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Media Release
Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment


July 2, 1998

Federal Environment Minister Senator Robert Hill has unveiled new legislation designed to provide increased protection for Australia's environment into the next century.

Senator Hill says the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Bill 1998. will drag Australia's environmental laws out of the 1970s, making them relevant to contemporary thinking on environmental protection.

"The Bill represents the only comprehensive attempt in the history of our Federation to define the environment responsibilities of the Commonwealth.

"It proposes the most fundamental reform of Commonwealth environmental law since the first environmental statutes were enacted in the early 1970s.

"The Bill ensures a truly national scheme of environmental protection and biodiversity conservation that accepts Commonwealth responsibilities for matters of national significance, respects the role of the States in delivering on-ground natural resource management and provides a predictable, transparent and timely process for uses."

The Bill implements a Commonwealth/State Agreement on Roles and Responsibilities for the Environment. In doing so, it achieves significant micro-economic reform by removing Commonwealth reliance on the existing ad hoc and indirect triggers, such as foreign investment approval.

The Bill will enhance the Commonwealth's contribution to environmental protection by replacing these triggers 'with direct environmental criteria defined as matters of 'national environmental significance':

The Bill also regulates activities of the Commonwealth and Commonwealth agencies.'

Senator Hill indicated that the Bill was an historic win for the environment, for the community and for industry.

'The Bill ensures resources are focussed on delivering better environmental outcomes at all levels of government.

"In particular the Commonwealth's contribution to the protection of world heritage properties, Ramsat wetlands of international importance, migratory species and nationally threatened species and communities will be enhanced.'

"From an industry perspective, the Bill will provide a very high degree of certainty as to when the Commonwealth will be involved in the environmental assessment and approval process.

"The Bill also significantly enhances the Commonwealth's ability to accredit State processes which meet appropriate criteria and dramatically increases the efficiency and timeliness of the approval process."

Senator Hill has' indicated he would refer the Bill to a Senate Committee to ensure an additional process of public review before it is considered by the Parliament.

Contact: Matt Brown (02) 6277 7640 or (0419 693 515)

July 2, 1998

Commonwealth of Australia