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ACT Independent Senator David Pocock has welcomed the Albanese Government bringing forward delivery of their election commitment to include an expanded water trigger covering all forms of unconventional gas developments in federal environmental law.

While voting in support of the water trigger amendment, Senator Pocock opposed the broader bill expressing disappointment that it was not stronger and addressed the integrity concerns raised about giving a new market to the Clean Energy Regulator.

Senator Pocock also expressed concern at the Government’s unwillingness to accept sensible amendments to a new bill that creates a “Nature Repair Market”.

While welcoming the removal of offsets from this bill, Senator Pocock said he had concerns it risks replicating the integrity issues that have plagued the carbon market.

“The rate of species loss in Australia is devastating,” Senator Pocock said.

“To stop it we need to halt habitat destruction and invest in Nature conservation. We’re part of Nature and investing in it is something we should prioritise. We’re a wealthy country and can afford to do so. 

“If we are going to encourage private sector investment we need a market mechanism that has integrity. Despite serious concerns being raised about the integrity of the carbon market overseen by the Clean Energy Regulator, this bill entrusts a new biodiversity market to the same regulator. 

“During consultations for this bill there was a consensus that it would need government investment to kick start it, as happened with the carbon market, but we have no commitment to additional funding. 

“We need federal environmental laws that actually require the Environment Minister to knock back projects that pose too great a threat to Nature.

“Experts couldn’t be any clearer, we can not afford any new fossil fuel projects. Our environmental laws need to give effect to that, not enable them.”

Senator Pocock received support for a second reading amendment on the Nature Repair Market Bill 2023 so that: 

“the Senate notes that to achieve the aims of the bill in enhancing and protecting biodiversity, the Government must:

(a)     create an investment strategy for biodiversity conservation programs,

(b)     implement the recommendations of the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures; and

(c)     undertake a review of the governance of the nature repair market and whether responsibility for the market should be transferred to the Environmental Protection Agency once that agency has been established”.

Senator Pocock also moved substantive amendments to the bill to ensure that:

  1. At all times at least one Nature Repair Market Committee member is a person who:

(a)  belongs to an Australian First Nations community; and
(b)  is recognised in that community as a person with significant standing; and
(c)  has substantial experience or knowledge relevant to the functions of the Committee.

  1. Amend the objects of the bill include 

to halt and reverse nature loss, and prevent extinctions, by increasing the health, abundance, diversity and resilience of species, populations and ecosystems; and

(ab)  to contribute to the goal of protecting and conserving by 2030:
(i)  30% of land in Australia; and
(ii)  30% of Australian waters; and

  1. Enable any person to seek an injunction in the Federal Court to prevent a person who has engaged, or is proposing to engage, in conduct that constitutes or would constitute a contravention of the Act or rules or regulations made under the Act.

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