Graeme Samuel to lead Environment Review

Media release

29 October 2019

The Federal Government has today commenced a once in a decade review of Australia’s environmental law to tackle green tape and deliver greater certainty to business groups, farmers and environmental organisations.

Professor Graeme Samuel AC will conduct the independent review, leading an expert panel that includes Mr Bruce Martin, Dr Wendy Craik AM, Dr Erica Smyth AC and Professor Andrew Macintosh.

The statutory review will ensure that the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (1999) remains fit for purpose and fit for the future within the context of our changing environment.

This review is not about ideology.  The one thing all sides of the environmental debate concede is that the complexities of the Act are leading to unnecessary delays in reaching decisions and to an increased focus on process rather than outcomes.

Delays in EPBC decisions are estimated to cost the economy around $300 million a year and frustrate both business and environmental groups.

The Act has been a world benchmark in environmental protection but needs to be adapted to changes in the environment and economy.

I’ve asked Professor Samuel to look at how we can improve efficiency and make clear and simple decisions that deliver strong, clear and focussed environmental protection.

As a first step to the review, I understand Professor Samuel will be releasing a discussion paper in November, and begin initial stakeholder meetings shortly thereafter.

The Morrison Government is committed to delivering improved efficiency and supporting business, investment and jobs, while maintaining high environmental standards.

All Australians are invited to share their ideas as part of this review through a new dedicated website - www.epbcactreview.environment.gov.au

Further information

Graeme Samuel – Independent reviewer

Professor Graeme Samuel AC is a Professorial Fellow in Monash University’s Business School and School of Public Health and Preventative Medicine. He is also President of Dementia Australia, Chair of the National Health and Medical Research Council National Institute for Dementia Research, Chair of Lorica Health, Chair of South East Melbourne Primary Health Network and Chair of Airlines for Australia and New Zealand.

Professor Samuel’s previous roles include Chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Associate Member of the Australian Communications and Media Authority, and President of the National Competition Council. He was Chair of the Australian Government's Panel of the Review of Australia's Independent Medical Research Institutes and advisor to the Department of Health in its review of private health insurance.

Most recently, Professor Samuel was a member of the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority’s Panel to conduct a prudential Inquiry into the culture, governance and accountability of Commonwealth Bank of Australia and was Chair of the panel which conducted a capability review of the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority. He has also just completed a review of the Food and Grocery Code of Conduct.

In 2010, he was made a Companion of the Order of Australia for eminent service to public administration through contributions in economic reform and competition law, and to the community through leadership roles with sporting and cultural organisations.

Expert panel members

Mr Bruce Martin is a Wik Ngathan man, from the community of Aurukun on the Western Cape York Peninsula. Mr Martin was an inaugural member of the Prime Minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council, and is a member of the board of the Indigenous Land Corporation, and the council of James Cook University.

Dr Erica Smyth AC has 40 years’ experience in the minerals and petroleum industry. She is currently chair of the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority Advisory Board and has held senior roles with BHP and Woodside.

Dr Wendy Craik AM has a wealth of experience in natural resource management in Australia and overseas. She is currently chair of the Climate Change Authority, and her past roles include Chair of the Australian Fisheries Management Authority, CEO of the Murray-Darling Basin Commission, Executive officer of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and Chief Executive of the National Farmers’ Federation.

Professor Andrew Macintosh is an environmental law and policy expert at the ANU College of Law. He is a fellow at the Australian Centre for Environmental Law and member of the ANU Centre for Climate Economics & Policy, ANU Climate Change Institute and ANU Energy Change Institute. He is also the Chair of the Emissions Reduction Assurance Committee.

Terms of reference

Independent review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999

The Australian Government is committed to delivering improved national environmental laws to ensure a healthy environment and a strong economy. The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) is the Australian Government’s central piece of national environmental law.

The EPBC Act requires there be an independent review at least once every 10 years. These are the terms of reference for the second independent review of the EPBC Act.

  1. In accordance with section 522A of the EPBC Act, the review will examine:
    • a. the operation of the Act, and
    • b. the extent to which the objects of the Act have been achieved.
  2. The review will make recommendations to modernise the EPBC Act and its operation to address current and future environmental challenges, including consideration of:
    • a. the objects in section 3(1)(a)-(g) of the Act
    • b. Australia’s international environmental responsibilities
    • c. Indigenous peoples' knowledge and role in the management of the environment and heritage
    • d. implementation of relevant agreements between the Commonwealth, States and Territories
    • e. other legislation that may relate to the operation of the Act
    • f. recommendations of previous reviews and inquiries and significant publications regarding the operation of the Act and potential reform
    • g. broad consultation, including with State, Territory and other levels of government, non-government organisations, Indigenous peoples, members of the community, industry and academia, and
    • h. costs and benefits of recommendations.
  3. The review will be guided by the principles of:
    • a. protecting Australia’s unique environment through strong, clear and focused protections
    • b. making decisions simpler, including by reducing unnecessary regulatory burdens for Australians, businesses and governments
    • c. supporting partnerships to deliver for the environment, supporting investment and creating new jobs
    • d. improving transparency to ensure better use of information, accountability and trust in the system, and
    • e. streamlining and integrating planning to support ecologically sustainable development.
  4. The Independent Reviewer will provide a report to the Minister for the Environment within 12 months of the commencement of the review.
Minister for the Environment