Australia’s Extinction Crisis – Senate Inquiry Submission

The Wentworth Group was invited to attend a public hearing and make a submission to the Senate Environment and Communications References Committee inquiry into Australia’s extinction crisis. The purpose of the public hearing, held on Wednesday 17 April 2024, was to examine the progression of the Australian Government’s reforms to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). Topics under consideration included the government’s implementation of the recommendations of the Independent Review of the EPBC Act undertaken by Professor Graeme Samuel AC; the Nature Positive Plan; and the ongoing consultation process on draft EPBC legislation.

The Wentworth Group submission

Australia is a world leader in mammal extinctions and ranks second in the world for biodiversity loss. The number of threatened species is continuing to rise while the state of the environment continues to decline, with at least 19 Australian ecosystems showing signs of collapse. Australia’s main national environmental legislation, the EPBC Act is failing in its duty to protect and conserve biodiversity.

The Wentworth Group has undertaken a review of the proposed reforms to the EPBC Act based on material shared by the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water to date.

We identified the following key tests of successful EPBC Act reforms:

  1. Will the proposed new national environmental laws help prevent further extinctions?
  2. Will they contribute to Government’s nature positive goals?
  3. Is the proposed new legislative package an improvement on the EPBC Act?
  4. Will reforms maintain AND improve the status of MNES?

Based on these tests, we determined what we consider to be the positive, negative and missing elements in the proposed legislation. We found that while the proposed reforms include many positive elements, these are undermined by major loopholes and the potential for excessive discretion in decision making. Without significant improvements to the reform package as currently proposed, there is a risk that the new legislation [full package] will represent a step backwards from the EPBC Act.




Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists