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

14 October 1999


Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill says the Commonwealth's new environmental law regime will deliver better protection for the environment, less governmental duplication and more consistent national standards.

Senator Hill today initiated the next stage in the implementation the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act, with the release of a consultation paper on bilateral agreements.

"The EPBC Act, which will commence in July next year, represents the most fundamental reform of Australia's environmental laws in 25 years," Senator Hill said.

The Act focuses Commonwealth involvement in development assessment and approval in six key areas of national environmental significance. They are the Commonwealth marine environment, World Heritage properties, Ramsar wetlands of international importance, national threatened species and ecological communities, migratory species and nuclear actions.

Senator Hill said the new laws will ensure a more streamlined assessment process and establish Australia's first truly integrated biodiversity conservation regime.

"Importantly, it also introduces specific timeframes for the assessment process in order to increase certainty for development proponents.

"Bilateral agreements between the Commonwealth and each state are an integral part of the EPBC Act framework. Under the agreements, the Commonwealth may delegate responsibility for conducting environmental assessments to the states, and in limited circumstances, responsibility for approval decisions.

"The consultation paper released today seeks public comment on the bilateral agreements under which the state assessment processes may be accredited. These agreements will play a crucial role in minimising governmental duplication and promoting a best practice assessment process. I would particularly welcome input on the benchmarks for the best practice regime."

Senator Hill said the discussion paper also deals with proposed guidelines on when an action will be regarded as having a significant impact on a matter of National Environmental Significance. The period for public comment closes on November 26.

Media contact: Rod Bruem 0419 258 364

Commonwealth of Australia