SPEECH: ALP NATIONAL CONFERENCE 2018 - ENVIRONMENT LAWS AMENDMENT
This amendment commits us to establish new environmental laws in the next Labor government. This amendment will have the Labor government establish the Australian Environment Act. This amendment will have for the first time, even though we’ve always had them at state levels, at a national level we will have an Environment Protection Authority.
The changes to legislation that need to be made are important both to improve the reach of what a Labor government is able to do and to also avoid the the ignorance and laziness or just determination to not care about the environment that we get when conservative governments are in power. We’ll increase the power and the reach of Australian Environmental Law by adding a trigger that we committed to last election which is to extend the water trigger to also include shale gas. We'll also make sure that national parks are always considered matters of national significance. So that instead of having the situation as we've found with conservative governments where they wanted to treat national parks like farms or degazette national parks altogether, if it's called a national park then it's of national significance and national environmental law will reach it.
We're also going to have a land clearing trigger. We cannot allow what happened when Campbell Newman came in place where we had two trucks, a chain connected between them and just large areas of native vegetation being wiped out within the Great Barrier Reef catchment simply because the land owner knew they could get away with it. And then have a situation where we weren't able to get the laws back when we had a Labor government but not with a clear majority in the Parliament.
So we'll be making sure that at a federal level there is also a land clearing trigger.
We've also established and previously announced the enforcement of management plans and that's going to give us the power to act on a range of environmental issues we haven't previously been able to reach, including plastics. Let me just say on plastics here's the one fact that sort of underpins everything. By 2050 at current trends the plastic in the ocean will weigh more than the fish. That’s where we're heading in terms of plastics. We need to be one of the countries it's part of the solution on that.
Part of designing an EPA properly though isn't simply on making sure that rules are followed it's also making sure the decisions are made more quickly than they have been previously. I want to acknowledge the unions who've been involved in the conversation in making sure from the perspective of their members of making sure that if an answer is going to be bad let it be given. But if an answer is going to be good don't let it take longer than it has to for a decision to be made.
The EPA will give us fair environment laws that make sure we are no longer the extinction capital of the world but where we can also make sure when projects need an answer they get one.