The federal environment minister has ruled out an independent regulator sought by the NSW minister. Image by David Crosling/AAP PHOTOS

Environment

Ministers yet to speak on enviro watchdog

2020-07-28 12:55:46

The federal environment minister has not spoken to her NSW counterpart about his push for an independent regulator.

Sussan Ley has ruled out creating an independent regulator to oversee compliance with national environmental laws.

The refusal puts her directly at odds with NSW Liberal stablemate Matt Kean, who is yet to contact her after going public with his calls.

“Minister Kean has not made contact to discuss his views or to seek any clarity about Minister Ley’s position,” a spokesman for the federal minister told AAP.

An independent watchdog for federal environment laws was a key recommendation from businessman Graeme Samuel, who led a major review.

Instead, Ms Ley wants to set up bilateral agreements with the states and territories so they can carry out environmental approvals on behalf of the commonwealth.

The states will need to abide by a set of national guidelines, which are yet to be developed.

Ms Ley says her NSW counterpart supported that set up.

“To be accredited under proposed bilateral approval agreements, states will need to be able to demonstrate that they can apply strong Commonwealth-led national standards,” her spokesman said.

“They will in turn be accountable through a strong assurance and compliance process.”

Professor Samuel found existing environmental laws were ineffective and painted a bleak future of Australia’s backyard.

“Australia’s natural environment and iconic places are in an overall state of decline and are under increasing threat,” he said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison discussed changes to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act with premiers and chief ministers on Friday.

Greenpeace Australia Pacific campaigner Steph Hodgins-May said light-touch approval would lead to the loss of even more threatened species.