By Terri Butler MP

25 February 2021

Scott Morrison’s low standards are on full display yet again, with the introduction of a second tranche of environment legislation which is inconsistent with the Samuel Review.

After spending vast amounts of money and countless hours on the once-in-a-decade environment law review involving business, environment, farming and science representatives - the Morrison Government is pursuing second-rate so-called standards, ignoring the substance of the report and cherry-picking recommendations.

Bizarrely, the Morrison Government is still yet to formerly publish their leaked, watered-down version of the national environment standards that they say this bill seeks to implement.

Labor has consistently stated that we would work constructively on the reform process and consider any sensible proposals. We will give this new bill the consideration it warrants.

The Morrison Government has completely bungled environmental reform so far by:

pre-empting the findings of their own independent review after it was revealed they began commissioning legislation before the interim report was even finalised; 

rehashing To which Samuel’s interim report warned against; through the Lower House and gagging debate;

ignoring and cherry-picking the recommendations of Samuel’s independent review by failing to introduce national environment standards as the foundation of reform and then ruling out a genuinely independent cop on the beat for our environment;

breaking their promise to introduce standards at the same time as other changes;

leaving the Abbott bill to languish in the Senate for months without putting it to a vote;

voting against a Senate inquiry into the impact of the bill on the environment and jobs and then backflipping to support a sham inquiry which lasted just hours;

trying to devolve environmental approvals to the states while ruling out extra funding to deal with additional workload. Australia’s bushfire ravaged natural environment, industry groups, scientists and communities across the nation have been crying out for measured, durable and effective reform.

Instead, to date, the Liberal National Government has:

slashed 40 per cent from environment department funding;

presided over an explosion of 510 per cent in job and investment delays through environmental decision blow-outs;

delivered a staggering 95 per cent of environmental approval decisions late and outside statutory timeframes in 2018-19;

made environmental decisions that contained errors or were non-compliant in 79 per cent of approvals;

presided over Australia’s escalating environmental crisis, with NSW koala populations at risk of extinction and Australia’s threatened species in decline.

There is no bar too low for Scott Morrison’s ‘politics first, Australia last’ approach to environment policy.