Statement on Samuel EPBC Review Interim Report

20 July 2020

Labor acknowledges the release of the interim report of the ten-yearly statutory review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act), and thanks Prof Graeme Samuel AC for his work to date.
Australia has a jobs crisis and an environmental crisis, and the Morrison Government is failing on both counts.
Today’s interim report describes the Government’s woeful failures to protect the environment.
Labor will consider the interim report in detail. We call on the Government to do the same. We are disappointed the Government has already begun cherry-picking the report’s recommendations.
The Morrison Government needs to do act with urgency to protect the environment and conserve biodiversity, to ensure high-quality decision-making, and to avoid unnecessary delays to investment and jobs.

The Samuel Review Interim Report follows a scathing audit report, that revealed multiple systemic failures, raising serious concerns about the Morrison Government’s environmental cuts and mismanagement.
There has been a 510% increase in the time taken to make environmental approval decisions since the Liberals and Nationals were elected.
Since 2014, job and investment delays resulting from federal environment decisions have exploded from 19 days, to a massive 116 days, almost 4 months, over the statutory timeframes on average in 2018-19. That’s a 510% increase in the average delay.
During this time the Government has considered tens of billions of dollars’ worth of projects.
An astonishing 95% of all Morrison Government key decisions on major projects were late in 2018-19.
Back in 2014, 60% of key decisions were made on time. By 2018-19, after years of Liberal and National cuts and mismanagement, only a paltry 5% of key decisions were made on time.
Around 40% of environment department funding has been cut since the Coalition came to office in 2013, and it is estimated that there are recovery plans for only 40% of threatened species.
The disastrous audit report found that a startling 79% of approvals were non-compliant or contained errors and that the Morrison Government had little idea whether the environmental conditions key to keeping our communities safe and our environment protected, were even being met.
Australia was in the midst of an extinction crisis prior to the national bushfires. Since then, over one billion animals have died and more than 12 million hectares of land have burned, with devastating impacts on our natural environment and Australian icons like the koala.

In considering the Samuel Review Interim Report, it’s important to understand that Australia’s biggest problem in environmental management has been blue tape: delays and poor decision-making caused by Liberal and National cuts and mismanagement.