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The Hon Dr Sharman Stone MP
Federal Member for Murray
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister
for the Environment and Heritage
18 July 2000
Dr Sharman Stone MP, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage has heralded the start of the new Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act this week as an historic and highly significant step towards a nationally coordinated approach to the protection of Australia's unique biodiversity.
The new Act also promotes greater certainty for industry as they factor the conservation of the environment into their long term planning.
At the time of Federation the founding fathers were determined that the new States would continue their colonial tradition of individual and independent responsibility for water, vegetation and land management issues.
"This new Act acknowledges that river basins and catchments do not end at state borders. It also identifies that there are places of national significance, for example, the Great Barrier Reef, and issues such as threats to the survival of species and nuclear actions which require a cross-border or national perspective" Sharman Stone said.
"This new Act provides for the Commonwealth, in conjunction with the States, to administer a truly national scheme of environmental protection and enhanced biodiversity, representing the most fundamental reform of Commonwealth environment laws since the early 1970s".
Dr Stone said that the commencement of the EPBC Act would not only deliver stronger environment protection but would also deliver a set of national environmental standards, more efficient and faster environmental assessments and approval processes and less red-tape duplication.
"Such measures have been warmly welcomed by business and industry groups who now have greater certainty in planning and seeking approvals for major projects."
"Under the new Act, the Minister for the Environment has 20 days in which to make a binding decision about Federal Government involvement in the environmental assessment and approval process."
"The EPBC Act is also ground-breaking in that it recognises the unique role of Australia's indigenous people in the conservation of our biodiversity and the importance of their ethno-biological knowledge."
A new Indigenous Advisory Committee will assist with the monitoring of the performance of the new Act and was launched by Dr Stone in NAIDOC week.
"I am pleased that Gatjil Djerrkura has agreed to Chair this important group of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who have expertise and extensive experience in managing natural resources", Sharman Stone said.
The Act replaces and consolidates a number of existing Commonwealth laws including, the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act 1974, Endangered Species Protection Act 1992, National Parks and Wildlife Protection Act 1975, World Heritage Properties Conservation Act 1983 and the Whale Protection Act 1980.
Media Inquiries: Simon Frost (02) 6277 2016 or 0419 495 468
Tuesday July 18 2000