New EPA Established to Crack Down on Sustainability

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By Published On: April 19, 20240 Comments

The government has announced plans to crack down on businesses breaking environmental guidelines with a new EPA.

The Minister for the Environment and Water, Tanya Plibersek, has announced the second stage of the Albanese Government’s Nature Positive Plan which could have serious ramifications for businesses not following environmental guidelines. 

In a statement, Tanya Plibersek revealed the government will be forming Australia’s first national Environment Protection Agency (EPA), with strong new powers and penalties to better enforce federal laws.

The EPA will be able to issue Environment Protection Orders, or stop work orders to anyone breaking the law. It will also be able to audit businesses to ensure they are compliant with environment approval conditions. The EPA will treat penalties more serious with maximum fines akin to punishments for serious financial offences such as insider trading and market manipulation. For example, in cases of extremely serious intentional breaches of federal environment law, courts would be able to impose fines of up to $780 million or send people to prison for up to seven years.

The new EPA will be providing clear guidance and education to make sure businesses are clear about the rules.

The government has allocated $100 million to help speed up environmental approval decisions.

The Albanese Government is also establishing a new body called Environment Information Australia (EIA). This will include a public website and database featuring information for businesses and individuals, regular State of Environment reports every two years, and a commitment to publicly report on progress towards environmental goals.

This will result in some new roles within the government. A EIA chief will be appointed, who will be a statutory office holder with independent functions to make sure no government can interfere with its work. And The EPA chief will be an independent statutory appointment – similar to the Australian Federal Police Commissioner – to make sure no government can interfere with the new agency’s important enforcement work.

“Our Government is doing more than ever to protect our country’s natural treasures, native plants and animals, so Australians can continue to enjoy our lifestyle in the great outdoors,” said Minister Plibersek. “We’re delivering stronger protections for the environment, including Australia’s first ever independent national Environment Protection Agency.

“We’re also working to support faster, clearer decisions for business. That greater certainty for business will help drive investment in nation-building projects. When I first announced the Nature Positive Plan, I said it would take a bit of cooperation, compromise and common sense to deliver. That’s exactly how we’re approaching the rollout.”

Already helping educate and evolve Australian business, The Minister for the Environment and Water launched Seamless, the National Clothing Product Stewardship Scheme back in June last year to drive Australia’s fashion industry towards clothing circularity by 2030. THE ICONIC, David Jones, Lorna Jane, Rip Curl, R.M. Williams, Cotton On, The Sussan Group, and Big W each signed on as foundation members to commit $100,000 each to fund a 12-month transition phase while a new Seamless scheme is established. While the scheme is still in its transition phase as it establishes governance and operations, Minister Plibersek issued a clear directive that the scheme would be soon mandated if not taken up by enough businesses, “I want to see industry leadership… But if I don’t see enough movement in a year, then I will regulate.”

About the Author: Rosalea Catterson

Rosalea is the Editor of Power Retail. With a keen interest in consumer behaviour and tech, she covers everything ecommerce and hosts the Power Retail Power Talks Podcast.

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