The committee received submissions which supported the repeal of section
487 and submissions which supported its retention. Submitters who supported the
retention of section 487 pointed to the limited number of legal challenges, the
possible diminution of access to justice and the need to maintain the rule of
law. The committee also notes the arguments put forward by those supporting the
repeal of section 487, such as the costs to proponents and consequences for
economic activity when major development projects are delayed by judicial
review sought by groups granted standing by section 487. The committee also
acknowledges the significant cost of these challenges to the Commonwealth. The
Department of the Environment indicated that it had not recovered costs in the
majority of cases where the Commonwealth had been successful in defending the
validity of a decision.
The committee considers that the repeal of section 487 will not diminish
the protection of Australia's environment and the conservation of biodiversity
and heritage provided by the EPBC Act. The provisions of the EPBC Act specify
the arrangements for environmental impact assessment and the matters that the
minister must have to regard to when deciding to grant an approval. These
provisions, which are the core of the Commonwealth regime for the protection of
matters of national environmental significance, will not be altered by the
repeal of section 487.
The committee notes that review of decisions under the EPBC Act will remain
available through the ADJR Act and Judiciary Act. In addition, the committee
notes that there is continuous engagement with interested stakeholders,
including communities where projects are proposed, in both Commonwealth and
state and territory environmental assessment processes.
The committee recommends that the Environment Protection and
Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Standing) Bill 2015 be passed.
Senator Linda Reynolds CSC
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