Australia’s Laws Must Not Be Used for Political Purposes

As parliamentarians return to Canberra for the final two weeks of sittings before the federal election, there is widespread speculation the government will introduce high-risk legislation to shore up political support.

Business Council of Australia Chief Executive Jennifer Westacott has today written to members of Cabinet urging them to adhere to proper law-making process at a critical time for the Australian economy.

“It is our understanding that the government is considering further amendments to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act in these final two weeks of parliament, on top of amendments already being debated.

“The government would be taking this action without any consultation or any analysis of the impact of these amendments on the economy, on regional communities or, for that matter, on the environment.

“Having briefed the Productivity Commission to review Australia’s major project development assessment processes, surely the government should wait for the report before considering changes to the EPBC Act.

“To proceed with the amendments we’re hearing about now would be ignoring the approach to regulation reform agreed between the federal and state governments and business in the National Compact on Regulatory and Competition Reform that went through COAG late last year.

“It would also be acting in direct contravention of the agreement reached between the Commonwealth and the states to minimise duplication in environmental approvals processes while ensuring state governments were meeting the highest environmental standards.”

Ms Westacott said changes to the EPBC Act could stop major resources projects at a time when Australia can least afford it, impacting on exports, energy prices and jobs.

She has appealed to members of Cabinet to consider the national interest and bring speculation of further amendments to an end.
“If the government is planning to introduce these eleventh-hour amendments, the community including business will see it for what it is. But, at the same time, it will erode confidence in the dependability of environmental regulation in this country, and in our democracy.”

For further information contact:
Scott Thompson, Director, Media and Public Affairs
Business Council of Australia
Telephone (03) 8664 2664 | Mobile 0403 241 128