Independent Senator for the ACT, Senator David Pocock, has welcomed the release today of the Australian Government’s “Nature Positive Plan” but warned it will need to be backed by substantial, genuine investment if it is to be successfully implemented.
“I congratulate Minister Plibersek on the Government’s response to the Samuel’s review which has languished unaddressed for too long,” Senator Pocock said.
“I welcome the Government’s ambition to halt extinctions but this will only succeed if they commit to seriously invest in the measures needed to make that happen.
“We have to ensure that we can look back at 2023 as a turning point - it can and must be the year of the environment.
“This is a once in a generation opportunity for reform and to fix our broken environmental laws for the future.
“Effective environmental laws provide the shield that protects the unique, incredible habitats and species that inhabit our megadiverse continent.
“That shield is broken and ineffective. Two years ago Professor Samuel set this out very clearly, saying that our environmental laws are not fit for purpose.
“The best time to set strong and ambitious national environmental standards was 10 years ago. The next best time is now. We lead the world in extinction and must work fast to change this.
“There are some great things in this response - a commitment to national environmental standards, an independent environmental protection agency and major improvements in data management.
“I want to work constructively with the government to get the best possible outcome but will also hold them to account in meeting the standards they have set for themselves, and that our community expects.”
Senator Pocock applauded the establishment of a new Environmental Protection Agency, noting it should be independent and well-resourced with the ability to audit all decisions referencing robust national environmental standards.
The EPA board, CEO and staff should all be independent and hold all relevant qualifications and be free from political interference.
Investment in environmental protection and conservation needs to be significantly stepped up and this was a notable missing piece in the report released today. A 2019 study from some of Australia’s most eminent environmental scientists found that we invest about 15% of what is needed.
Senator Pocock welcomed the government looking to closely scrutinise impacts on water, particularly from the gas industry, as well as adopting a regional planning approach, and traffic light system as recommended by the Samuel’s review. He also welcomed strong acknowledgement of the role of First Nations in environmental management and the establishment of an Indigenous Advisory Committee.
He noted the omission of a climate trigger. As climate has yet to be effectively addressed by government, there is a real need for some form of a climate trigger. He also noted his concern that offsets could be achieved through cash payments as opposed to on a strict like-for-like basis that is clearly additional.