Environment Minister Peter Garrett has axed the Hawke Review's recommendation of an independent watchdog over native forest logging with the power of sanctions for environmental destruction, Australian Greens Leader Senator Bob Brown said in Hobart today.
"Citing community concern Dr Hawke and his panel of experts came up with a clear and sensible plan to prevent the destruction of endangered habitats and fragile wildlife ecosystems in Australia's forests. But Garrett has opted to axe that advice and toady to Labor and the forest industry instead," Senator Brown said
"Garrett has also dumped the long-awaited recommendation of a climate change trigger. This would have enabled the minister to review developments which resulted in huge greenhouse gas emissions."
"On the cusp of the International Year of Biodiversity (to quote Garrett), this is particularly appalling behaviour by our nation's chief environmentalist."
"Which other minister would turn down recommendations to enhance his or her power to do their job properly?" Senator Brown asked.
Environment Minister Peter Garrett released the Final Report by Dr Alan Hawke of the Independent Review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act 21 December 2009.
"This report has been the culmination of a huge amount of input from all levels of government, environmental groups, businesses, academics and members of the general public," Minister Garrett said.
There is a statutory requirement for the EPBC Act to be reviewed every 10 years. This is the first such review, commissioned by Minister Garrett on 31 October 2008 and was conducted by Dr Hawke and a panel of experts.
"The level of the awareness and concern for the environment in the Australian community has greatly increased in the decade since the EPBC Act commenced operation. Australians are increasingly aware of the need to ensure that our environment and heritage is protected, and that development occurs in an environmentally sustainable way," Minister Garrett said.
Dr Hawke and his team received around 340 written submissions throughout this process, from NGOs, industry bodies as well as interested individuals. Other submissions and comments were received from research groups and academics, individual corporations and Local, State, Territory and Australian Government agencies.
There was extensive face-to-face consultations conducted all over Australia and a number of workshops were also held to tap into the broadest range of views and expertise.
Dr Hawke has prepared a comprehensive report which includes recommendations for significant changes to the Act's operation and administration. The Hawke Report makes 71 primary recommendations as well as numerous conclusions and findings of an advisory nature.
"Dr Hawke's report examines many important and highly complex matters and these are not matters that can be taken lightly. The Government will give careful consideration to the recommendations and their implications in the coming months."
"Dr Hawke's Final Report also makes a recommendation in relation to a proposed ‘greenhouse trigger'. This recommendation has a direct bearing on the Government's response to climate change, and to the CPRS Bill that will be reintroduced into Parliament on 2 February 2010. " "For this reason, I feel it is important that we make clear the Government's policy on this recommendation now. The Government favours a market-based system to reduce our greenhouse emissions, and for that reason if the CPRS is passed there will be no need for a greenhouse trigger to be introduced, even as an interim measure. This is entirely consistent with Dr Hawke's intention."
"Additionally, the Government notes the concerns raised by Dr Hawke in recommendation 38 in the review regarding the current mechanisms in the Act for forest management under Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs), and is committed to working with state governments to improve the review, audit and monitoring arrangements for RFAs, including their timely completion, clearer assessment of performance against environmental and sustainable forestry outcomes, and a greater focus on compliance of RFAs in the intervening years," Minister Garrett said. The Government intends to use upcoming RFA renewal processes to improve the achievement of these outcomes in future RFAs. In light of this, the Government rejects the mechanisms proposed in recommendation 38 and does not propose to review section 38 of the EPBC Act as it currently applies to RFAs.
The Government recognises that the RFA's contain extensive review mechanisms as a framework for continuous improvement and it will principally rely on them to address the issues that Dr Hawke's review has identified.
"On the cusp of the International Year of Biodiversity is a particularly relevant time to release this major review into the operation of the Australian Government's primary piece of environmental legislation. The Government will respond to all other recommendations made by Dr Hawke towards the middle of next year."
"I'm tabling this report out of session because I think it's important people have plenty of time to absorb the many issues and recommendations contained in the report," Minister Garrett said.
Dr Allan Hawke has served with distinction in the Commonwealth Public Service from 1974 to February 2006, and has participated in major inquiries into the Public Service including the Review of Commonwealth Functions, the Review of Commonwealth Administration and the Efficiency Scrutiny Unit.
"I want to thank Dr Allan Hawke and his team comprising the Hon Paul Stein AM, Professor Tim Bonyhady, Professor Mark Burgman and Ms Rosemary Warnock, for the outstanding effort that has gone into this review. It was important that this process sought the broadest possible range of expertise and views. I am confident this has been achieved". Minister Garrett said.
A copy of the Hawke report can be downloaded from the review website: www.environment.gov.au/epbc/review/index.html