Environmental Laws


A Shorten Labor Government will ensure the federal government returns to a leadership role in protecting our natural environment by creating an Australian Environment Act, and establishing a Federal Environmental Protection Agency.

The current environment Act is now 20 years old and has never been significantly reformed. It is time to bring it into the twenty-first century. In 2018, it is bizarre that the national environmental law does not properly factor in climate change. 

Labor’s process will involve undertaking significant reform of Australia’s environmental law, committing to an Australian Environment Act in our first term.

It will be an Act that both protects our environment and also supports job-creating development by streamlining and harmonising processes.

Labor will also establish a new agency, a Federal EPA, with a mission to protect Australia’s natural environment. It will be informed by the best available scientific advice, ensure compliance with environmental law, and have the ability to conduct public inquiries on important environmental matters.

The new legal framework will compel the federal government to actively protect our unique natural environment and demonstrate national leadership.

Labor will establish a high-powered working group of experts including scientists, environmental lawyers and public policy thinkers to refine the clear concepts that underpin this reform. We will also ensure all stakeholders – including the States and Territories, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives, impacted industries and business groups, trade unions and civil society – have a seat at the table.

The Australian Environment Act will aim to tackle problems identified by industry which has identified inefficiencies, delays and hurdles in the current law. The new law will protect the environment while aiming to give business more certainty. 

The Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government has vacated the field in environmental leadership. Under this government, Australia’s natural environment is going backwards. 

Under Malcolm Turnbull, Australia took the largest step backwards in conservation by any government anywhere in the world by stripping back Australia’s marine parks, and in 2018 the Liberals awarded nearly half a billion dollars to a small private foundation instead of directly investing in restoring the health of the Great Barrier Reef.

It’s time for Australia’s environmental laws to properly protect our beautiful natural land and oceans. 

Recent examples of either the current environmental law failing or the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government seeming to ignore the law include:

  • Large scale land clearing in Reef catchments in Queensland.
  • The ‘mean’ approval time being reported as 860 days.
  • Enabling use of the Sydney Opera House as a billboard, an action that went against the management plan required under the national environmental law.
  • Not using the water trigger for dams and pipelines associated with large coal mines.
  • The export of 200 rare and threatened birds to a German alleged organised crime syndicate.