Coalition Senators' Dissenting Report

Coalition Senators' Dissenting Report

1.1The Coalition objects both to the content of the Majority Report and the attempts that have been made to stop us from responding in any meaningful way to it.

1.2On two separate occasions, the Government initiated long extensions to the reporting date of this inquiry. That included the deferral, on 10 November 2023, of the tabling of the report until 18 April 2024.

1.3During the public hearing of 30 June 2023, the Committee also received a message on behalf of the Environment Minister, the Hon Tanya Plibersek MP, that said that ‘the [earlier] decision to extend the reporting date of this committee and therefore extend that date at which the legislation can be brought back into the Senate, the Minister is very keen to extend that date…’[1]

1.4On the afternoon of 30 November 2023, just 20 days after the second extension and amid the frenetic activity of a parliamentary sitting day no less, the Government then attempted to completely subvert that process. With no forewarning and no willingness to co-operate with non-Government Senators, it cut short by five months that agreed resolution of the Senate, and tried to ram through a final report on the inquiry without any time or opportunity for serious objection.

1.5All of that said, this conduct is entirely in keeping with the Labor Party's completely botched, rushed and non-consultative work on these two Bills—and its tin-eared approach and disrespect for people with different views to theirs.

1.6It has continually tried to put the cart before the horse.

1.7In turn, the fact that the content of, and the assertions included in, the Majority Report are so clearly at odds with the balance of the testimony and evidence provided to the inquiry is another embarrassing reflection on the Albanese Government—and especially Minister Plibersek. It is also astounding that the Report is so flimsy, spanning just 14 pages and delving into none of the serious detail clearly demanded in a response to an inquiry that spanned a wide variety of highly complex and technical issues.

1.8As was made very clear throughout the course of this inquiry, particularly at the public hearings, there is very little support for the content of these two Bills among key stakeholders.

1.9Moreover, many of those stakeholders' assessments of the Bills, and of the Government's lack of process in relation to their introduction, were particularly damning.

1.10Foremost among the many concerns were the proposed treatment of offsets, and the unwillingness of the Government to delay the introduction of such legislation until after the passage of their promised, wider changes to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity ConservationAct (EPBC Act). On the latter point, we have listed, as a postscript to this statement, just some of the many comments made to that effect during the course of the inquiry.

1.11The Coalition is also especially concerned by the sentiments expressed in paragraphs 2.33 and 2.34 of the Majority Report.

1.12In paragraph 2.33, it is asserted that the Government should be left alone to ameliorate the many and major concerns with their Nature Repair Market Bills as part of their already shambolic and badly-delayed process to overhaul the EPBC Act.

1.13Even more worryingly, it is argued in paragraph 2.34 that there will—sometime in the future—be ‘a lengthy period of design of the methodologies underpinning the nature repair market’. Given this Government’s track record of eschewing genuine consultation, being so poor on detail, and inability to go anywhere near getting even the basic architecture of these Bills correct, we have absolutely no confidence in their ‘trust us, we’ll get it right later’ approach.

1.14In reality, there are so many problems, and there is such widespread discontent, with the Government’s approach to the development and potential implementation of these Bills that it is impossible to know where to begin in an assessment of them.

1.15That is especially true in the Coalition’s case at this point in this inquiry process—when we have been given such a ludicrously short time to be able to say almost anything, let alone to provide a comprehensive set of comments on all of the many issues involved.

1.16In all of our collective years in the Senate—and, indeed, in all of our years in other organisations and workplaces—it is difficult to recall many cases of such a blatant lack of due process.

1.17Nevertheless, we do want to take the (extremely limited) opportunity available to us in this short statement to make clear that the Coalition will not be supporting the passage of these Bills. We will be taking that approach in recognition of the near-universal public condemnation of the content of, and handling of, this legislation. Our commitment to that approach has also now been strongly reinforced by the shameful guillotining of this inquiry process.

Senator the Hon Jonathon Duniam

Substitute Member

Senator Hollie Hughes


Senator Ross Cadell


Selected quotes on the need to defer the consideration of the NRM Bills until after Labor’s promised changes to the EPBC Act

Prof Helene Marsh, Chair, Threatened Species Scientific Committee:

We would agree that trying to harmonise this bill and the reforms in the EPBC legislation — and particularly the standards associated with subordinate legislation associated with those reforms will be very important. We'd like to see the whole package harmonised.[2]

Kurt Winter, Director, Corporate Transition, Carbon Market Institute:

Issues around how the market is used by the private sector and then demand driver really need to be clarified before this bill is progressed. We think that as a matter of priority clarity should be provided around reforms to the EPBC Act.

The EPBC Act reforms and, indeed, some of those critical Chubb review recommendations should be a matter of priorities, given that much of this market is premised on some of those underpinning legislative instruments.[3]

Anna Vella, Committee member, Australian Environment and Planning Law Group, Legal Practice Section, Law Council of Australia:

The Nature Repair Market Bill, if passed, must work seamlessly with the EPBC Act going forward, which means we need to understand reforms being proposed to the latter Act.[4]

Robyn Glindemann, Chair, Australian Environment and Planning Law Group, Law Council of Australia:

If there is a potential for projects that are created to be used as offsets under the EPBC Act, then I query how we can make the two pieces of legislation work when we haven't seen the second bit...

The sequencing is of concern when the fundamental piece of legislation that the Commonwealth has is the EPBC Act...

The benchmark for the Commonwealth to achieve its international obligations, but it needs to work in concert with other legislation, and other legislation needs to work in concert with it.[5]

Dr Megan Evans, private capacity:

Proceeding with this Nature Repair Market Bill prior to the EPBC Act reforms is putting a poorly-built cart well before the horse and in my view is extremely risky based on the draft national environmental standards that we've seen so far...

There could be a world where this bill could be fit to pass, but I think it needs to happen after we have the promised reforms of the EPBC Act.[6]

Lyndon Schneiders, Executive Director, Australian Climate and Biodiversity Foundation—reaffirming the content of the Foundation’s supplementary submission:

We recommend that the NRM (Nature Repair Market) Bill be delayed until Parliament has been presented with key EPBC reforms, including proposed National Environmental Standards for environmental offsets, regional planning, and threatened species protection, to demonstrate that a rigorous and high integrity regulatory system will support the operation of a Nature Repair Market.[7]

Also, from the Australian Climate and Biodiversity Foundation submission:

In critically assessing the proposed components of this nature repair bill, it is our view that the success of this proposed legislation will depend upon whether it…is well integrated with complimentary laws and processes at all levels of government, particularly reformed national environment laws.[8]


[1]Senator Karen Grogan, Chair, Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee, Proof Committee Hansard, 30 June 2023, p. 38.

[2]Professor Helene Marsh, Chair, Threatened Species Scientific Committee, ProofCommittee Hansard, 30 June 2023, p. 4.

[3]Mr Kurt Winter, Director, Corporate Transition, Carbon Market Institute, ProofCommittee Hansard, 30 June 2023, p. 31.

[4]Ms Anna Vella, Committee member, Australian Environment and Planning Law Group, Legal Practice Section, Law Council of Australia, ProofCommittee Hansard, 30 June 2023, p. 34.

[5]Ms Robyn Glindemann, Chair, Australian Environment and Planning Law Group, Law Council of Australia, ProofCommittee Hansard, 30 June 2023, p. 34.

[6]Dr Megan Evans, Private capacity, ProofCommittee Hansard, 30 June 2023, pp. 38­39.

[7]Mr Lyndon Schneiders, Executive Director, Australian Climate and Biodiversity Foundation, ProofCommittee Hansard, 11 September 2023, p. 18; Australian Climate and Biodiversity Foundation, Supplementary Submission 56.1.

[8]Australian Climate and Biodiversity Foundation, Submission 56, p. 2.