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Media Release
Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment

COMMONWEALTH-STATE ENVIRONMENTAL REFORM


7 November 1997
(132/97)

Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill has welcomed today's historic decision by COAG to give in-principle endorsement to an agreement on Commonwealth/State roles and responsibilities for the environment.

'The COAG agreement will set the framework for the most comprehensive reform of Commonwealth-State roles and responsibilities for the environment since the first environment legislation was enacted in the mid 1970's.'

Senator Hill stated that the principles endorsed by COAG represented a win for the environment.

'The agreement will promote better protection of the environment by all levels of Government. In particular, Commonwealth action will be more effectively focussed on matters of national environmental significance such as world heritage areas, internationally protected wetlands, migratory species, nuclear activities and nationally endangered and vulnerable species and communities.'

'As a result of this agreement, the Commonwealth's contribution to the protection of matters of national environmental significance will be enhanced.'

Senator Hill identified reform of the Commonwealth's assessment and approval process as a major priority.

'Commonwealth environmental processes will be triggered by projects impacting on matters of national environmental significance, not by indirect and irrelevant triggers such as foreign investment and funding decisions.'

Senator Hill stated that the reforms would deliver other major benefits for industry.

'These reforms will reduce Commonwealth/State duplication by removing the Commonwealth from matters of only local or State significance. Most importantly, in relation to matters of national environmental significance, the Commonwealth is committed to introducing a streamlined development approval process which will provide industry with a certain, timely and efficient process.'

Features of the proposed new development approval process will include:

Senator Hill indicated that the principles endorsed by COAG also reflect an increased commitment by the Commonwealth to accreditation of State processes and, in some cases, State decisions - for example, decisions made under agreed management plans. The Commonwealth is also committed to increasing compliance by Commonwealth bodies with State environmental law.

Senator Hill indicated that the principles agreed by COAG will be reflected in a major overhaul of Commonwealth environmental legislation.

'The ALP government allowed Commonwealth environmental legislation to stagnate. Under the Coalition government, Commonwealth law will be amended to reflect contemporary approaches to environmental management. Our intention is to produce an efficient, responsive regime adequately equipped to ensure ecologically sustainable development and environmental protection.'

A discussion paper on proposed reforms is due to be released shortly.

Media contact - Matt Brown 0419 693 515 or 02 6277 7640

November 7, 1997
(132/97)

Commonwealth of Australia