EDITORIAL: Miners, farmers, greenies ... does ANYONE actually like controversial new ‘Nature Positive’ laws?

Editorial
The Nightly
2 Min Read
Far from Ms Plibersek’s pledge that the reform would both speed up approval processes and improve environmental outcomes, miners warn the Nature Positive plan could increase regulatory burden, and litigation risk and blow out project timelines even further.
Far from Ms Plibersek’s pledge that the reform would both speed up approval processes and improve environmental outcomes, miners warn the Nature Positive plan could increase regulatory burden, and litigation risk and blow out project timelines even further. Credit: Lukas Coch/AAP

Does anyone — other than Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek — actually like the Labor Government’s so-called “Nature Positive” plan to overhaul Australia’s complex environmental laws?

It doesn’t seem so.

Resources companies have been vocal in their opposition to the sweeping changes, which they say will drastically reduce investment, with the flow-on effects impacting everything from tourism to housing projects.

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Far from Ms Plibersek’s pledge that the reform would both speed up approval processes and improve environmental outcomes, miners warn the Nature Positive plan could increase regulatory burden, and litigation risk and blow out project timelines even further.

Farmers aren’t happy either.

National Farmers’ Federation David Jochinke says agricultural producers are deeply concerned that the reform will make navigating Australia’s already convoluted environmental regulations — which often conflict with State laws — even tougher.

Not even green groups are on board.

The Australian Conservation Foundation says ministerial powers to “call in” projects for assessment, bypassing the full scrutiny of the Federal environmental protection agency, could see ministers pressured by big corporations or donors to approve projects that would otherwise be rejected.

Another thing everyone agrees on is that the consultation process, which has been mired in secrecy from the start, has been a total dog’s breakfast.

Ripping up complex legislation and starting fresh isn’t something that should be done in a rushed manner away from public scrutiny.

But those invited to attend closed-door briefings with the Government on the overhaul have been barred from even bringing in mobile phones or laptops, instead having to rely only on handwritten notes to take in what is incredibly complex legislative reform.

Then attendees have been given just three weeks to articulate their thoughts and respond.

This lip service to consultation has been blasted by the Coalition as “nothing short of a joke”.

The Government appears determined to continue with redesigning one of the country’s most complex pieces of Federal legislation as quickly as possible. When the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act was brought into being by the Howard government in 1999, it was the product of almost a decade of work.

Ms Plibersek and the Albanese Government want to overhaul the laws in just 18 months.

But given the staunch opposition from all corners to the Government’s plan, what likelihood is there really that this legislation will be done and pass through both houses of Parliament before the next election?

One would think the odds are slim.

So why persist with creating angst and anxiety across all sectors of the community?

If the Government believes it can get Australians on board with its Nature Positive plan, it should do so, by taking the policy to the election and winning a mandate to implement these reforms.

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