Australian Greens' additional comments
The Australian Greens believe the evidence and findings contained in
this interim report are highly significant. We would like to thank the hundreds
of organisation and individuals who made submissions and attended hearings
across the country.
The inquiry has heard evidence that the scale and speed of decline for
Australian threatened fauna is nothing short of scandalous. We are in the midst
of the sixth great mass extinction event.
What is clear from the evidence so far is that there is nothing
inevitable about species extinction, it is a choice. With adequate laws and
funding, we can ensure that not one more Australian species goes extinct.
But our existing laws and compliance mechanisms are little more than
processes to be stepped through by project proponents. They have failed to
prevent faunal extinction and species decline.
The scope for ministerial discretion and overturning of expert advice,
the ad-hoc nature of species protection and funding, the lack of mandatory
action to limit key threatening process and protect critical habitat; all point
to a framework that is facilitating rather than reversing faunal extinction.
The committee recommendations contained in this report are an important
step forward on the path to reform. The Australian Greens welcome the findings
of the committee that we need new environmental legislation that will actually
limit the drivers of faunal extinction and the creation of an independent
environmental protection authority (EPA) to ensure compliance with
An independent environment commission
While the committee has agreed upon the need for an arms length EPA to
ensure compliance with and enforcement of the law, multiple witnesses and
submitters have also identified the need for a separate independent body, a
national environment commission.
Such a body would sit independent of government and set national
standards, conduct strategic planning, and provide long term evaluation and monitoring
of the state of our environment and the efficacy of our laws and programs. This
role is distinct from the regulatory and compliance function identified in the
committee's report for the EPA.
Some have argued that these strategic functions are already provided by
the Department of the Environment and Energy, however the Greens believe that
structural separation from the Minister for the Environment and government of
the day is needed to provide frank and independent advice, standards and
The paper on Environmental Governance by the Australian Panel of Experts
on Environmental Law came to a similar conclusion:
It can be argued that the most effective implementation of
the scheme would be likely to be achieved through having it administered by an
independent, expert institution that is, and is perceived to be, free of
political or other influence.
The determination of the specific roles and responsibilities of a
national environment commission is a significant task, and the Australian
Greens look forward to exploring this issue further both within this inquiry
and with broader stakeholder consultation throughout the development of new
The Australian Greens recommend that the Australian Government
create an independent national environment commission alongside new
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