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Thursday, 1 November 2012
Page: 8904

Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities

(Question No. 2164)


Senator Waters asked the Minister representing the Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, upon notice, on 14 September 2012:

With regard to the announced budget cuts to the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection and its impact on the state government's ability to take on federal environmental responsibilities from March 2013, as planned by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG):

(1) Given that the Government is currently establishing standards to ensure federal environmental protections can be safely handed to the states, will these standards set requirements for adequate resourcing of the state and territory departments intended to take over federal government responsibilities.

(2) Prior to the COAG March 2013 deadline for the handing over of federal environmental responsibilities to state and territory governments, will the Government assess the impacts that the announced reduction of 220 full time equivalent positions from the Queensland environment department will have on the state government's capacity to take responsibility for protecting nationally listed threatened species and ecological communities, the Ramsar wetlands and listed migratory species.

(3) Are there any circumstances in which the Government will not comply with the COAG deadline for handing over these responsibilities to the state government; if so, can details of such circumstances be provided.

(4) If the Queensland environment department is not adequately resourced to take on the responsibilities, will the federal department pay for the additional resources required to ensure adequate resourcing of national environmental protection responsibilities.

(5) Will the Government's standards, currently under development, require that state and territory governments retain the responsibility for administering national environmental responsibilities, or will they be able to further delegate these responsibilities to local government authorities.


Senator Conroy: The Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1). The Commonwealth is negotiating Approval Bilateral Agreements which will enable States to make decisions consistent with the protections and the standards of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). The aim is to simplify environmental decision-making not to reduce protections. State and territory governments will be required to meet the performance standards of any agreement designed to reduce duplication, associated resourcing is a matter for state and territory governments.

(2) The Commonwealth is negotiating Approval Bilateral Agreements which will enable the states to make decisions consistent with the protections and the standard of the EPBC Act. The aim is to simplify environmental decision-making not to reduce protections. State and territory governments will be required to meet the performance standards of any agreement designed to reduce duplication, associated resourcing is a matter for state and territory governments.

(3) Negotiations for bilateral agreements are currently underway and the Commonwealth is working toward the COAG deadlines. Successful agreement will depend on the willingness of states throughout this process.

(4) State and territory governments will be required to meet the performance standards of any agreement designed to reduce duplication, associated resourcing is a matter for state and territory governments.

(5) The scope of state and territory assessment and approvals systems are currently being discussed, however Approval Bilateral Agreements will require the state and territory environmental management systems to meet the set outcome performance standards.