National Environment Protection Council Amendment Bill 2007 ensures WA’s legislation complies with 1992 Intergovernmental Agreement on the Environment
Posted by gmarkets on 12 October, 2007
Endorsing the National Environment Protection Council (Western Australia) Amendment Bill 2007 in the WA Legislative Council on 5 September 2007, Dr Sally Talbot MP (Australian Labor Party) said nationally consistent and effective environmental protection standards were important goals that must be striven for in Australia to address pollution and other environmental issues.
Functions of the National Environment Protection Council: Talbot said Western Australia had contributed and would continue to contribute significantly to establishing national environmental protection standards, primarily through its active involvement with the National Environment Protection Council. The National Environment Protection Council was a ministerial body created through the commonwealth National Environment Protection Council Act 1994, and through complementary legislation in all states and territories. The council had the responsibility for making national environment protection measures to ensure the people of Australia enjoyed the benefit of equivalent protection from air, water, soil and noise pollution, wherever they lived. The council also worked to ensure that decisions by businesses were not distorted and that markets were not fragmented by inconsistencies in the adoption or implementation of environmental protection measures across jurisdictions. Talbot said a service corporation assisted the council by providing secretariat, project management and administrative services. The council had made seven national environment protection measures covering:
- ambient air quality;
- air toxics:
- assessment of site contamination;
- movement of hazardous waste between jurisdictions;
- a national pollutant inventory;
- diesel vehicle emissions; and
Purpose of the bill: Talbot said the purpose of the National Environment Protection Council (Western Australia) Amendment Bill was to implement nationally agreed minor amendments to the National Environment Protection Council (Western Australia) Act 1996. The bill was uniform legislation and its amendments would ensure that Western Australia’s legislation complied with the 1992 Intergovernmental Agreement on the Environment, in which it was agreed that commonwealth legislative changes affecting the commonwealth National Environment Protection Council Act 1994 would be incorporated into the corresponding legislation in all states and territories. In 2001 the commonwealth, state and territory acts had been reviewed, as required by section 64 of the Commonwealth Act. The review had analysed the operation of the legislation to determine the degree to which the objects of the act were being attained. In responding to the review, the council had concluded that substantial progress had been made on issues of national environmental protection and that only minor amendments to the legislation, which were highlighted in the review, were needed. These amendments were the establishment of a simplified procedure for implementing minor variations to national environment protection measures, allowing the National Environment Protection Council Service Corporation to provide support and assistance to other ministerial councils, and the introduction of five-yearly reviews of the act.
Streamlined process: At present, under the Western Australian act, every variation to a national environment protection measure, regardless of its significance, went through a widespread, resource-demanding consultation and impact assessment procedure. This was appropriate for significant variations, but a streamlined process for minor administrative variations, such as correcting spelling errors and name changes to organisations, would enable changes to be made without a complete revision of the national environment protection measure. The proposed amendments meant that minor variations could occur only after agreement by the ministers on the National Environment Protection Council. This would enable Western Australia to consider the impact of minor variations before committing to them. Any proposed variations that would substantially alter a national environment protection measure – for example, by changing monitoring procedures – would still require the full statutory public consultation process to be implemented.
Five-yearly reviews: The establishment of five-yearly reviews would provide an instrument for the National Environment Protection Council’s objectives to continue to meet the requirements and expectations of the Australian community. The third amendment in the bill followed from a review of ministerial councils by the Council of Australian Governments. The result of this review was that the National Environment Protection Council now met jointly with the Environment Protection and Heritage Council. The new council also dealt with environment protection and heritage issues previously dealt with by the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council – ANZECC – and the heritage ministers meeting.
Expanding secretariat and project management services: The amendment conferred the legal capacity for the National Environment Protection Council Service Corporation to expand its secretariat and project management services to the Environment Protection and Heritage Council. The remaining amendments contained in the NEPC (WA) amendment bill were administrative in nature and would have no significant impact on Western Australia. The amendments in the bill had been implemented into commonwealth legislation and mirrored by WA state and territory counterparts.
Bill referred: The debate was adjourned and the bill referred to the Standing Committee on Uniform Legislation and Statutes Review, pursuant to standing orders.
Dr Sally Elizabeth Talbot, Australian Labor Party, Legislative Council, Western Australia, 5 September 2007: on National Environment Protection Council Amendment Bill 2007.
Erisk Net, 5/9/2007