NATURE POSITIVE: Green law architect Graeme Samuel says reforms aren’t dead yet

Adrian Rauso
The Nightly
3 Min Read
Professor Graeme Samuel says Nature Positive reforms aren’t dead yet.
Professor Graeme Samuel says Nature Positive reforms aren’t dead yet. Credit: The Nightly

The man behind the Albanese Government’s environmental law rewrite has quoted Mark Twain by saying reports of the controversial reforms being killed off are “greatly exaggerated”.

In 2020, Graeme Samuel completed an independent review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, the contents of which Federal Labor reshaped to produce a so-called Nature Positive Plan.

On Tuesday, Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek indicated main pillars of the Nature Positive Plan would be stripped away and put on the backburner following fierce mining industry backlash — which was revealed in a series of exclusive reports by The Nightly.

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But Professor Samuel told a Senate hearing on Wednesday he believes key aspects of the reforms will not be shelved indefinitely.

“To quote Mark Twain ‘the reports of my death are greatly exaggerated’,” he said.

“One of (the) newspapers . . . is a fairly new one — it’s called The Nightly — an article overnight claimed credit for the ‘backdown’, don’t get too excited guys over in The Nightly.”

“I doubt I’ll be red-faced when we see the laws being proposed ... I think the backdown is grossly overstated.”

Professor Graeme Samuel says Nature Positive reforms aren’t dead yet.
Professor Graeme Samuel says Nature Positive reforms aren’t dead yet. Credit: Griffith University

Mr Samuel suggested environmentalists will be pleased with the final result of the laws.

“To the conservationists in Australia, I would say just sit and wait, take a chill pill.”

He said the three stages of reform he outlined in his 2020 report were taking place in an orderly process.

“The most complex area of reform was the redraft of the (EPBC) Act…frankly the 1000 pages of legislation need to be torn up and thrown into the bonfire because they were as I described them recently ‘gobbledygook’.

“I understand that (EPBC Act) is being redrafted.”

But green groups have voiced their anger at the backdown from Ms Plibersek, including the Australian Conservation Foundation and Lock the Gate, who were both consulted with by Labor in a series of secretive closed-door briefings to establish the reforms.

Lock the Gate’s head of research Georgina Woods told the Senate hearing on Wednesday the announcement by Ms Plibersek to split the proposed reforms to focus on creating a national environment regulator — Environment Protection Australia — was “inadequate”.

“All we have the moment … we’re just gonna create a new body called the EPA to implement the already-inadequate laws we already have in place,” she said.

Lock the Gate is no stranger to controversy.

One of the two leaders of the organisation - national coordinator Carmel Flint – was reportedly banned from going in, or near, the Pilliga Forest in NSW after several disruptive protests.

Ms Woods has been arrested for protesting.

Meanwhile, the Australian Conservation Foundation also voiced its displeasure at Labor’s backdown.

“(The ACF) is frustrated and deeply disappointed by the Albanese Government’s failure to deliver the full reform of the national environment law,” it said in a statement to media.

The ACF is currently in the sights of regulators for threatening a farmer legally clearing land to replenish his harvest.

In November, Nationals Leader David Littleproud called for a review of the charitable status of the ACF.

In a statement, Mr Littleproud said the letter was “intimidatory” and came despite the ACF having “no proof or knowledge about the property”.

“The tone of ACF’s letter is clearly intimidatory,” Mr Littleproud said.

“The ACF has a charitable status and I’m calling on the charities commissioner to step in and ensure that the ACF is adhering to the rules of what a charity status is.”

A spokeswoman from the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission said it could not speak publicly about the matter.


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REVEALED: The Nature Positive plan Tanya Plibersek did not want you to see.