Editorial: Secrecy of green laws overhaul must be called out

The Nightly
2 Min Read
Industry sources fear Tanya Plibersek’s ‘Nature Positive Plan’ will act as a handbrake to the economy.
Industry sources fear Tanya Plibersek’s ‘Nature Positive Plan’ will act as a handbrake to the economy. Credit: Mick Tsikas/AAPImage

No one with any credibility doubts the importance of protecting our environment.

The impacts of all new projects on the immediate environment and long-term climate risks must be at the forefront of decision-makers’ minds, balanced against economic imperatives and social factors.

To do so, it’s imperative Australia has robust, workable and suitable environmental legislation.

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Making sure it’s up to scratch is complex, tough work. 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.

But the Albanese Government wants to overhaul the laws in just 18 months.

Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek announced the reform in December 2022, promising to strengthen environmental protections, slash red tape and speed up the decision-making processes. But industry sources are increasingly concerned the so-called “Nature Positive Plan” will act as a handbrake to the economy without improving environmental outcomes.

Worryingly, much of the consultation to date has taken place behind a bizarre veil of secrecy, in sessions inaccessible to the public who will wear the costs if things go wrong.

The Government has held a series of closed-door lock-ups with industry, the last of which will be held later this month. Those who’ve been to the sessions have grave concerns about the lack of transparency.

One said: “They think they can redesign one of the most complex pieces of Federal legislation without properly engaging with miners or Indigenous communities or mum-and-dad tourism operations.”

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

A leaked Mineral Council of Australia briefing note published exclusively by The Nightly on Monday was littered with “key issues” that should sound major alarm bells to industry.

It is important to note that the end result of these alarm bells will be reduced investment and thereby job losses.

Among the issues was the spectre of increasing the already revolving-door antics of the Environmental Protection Authority and its relationship with the minister, the creation of a new “offsets calculator” and further broadening the scope of “heritage” matters.

The idea that such significant matters are being done without the full view of the public is downright dangerous for the resources sector and the economy.

At a time when “productivity” is thrown around by the Albanese Government like a sitcom catchphrase, its antics with the Nature Positive plans are clearly contradictory.

When we launched The Nightly we wrote that it would fight for commonsense and economic conservatism.

And we lamented how business was being strangled by regulations and red tape.

Our journalism stands ready to fight against the secrecy surrounding the Government’s overhaul of green laws.

Responsibility for the editorial comment is taken by The Nightly Editor-in-Chief Anthony De Ceglie

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