Public hearing: Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Amendment (Standards and Assurance) Bill 2021
13 May 2021
On 4 May 2021, Robyn Glindemann (Chair of the Australian Environment Planning Law Group (AEPLG) of the Law Council’s Legal Practice Section) and Leonie Campbell (Deputy Director of Policy) appeared as witnesses for the Law Council before the Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee at a public hearing for the inquiry into the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Amendment (Standards and Assurance) Bill 2021 (the Bill).
The Law Council’s evidence at the hearing drew upon the submission on the Bill which the Law Council had prepared with the assistance of the AEPLG, the Law Council’s National Human Rights Committee and the Queensland Law Society. This submission recommended that the Bill, as well as the EPBC Amendment (Streamlining Environmental Approvals) Bill 2020 which is currently before the Senate, should only progress with the benefit of a full and comprehensive Australian Government response to the Final Report on the Independent Review of the EPBC Act 1999 (Cth) prepared by Professor Graeme Samuel AC and published by the Australian Government in January 2021.
At the public hearing, the Law Council’s witnesses emphasised, amongst other things, the importance of Parliamentary scrutiny of primary and delegated legislation as consistent with the position raised by the Scrutiny of Bills Committee regarding the Bill, and the Law Council’s broader Policy Statement on Rule of Law Principles. This was relevant to the Bill’s proposal that a first set of National Environmental Standards (which Professor Samuel had recommended drafting as a full ‘package’ of interconnected Standards, with the benefit of extensive stakeholder consultation) should instead be developed by the Minister in the form of instruments of delegated legislation which are exempt from disallowance and not reviewable for two years.
The Law Council also undertook to prepare a supplementary submission on the Final draft National Environmental Standard for MNES which was published by the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment shortly before the public hearing took place. The Law Council is now preparing the supplementary submission with the assistance of the AEPLG.