects on
our natural heritage and future prosperity, including:
- attacks on carbon pricing, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, the
Australian Renewable Energy Agency and the renewable energy target, the Climate
Change Authority and the Climate Commission;
attacks on federal environmental protection through handing approval
powers over to state governments, which have poor track records and recent
environment staff cuts;
- attacks on funding for community environment organisations and the
Environmental Defenders Offices, abolition of the Biodiversity Fund, and cuts
to programs including, Landcare and Caring for our Country;
undermining Australia's compliance with the World Heritage Convention,
the Convention on Biological Diversity, and the Ramsar Convention, in
particular by attacking the Great Barrier Reef and the Tasmanian Wilderness
World Heritage Areas; and
any other related matters.
The reporting date for the inquiry was subsequently extended to the
third-last sitting day in June 2015 (23 June 2015).
Conduct of the inquiry
The committee advertised the inquiry on its website and wrote to
relevant organisations inviting submissions by 10 November 2014.
The committee received 62 submissions, and held two public hearings. The
committee also received 1,233 emails of substantially the same content. A list
of submitters to the inquiry is at Appendix 1. A list of the public hearings conducted
and witnesses is at Appendix 2.
The committee would like to thank all the organisations and individuals
that contributed to the inquiry.
Previous work of the committee
Since the beginning of this Parliament, both the Environment and
Communications legislation and references committees have undertaken inquiries
into many of the matters referred to in the terms of reference. The committees'
reports covered the matters raised in terms of reference (a), (b) and (d), and
certain aspects of term of reference (c) as follows:
term of reference (a):
legislation committee report on the Clean Energy Legislation
(Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013 [Provisions] and related bill including the Clean
Energy Finance Corporation (Abolition) Bill 2013 the Climate Change Authority
(Abolition) Bill 2013, tabled in December 2013;
term of reference (b):
legislation committee on report the Environmental Protection and
Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Bilateral Agreement Implementation) Bill
2014 [Provisions] and the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity
Conservation Amendment (Cost Recovery) Bill 2014 [Provisions], tabled in June
references committee report on Environmental Offsets, tabled in
aspects of term of reference (c), including:
references committee report on the National Landcare Program, tabled
in March 2015; and
term of reference (d):
references committee report on the Tasmanian Wilderness World
Heritage Area, tabled in May 2014;
references committee report on the management of the Great
Barrier Reef, tabled in September 2014.
In light of the previous work undertaken by the legislation and
references committees, this report will focus on the matters in term of
reference (c) that have not been addressed in a prior report, specifically: attacks
on funding for community environment organisations and the Environmental
Defenders Offices, abolition of the Biodiversity Fund, and cuts to certain programs.
Structure of the report
This report is comprised of three chapters. Chapter 2 sets out current
and former Commonwealth funding arrangements, with particular attention on the
impact of the abolition of the Biodiversity Fund. The chapter also sets out general
concerns raised by submitters and witnesses about the cuts to funding of
community environmental programs.
Chapter 3 considers the role and history of the Environmental Defenders
Network of environmental lawyers, and highlights the significant role that they
have played in providing access to justice on environmental matters.
Please note that where references are given to Hansard transcripts of
the public hearings, these refer to the proof Hansard transcripts. Page numbers
may vary between proof and final transcripts.
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