Law Reform · Nature & the Reef

Say no to Commonwealth delegating environmental approval powers to Queensland!

12 June, 2014

Have your say: use our 2 page template submission on the draft Commonwealth/Queensland bilateral agreement! Add your name (at the top and bottom), address, date, and send it off on or before 5pm Friday 13th June – please send us a copy.

Don't forget to include your own additional examples or comments. Have your say on conflict of interest, community enforcement rights, protecting the Reef and other key changes needed.

What’s this ‘approval bilateral agreement’ all about?

The proposal for a ‘one stop shop’ for environmental approvals means that Queensland, not the Commonwealth, would approve development and mining that have damaging impacts on matters of national environmental significance. Matters of national environmental significance include World Heritage, the Great Barrier Reef, migratory species, federally listed species, Ramsar wetlands and other environmental matters for which Australia has international obligations.

Where can I find the paper?

You can download the approval bilateral agreement here.

Is EDO Qld worried about this? What’s wrong with the ‘one stop shop’ proposal?

Handing Commonwealth power to the States would endanger some of our most sensitive natural areas and threatens biodiversity protection across Australia.

Only the Commonwealth has the mandate and willingness to consider the needs of the whole of Australia when approving projects that could affect the environment. A State government has no motivation to put the national interest before its own State interest when approving development within its own State.

It is a conflict of interest to allow States to assess and approve State-sponsored development on behalf of the Commonwealth. Would the Victorian Government reject its own election commitment to allow cattle grazing in Alpine national parks? Would the Queensland Government find that its State-endorsed coal expansion plans did not meet federal environmental standards? We can’t expect that a government will properly consider matters of national environmental significance when its own financial and political interests are at stake.

For further information on why EDO Qld opposes the bilateral agreement, check out our 2 page template submission which you can download, fill in your details and further comments, and send to the Commonwealth.

How does this affect me and the places we love?

It will be harder for community groups and individuals acting in the public interest to enforce the laws that protect matters of national environmental significance. It will also be harder for community groups and individuals acting in the public interest to challenge the approval of development that damages the places you love.

What should be done instead that would improve environmental outcomes?

The Commonwealth must retain its power to protect Australia’s environment for the benefit of present and future generations of Australians. Environmental approval powers and monitoring and enforcement powers must be retained by the Commonwealth.

The Commonwealth must renegotiate environmental assessment agreements in each state and territory and seize this once-in-a-generation opportunity to lift environmental standards across Australia and to produce a more consistent national standard of environment protection.

Queensland’s environmental impact assessment should only be accredited when it achieves the objectives of the EPBC Act and enshrines best practice environmental standards. These standards should be applied across the board to all environmental impact assessment and approvals in Queensland, not just to Commonwealth-accredited processes.

Developments that pose a conflict of interest for states – i.e. state-developed projects or where the state has a significant financial interest – must be excluded from bilateral agreements and instead be assessed and approved by the Commonwealth.