Senate Inquiry into the EPBC Amendment Bill 2012

Submissions to the Senate Inquiry into the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Retaining Federal Approval Powers) Bill 2012 are due in this Friday 18 January 2013.  Everyone should write in to show that there is a need for independent assessment of projects that could impact our Matters of National Environmental Significance and that the Federal Government is required to hold those powers.

Here are four reasons why this is important:

1. If more environmental assessment power is given to the States, and a project proponent is a wholly-owned State corporation, or a private/public partnership set up for a specific project by the State Government then there is a conflict of interest. How can there be any independent environmental assessment?  This need for independent assessment was clearly demonstrated with the federal assessment of the proposed Traveston Crossing Dam.

2.     There have been major changes that have taken place in Queensland's own planning and assessment laws and procedures over the past few years with in particular “fast-tracking’ of major state-owned projects. The concern about these changes is the reduction in the amount of assessment, reduced or eliminated opportunity for public comment and removal of most of the legal avenues for review of decisions.  Queensland’s political system is unique in having no upper house to review decisions made in the lower house and by making extensive use of it’s powerful State Development Act.  This Act is administered by the unelected government position of Coordinator-General (unique to Queensland), a position which has a history of direct political appointments and whose decisions have no judicial review.

3.      There have been previous failures of the State Development and Public Works Organisation Act (SDPWO)  Environmental Impact Assessment (EIS) process eg approval of Paradise Dam and the assessment of the proposed Traveston Crossing Dam.  There is no offence provisions in the SDPWO Act which prohibit false or misleading statements at any stage of the EIS process. The SDPWO Act has no pro-environment objects or deliberative obligations, so it allows the Coordinator General’s EIS assessment reports to preference creating employment and development the State over protecting the environment.  Most importantly, declaration as a significant project prevents state government agencies (including the Environmental Protection Agency) from requiring the project to be refused or imposing conditions inconsistent with those required by the Coordinator General.

 4.      Project environmental approval conditions need to be independently monitored and enforced if necessary. How can this be if there is a conflict of interest and the project is built, conditioned and monitored only by the state?

Thanks to Glenda Pickersgill: President of  the Save the Mary River Coordinating Group Inc for this overview.

Background:The federal government is discussing handing environmental responsibilities over to the states, with the Prime Minister putting off the decision to the COAG meeting in March 2013. A bill has been put to the Senate Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Retaining Federal Approval Powers) Bill 2012 – that would it make it unlawful for the Federal Government to hand-off its environmental responsibilities to the states. The Senate Environment and Communications Committee is holding an inquiry into the bill and is accepting submissions from the public until 18 January 2013.

The Committee is seeking written submissions from interested individuals and organisations preferably in electronic form submitted online or sent by email to ec.sen@aph.gov.au .

http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate_Committees?url=ec_ctte/epbc_federal_powers/info.htm

Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Retaining Federal Approval Powers) Bill 2012

Information about the Inquiry:

On 28 November 2012 the Senate referred the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Retaining Federal Approval Powers) Bill 2012 for inquiry and report.

Submissions should be received by 18 January 2013. The reporting date is 25 February 2013.

The Committee is seeking written submissions from interested individuals and organisations preferably in electronic form submitted online or sent by email to ec.sen@aph.gov.au as an attached Adobe PDF or MS Word format document. The email must include full postal address and contact details.

Alternatively, written submissions may be sent to:

Committee Secretary
Senate Standing Committees on Environment and Communications
PO Box 6100
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600
Australia

Notes to help you prepare your submission are available from the website athttp://www.aph.gov.au/senate/committee/wit_sub/index.htm. Alternatively, the Committee Secretariat will be able to help you with your inquiries and can be contacted on telephone +61 2 6277 3526 or facsimile +61 2 6277 5818 or by email to ec.sen@aph.gov.au.

Inquiries from hearing and speech impaired people should be directed to Parliament House TTY number 02 6277 7799. Adobe also provides tools at http://access.adobe.com/ for the blind and visually impaired to access PDF documents. If you require any special arrangements to enable you to participate in the Committee's inquiry, please contact the Committee Secretariat.

Once the Committee accepts your submission, it becomes a confidential Committee document and is protected by Parliamentary Privilege. You must not release your submission without the Committee's permission. If you do, it will not be protected by Parliamentary Privilege. At some stage during the inquiry, the Committee normally makes submissions public and places them on its website. Please indicate if you want your submission to be kept confidential.
For further information, contact:

Committee Secretary
Senate Standing Committees on Environment and Communications
PO Box 6100
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600
Australia

Phone: (02)6277 3526  Fax: (02)6277 5818  Email: ec.sen@aph.gov.au

[blog_in_blog category_slug='planning issues'num=50]