Covering the period 16 July 2000 to 30 June 2001
Environment Australia, 2001
ISBN 0 6425 4770 X
4. Ongoing and future developments
- Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Wildlife Protection) Act 2001
- Environment and Heritage Legislation Amendment Bill (No.2) 2000
- Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Regulations 2000
Work has continued on further strengthening and developing the Act, including new wildlife protection and heritage regimes, enhancing the efficiency of the assessment and approvals process and correcting technical problems. Work has been undertaken to strengthen the Regulations and the possible introduction of a greenhouse trigger is being investigated. Developments are summarised below.
On 29 June 2001, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Wildlife Protection) Bill 2001 was passed by Parliament. The Act will come into force in January 2002. This Act will enhance the capacity of the Commonwealth to control the international trade of wildlife. The wildlife provisions contained in the Act are at the forefront of modern ecologically sustainable wildlife management approaches.
The Act repeals the Wildlife Protection (Regulation of Exports and Imports) Act 1982 and incorporates its amending provisions into the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. As well as maintaining the ban on commercial exports of live native mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles, the benefits will be:
- streamlined administration with a more efficient application and approval process;
- improved focus so that permits will no longer be required for activities of no conservation significance;
- greater transparency of the decision-making process through provisions requiring publication of applications and decisions on the internet;
- greater certainty for the industry and the community;
- a greater focus on animal welfare issues;
- ground-breaking provisions requiring the strategic environmental assessment of proposals to import new species of live animals and plants;
- requiring that before making decisions regarding the sustainable use of wildlife, consideration is given to the potential impacts on the ecosystem, including direct impacts on a species and broader impacts on biodiversity and habitat;
- effective integration with existing environmental assessment and approvals processes under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act; and
- requiring the precautionary principle to be considered in making decisions regarding wildlife use.
The Act also contained a number of amendments to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act to enhance the efficiency of the environmental assessment process for matters of national environmental significance and to correct a number of technical problems. These amendments come into force on 11 July 2001. Those amendments dealing with technical problems were initially included in the Environmental Legislation Amendment Bill (No.1) 2000 for which debate had been deferred in Committee in the Senate.
In December 2000, the Government introduced three Bills into Parliament to implement the Commonwealth's new heritage regime. Consistent with the 1997 Council of Australian Governments Agreement on Commonwealth/State Roles and Responsibilities for the Environment, the Bills will amend the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act to establish nationally significant heritage as a matter of national environmental significance. This will provide, for the first time, for the identification and conservation of Australia's most outstanding heritage assets.
The regime will define Commonwealth roles and responsibilities for heritage within constitutional powers, rationalise existing arrangements for the identification and protection of heritage places and provide for cooperative programs with those States who wish to participate.
The Bills will:
- establish a Commonwealth heritage regime that will focus on matters of national significance and Commonwealth responsibility;
- list places of national heritage significance in a national heritage list using a process of community consultation, expert advice and ministerial responsibility;
- protect and manage places in the national heritage list;
- list places in Commonwealth areas with heritage significance in a Commonwealth heritage list using a process of community consultation, expert advice and ministerial responsibility;
- advise Commonwealth agencies on actions in relation to places in the Commonwealth heritage list;
- provide for the management of places in the Commonwealth heritage list;
- establish the Australian Heritage Council; and
- repeal the Australian Heritage Commission Act 1975.
The Senate Environment, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts References Committee reported on the Bills in May 2001. As at 30 June 2001, the Bills were awaiting debate in the Senate.
- Greenhouse trigger
- Access to biological resources
- Criteria for bilateral agreements
- Conservation of biodiversity in Commonwealth areas
In line with the Prime Minister's May 1999 commitment, the Government has consulted widely on applying a Commonwealth greenhouse trigger under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act in relation to new projects that would be major emitters of greenhouse gases. Under the draft Regulations released in November 2000, the trigger would apply to actions likely to result in greenhouse emissions over 0.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in any 12-month period. The Minister for the Environment and Heritage is considering the views of State and Territory Ministers and key stakeholders on the proposed trigger.
The Government intends to establish a legislative framework to control access and use of the biological resources in Commonwealth areas. The framework will be put in place by including new provisions in the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Regulations as provided for in Section 301 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. Mr John Voumard, assisted by an expert reference group, conducted a public inquiry to advise on the form of a possible scheme to control access to biological resources. The inquiry involved extensive consultation with community interests. The recommendations in the inquiry report, which was released in September 2000, formed the basis for the development of draft Regulations under Section 301 of the Act. The Government intends to undertake further public consultation on the draft Regulations.
In accordance with a commitment given by the Minister for the Environment and Heritage in the Senate in November 2000, amendments to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Regulations were prepared dealing with the criteria for accrediting State and Territory assessment processes under a bilateral agreement. The amendments adjust the criteria to ensure that accredited assessment processes will be best practice5.
Also in accordance with the Minister's commitment, work has been commissioned to consider how the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Regulations might deal with the conservation of biodiversity in Commonwealth areas. The purpose of this work is to ensure that the regulatory scheme for Commonwealth areas reflects contemporary best practice.
5. The amending Regulations were made by the Governor-General in July 2001.