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‘Nature Positive’ laws: Embarrassing U-turn for Albanese Government over 40km/h FIFO highway speed limit

Adrian Rauso
The Nightly
2 Min Read
The Albanese Government has been forced into an embarrassing U-turn on a mooted 40km/h FIFO speed limit.
The Albanese Government has been forced into an embarrassing U-turn on a mooted 40km/h FIFO speed limit. Credit: The Nightly

Federal Labor says it is no longer pushing ahead with a plan to put a 40km/h speed limit across highways in Australia’s sparsely populated mining regions as part of controversial ‘Nature Positive’ laws, but questions still linger.

On Thursday The Nightly reported Federal Labor plans to establish a “Pilbara Bioregion”, which was revealed via a submission leaked from peak mining group the Association of Mining and Exploration Companies’ response to the government proposal.

This included a scheme to introduce a 40km/h speed limit across vast stretches of national and state highways in Western Australia’s Pilbara region to “mitigate damage to fauna”.

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Following queries from The Nightly a spokeswoman for Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek late on Thursday said the plan had been scrapped.

“Stakeholders have been advised that the government has made a decision not to progress the draft policy statement,” she said.

No details as to why, or when, the plan was put on ice were disclosed.

The Nightly has spoken to some of the mining “stakeholders” involved in the discussions and they were not aware the Federal Government had shelved the speed limit plan.

The Pilbara Bioregion is part of a Federal Labor strategy to carve up various areas across Australia into biospheres or bioregions — each with its own strict regulations — as part of the Government’s secretive and controversial so-called “Nature Positive Plan”.

The Nature Positive Plan is a radical reform of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

The current speed limit across the vast majority of the highways in the Pilbara — located in WA’s north — is 110km/hr. It is currently illegal to go as slow as 40km/h on these roads for safety reasons.

Changes to speed limits would also wipe off billions in economic value for Australia. The Pilbara region is the powerhouse producer of iron ore and other key natural resources exports, responsible for about $111.5 billion of output annually and about 60,000 jobs.

A plethora of miners use the highways across the Pilbara to get their minerals and metals from pit to port and a large reduction in the speed limit would substantially lower their collective production output.

The other issues raised in the AMEC submission include strict requirements for miners in the Pilbara to establish comprehensive Cane Toad management requirements, which would make these companies responsible for upgrading nearby agricultural assets — such as pastoral water points — which they typically do not own.

On top of this, Cane Toads are yet to be found in material numbers within the Pilbara region.

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