Past Court Cases · Nature & the Reef

Humane Society v Minister for the Environment ("Flying-fox case 2")

12 February, 2003

EDO Qld acted for Humane Society International in a successful case to ensure that the Federal Environment Minister did not abrogate his responsibility under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth) (EPBC Act) to assess proposed actions likely to have a significant impact on a matter of national environmental significance.

Humane Society International Inc v Minister for the Environment & Heritage [2003] FCA 64

Read the full judgment.

HSI sought declarations and orders from the Federal Court under the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977 (Cth) about the Minister’s agreement with three state governments to allow fruit growers to shoot up to 1.5% of the agreed populations of grey-headed and spectacled flying-foxes without approval under the EPBC Act.

The Minister announced in late 2002 “that a person who holds a State permit or licence to take Grey-headed Flying-foxes during the 2002-2003 fruit season does not need to refer the taking under the Act”. The agreement was published in Supplements to the Administrative Guidelines on Significance for Flying-foxes, under the EPBC Act.

Finding in favour of HSI, Justice Kiefel declared that the Supplement Guidelines purported to give exemptions from that Act that were not authorised by law. However, the Court declined to grant a requested order of mandamus directing the Minister to exercise his statutory powers under the Act according to law and without reference to the agreements and the statements made in the Guidelines.

Subsequently, the Environment Minister amended the Guidelines on Significance and published a clarification to avoid any growers being misled by the unauthorised exemption contained in the original Guidelines.