Environmental Reform

Update: 1 September 2020

Labor will oppose the Morrison Government’s attempt to rehash Tony Abbott’s failed 2014 environment bill, which would harm Australia’s natural environment and put jobs and investment at risk. 
The Streamlining Environmental Approvals Bill would see more major project job delays, more investment uncertainty, more conflict, less trust in decisions and worse outcomes for the environment. 
There are no National Environment Standards in this bill, despite those being the foundation of Professor Graeme Samuel’s proposed reforms. 

With no proposed standards, no independent ‘cop on the beat,’ and no additional funding for the states despite the extra responsibility, this bill is designed for political conflict.
Environment Minister Sussan Ley said in July that the Government would introduce “strong rigorous environmental standards” that had “buy-in across the board” at the same time as introducing proposed legislative change.
This government has failed the test it set for itself.

In the Interim Report, Professor Samuel warned against the exact approach the government is now taking: “In 2015 the Parliament did not support these amendments, in response to significant community concerns about the ability of states and territories to uphold the national interest when applying discretion in approval decisions.”
Even when presented with an opportunity to provide more certainty for jobs, investment and our environment, Scott Morrison chooses conflict.

Labor has constructively engaged with the Samuel Review from the very start. Scott Morrison has very favourable conditions for reform: an Opposition that has said we will engage constructively, a well-respected Review chair who is working with leaders from agriculture, resources and business, as well as traditional owners, conservationists and academics.

If Mr Morrison was serious about securing broad support and durable reform, he would not be rehashing Tony Abbott’s failed 2014 bill, breaking his promise on national standards or cherry-picking the interim report of one of Australia’s most experienced business regulators.
The Morrison Government should:

  1. Introduce strong national environmental standards; and
  1. Establish a genuinely independent ‘cop on the beat’ for Australia’s environment; 
  1. Fix the explosion in unnecessary 510 per cent job and investment delays caused by their massive funding cuts.

The Samuel Review is the most significant opportunity for environmental reform in the last 20 years – but Scott Morrison is bungling it.


Australia needs strong laws to protect our environment and properly manage the assessment and approval of major projects.

But the Morrison Liberal National Government is fundamentally anti-science, can’t manage their own processes, and has failed to protect even our most iconic animals like the koala and platypus, let alone our less charismatic, but just as important, threatened species, which are in a disturbing decline.

As an Opposition, it is our job to hold the Morrison Government to account for its abject failures in this area. And if we want the opportunity to protect Australia’s environment, Labor must win the next election.

That means the responsibility lies with every person of good will who wants to see a change of government, to collectively work to ensure that Labor wins the next election.

Australia’s environment laws have not materially changed in the last seven years. So, it is crystal clear that this drop in environmental and job outcomes is down to Liberal National cuts, mismanagement and poor performance.

Australia must have strong environmental protections, we must have an efficient and effective administration of those protections and we must have secure, well-paid jobs, now and in the future. But Labor can achieve this only from government.

Unlike the Greens political party and the Liberals and Nationals, Labor takes seriously our responsibility for protecting the environment and supporting Australian jobs.

We believe that Australia can’t afford another lost decade of inaction on environmental and job outcomes. We have all seen that happen before, when, shamefully, the Greens party sided with the Liberals and Nationals to vote down Australia’s best chance at lasting climate action in Labor’s Emissions Trading Scheme, in 2009.

The Morrison Government must be held to account for the mess they have made in environmental management, and we must fight, as best as we can from Opposition, for improvements in our nation’s environmental laws and policies.

Given we are not in government, and potentially two years away from an election, Labor wants to see the Morrison Government implement laws, programs and institutional arrangements that:

  • More effectively conserve biodiversity and protect the environment, to address the extinction crisis and preserve nature for future generations;
  • Reduce the unnecessary delays in decision-making, so that appropriate projects can go ahead sooner, because unnecessarily delayed decisions, like the 510% blow-out in delays under the Liberals and Nationals, cause delays to investment and jobs;
  • Ensure high-quality decision-making, so that decisions are made lawfully and well (unlike the 79% of decisions the Morrison Government currently get wrong in some way), with science at the centre, and while respecting First Nations peoples’ authority and knowledge.

Labor will continue to develop policies for announcement prior to the next federal election, due in 2022.