Labor will oppose failed Abbott environment bill rehash

By Terri Butler MP

01 September 2020

Labor will oppose the Morrison Government’s attempt to rehash Tony Abbott’s failed 2014 environment bill, which would harm Australia’s natural environment and put jobs and investment at risk. 

This bill would see more major project job delays, more investment uncertainty, more conflict, less trust in decisions and worse outcomes for the environment. 
 
There are no National Environment Standards in this bill, despite those being the foundation of Professor Graeme Samuel’s proposed reforms. 

With no proposed standards, no independent ‘cop on the beat,’ and no additional funding for the states despite the extra responsibility, this bill is designed for political conflict.
 
Environment Minister Sussan Ley said in July that the Government would introduce “strong rigorous environmental standards” that had “buy-in across the board” at the same time as introducing proposed legislative change.
 
This government has failed the test it set for itself.

In is Interim Report, Professor Samuel warned against the exact approach the government is now taking:
 
“In 2015 the Parliament did not support these amendments, in response to significant community concerns about the ability of states and territories to uphold the national interest when applying discretion in approval decisions.”
 
Even when presented with an opportunity to provide more certainty for jobs, investment and our environment, Scott Morrison chooses conflict.

Labor has constructively engaged with the Samuel Review from the very start. Scott Morrison has very favourable conditions for reform: an Opposition that has said we will engage constructively, a well-respected Review chair who is working with leaders from agriculture, resources and business, as well as traditional owners, conservationists and academics.

If Mr Morrison was serious about securing broad support and durable reform, he would not be rehashing Tony Abbott’s failed 2014 bill, breaking his promise on national standards or cherry-picked the interim report of one of Australia’s most experienced business regulators.
 
The Morrison Government should:

  1. Introduce strong national environmental standards; and
  2. Establish a genuinely independent ‘cop on the beat’ for Australia’s environment; 
  3. Fix the explosion in unnecessary 510 per cent job and investment delays caused by their massive funding cuts.

The Samuel Review is the most significant opportunity for environmental reform in the last 20 years – but Scott Morrison is bungling it.