Environment Legislation Amendment Bill 2013 (Australia)

The Environment Legislation Amendment Bill 2013:

(a) addresses the implications arising from the Federal Court’s decision in Tarkine National Coalition Incorporated v Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities [2013] FCA 694 (the Tarkine case ); and
(b) amends the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth) (the EPBC Act ) to provide additional protection for turtles and dugong which are listed threatened, migratory or marine species (‘listed’ turtles and dugong) by increasing the financial penalties for various offence and civil penalty provisions; and
(c) amends the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975 (Cth) (the GBRMP Act ) by providing additional protection for protected species under the GBRMP Act, if those species are in the Genus Dugong (dugong); or the Family Cheloniidae (marine turtles); or are the species Dermochelys coriacea (leatherback turtles).

Amendments relating to approved conservation advice

Schedule 1 of the Bill provides that a failure by the Minister to comply with a requirement to have regard to any relevant approved conservation advice for specified decisions and instruments under the EPBC Act made prior to 31 December 2013, does not invalidate those decisions and instruments. The requirement to consider approved conservation advice under the EPBC Act is not altered by the amendments. The objective of Schedule 1 of the Bill is to address the implications arising from the Tarkine case.
Schedule 1 of the Bill will apply to decisions and instruments made prior to 31 December 2013 to provide certainty for decisions and instruments made by the Minister under the EPBC Act before that date. This will not limit the rights of proponents under the EPBC Act.

Amendments relating to turtles and dugong

Schedule 2 of the Bill amends the EPBC Act and the GBRMP Act to provide additional protection for dugong and turtle populations from the threats of poaching, illegal trade and illegal transportation. The amendments increase the financial penalties for various offences and civil penalty provisions relating to listed dugong and turtles. These amendments will deter persons from committing offences or breaching civil penalty provisions by imposing increased penalties in respect of the illegal killing, injuring, taking, trading, keeping or moving of turtles and dugong.

The Bill’s Explanatory Memorandum (revised) is here.

The Bill is in the Senate (the second house) and is expected to be presented to the Governor-General for assent in 2014 – it’s progress may be followed here.