Environment Protection Australia legislation introduced to Parliament

The Albanese Labor Government has today introduced legislation into Parliament to set up Australia’s first national environment protection agency with strong new powers and penalties to better protect nature.

Delivering on our election commitment, Environment Protection Australia will be a tough cop on the beat. It will be able to issue ‘stop-work’ orders to prevent serious environmental damage and proactively audit business to ensure they’re doing the right thing.

The Nature Positive (Environment Protection Australia) Bill 2024 is the heart of the second stage of our Nature Positive Plan – delivering reforms that benefit both nature and business.

Environment and Water Minister Tanya Plibersek will ask the new EPA to examine illegal land clearing and offset conditions as a priority, after a recent audit found one in seven developments could be in breach of their offset conditions.

Penalties will be increased to align maximum fines with punishments for serious financial offences. Courts would also be able to impose fines of up to $780 million or send people to prison for up to seven years for extremely serious intentional breaches of federal environment law.

The Nature Positive (Environment Information Australia) Bill 2024 has also been introduced today.

It will set up the statutory and independent head of the new EIA, which will provide up-to-date, transparent environmental data and information to the public. This will be a reliable resource to help business make faster, easier development decisions. The EIA will also release State of the Environment reports every two years instead of five.

In a world first, this bill also provides a legal definition of, and reporting measure for, ‘nature positive’. Creating a Nature Positive Australia means that nature is repairing and regenerating rather than continuing to be decline.

The Government delivered stage one of its Nature Positive Plan last year. We will fully deliver the third stage by continuing to consult closely with stakeholders on further updates to national environment laws. A comprehensive exposure draft of the laws will be released for public comment before being introduced to parliament.

Quotes attributable to Minister for the Environment and Water, the Hon Tanya Plibersek:

“Through our Nature Positive Plan, we are doing more than ever to protect our natural world and fix more of what’s been damaged, while also supporting sensible development and good local jobs.

“We’ve already completed the first stage of reform: passing legislation to establish the world’s first nature repair market and expanding the water trigger to apply to all unconventional gas projects.

“Now we’re moving quickly to deliver Environment Protection Australia and Environment Information Australia.

“Combined with a significant investment in funding, this stage of the reforms will deliver stronger environment protection powers, faster environment approvals, more environment information and greater transparency.

“These are big steps forward – for the environment and for business – and it’s all new under this Government.

“We will fully deliver the third stage of reform as we work to make environmental laws less bureaucratic and fit for purpose. We’ve already consulted almost 100 groups, held public webinars which 3,000 people have attended, and received around 2,500 submissions. We will continue this work to get the laws right – for the environment and for business.”