Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley wants to overhaul environmental laws as quickly as possible. Image by Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS

Environment

Minister eyes speedy environmental changes

2020-07-22 09:35:51

The minister responsible for protecting plants and animals from extinction has stressed the need to overhaul “hopeless” environmental laws as quickly as possible.

Sussan Ley wants to hand responsibility for environmental approvals to the states in a bid to reduce duplication, and fast-track major projects.

She has pounced on an interim report by businessman Graeme Samuel, which found the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act was an ineffective failure.

Professor Samuel is due to hand down a final report in October, but Ms Ley is seeking to act before then.

She wants to legislate prototype national standards for environmental approvals as early as next month.

“It’s really important that we act on an Act that has been hopeless in its current formation,” she told ABC radio on Tuesday.

“Projects are waiting, duplication exists everywhere, and the states are willing to step up.”

Ms Ley argued the changes were not coming at the expense of the environment.

“It’s coming parallel.”

The minister has rejected Professor Samuel’s recommendation for an independent regulator, but insists there will be robust oversight measures in place.

“I think people are getting a bit hung up about where the job lives, not what the job is,” Ms Ley said.

“I haven’t said no to the principle, I’ve said no to doing it outside of government in a separate agency.”

Labor voted down Tony Abbott’s “one-stop environmental shop” model in 2014, which was also aimed at slashing so-called green tape.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese made it clear the government had another political fight on its hands.

Mr Albanese said the coalition had cut the environment department by 40 per cent and overseen an enormous blowout in approval times.

“We do need strong environmental protections but we can do it in a way that is efficient,” he told ABC radio.

“The way to do that is not to cut to the bone the environment department and have the approach this government has had.

“Quite frankly, I have no confidence after having listened to that interview, that this minister and this government is capable of getting appropriate environmental protections which also does support jobs and the economy.”