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NATURE POSITIVE: Tanya Plibersek and Albanese Government to slow down green laws overhaul amid backlash

Dan Jervis-Bardy
The Nightly
3 Min Read
Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek would not confirm if she planned to carve up the package but said the Government was working “methodically” on “sensible updates” that would make the nation’s nature laws work better for business and the environment. 
Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek would not confirm if she planned to carve up the package but said the Government was working “methodically” on “sensible updates” that would make the nation’s nature laws work better for business and the environment.  Credit: Mick Tsikas/AAP

The Federal Government is expected to split up its package of environment protection reforms as it reels from industry backlash to the controversial plan.

Industry and business groups emerged from a closed-door briefing session in Canberra with a clear belief Labor was prepared to “slow” progress on its Nature Positive Plan and pursue pieces at a time rather than tackling it all in one go.

One leading mining group said it appeared the Government understood the widespread disagreement about the plan and recognised more work needed to be done before any legislation was put to the Federal Parliament.

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Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek would not confirm if she planned to carve up the package but said the Government was working “methodically” on “sensible updates” that would make the nation’s nature laws work better for business and the environment.

“As I’ve said from the very beginning, updating Australia’s environment laws will require cooperation, compromise, and common sense from everyone,” Ms Plibersek said.

“That includes consulting carefully with environment groups, mining companies, and other businesses on all the details,”

We’ll take everyone’s feedback into account as we design our strong new laws in the national interest.

Ms Plibersek and her department have been in damage control over the past fortnight as private angst among both business and environmental groups about the plan spilled out into the public domain.

Miners and business groups fear the planned changes will add more red tape, costs and cause further delays to project approvals.

There was also alarm at a proposal – which the Government has now canned — to introduce a 40km/h speed limit across highways in the Pilbara to “mitigate damage to fauna”.

Leading environmental groups are worried about the scope of the minister’s powers to “call-in” projects for assessment, bypassing the full scrutiny of the new federal environmental watchdog.

The Nightly can reveal Ms Plibersek and Resources Minister Madeleine King discussed the nature plan with the Minerals Council of Australia’s board on Wednesday.

At Wednesday’s closed-door briefing, business and environment groups were given a rough outline of the “calculator” that will be used to determine how much a proponent will need to pay to restore a damaged environment.

It remains unclear how the cost of achieving a “nature positive” outcome will be calculated.

Stakeholders — who have been restricted to taking hand-written notes at each of the sessions — were also briefed on legislation to establish the EPA and the proposed new accreditation process that would allow States and Territories to assess and approve projects themselves.

Reactions to the State Budget. Pictured - Warren Pearce AMEC CEO
Association of Mining and Exploration Companies chief executive Warren Pearce wants the Government to publicly commit to pumping the brakes on the plan.  Credit: Daniel Wilkins/The West Australian

Wednesday’s briefing was widely expected to be the final consultation session but industry groups are now preparing to be called back to Canberra for another lock-up.

Association of Mining and Exploration Companies chief executive Warren Pearce wants the Government to publicly commit to pumping the brakes on the plan.

“At today’s consultation session, there were indications that the Government might be willing to slow this process and undertake broader consultation — and industry would be very supportive of that,” Mr Pearce said.

“We need this ... to be put out into the public domain so it can be properly tested by industry and the community to understand what the impacts will be.

“And I think there’s becoming a recognition within Government that there’s not consensus around some of these issues and that more work needs to be done.”

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