Legislative Council: Thursday, September 28, 2023


Environment Protection (Objects of Act and Board Attributes) Amendment Bill

Second Reading

Adjourned debate on second reading.

(Continued from 26 September 2023.)

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (12:13): I would like to thank all members of the council for their contributions on the second reading of the Environment Protection (Objects of Act and Board Attributes) Amendment Bill 2023. As has been indicated, the bill reinforces the government's commitment to stronger action on both climate change mitigation and climate change adaption in recognition of the climate emergency that we are facing.

This government is committed to taking real action on climate change. The government is delivering on a broad range of actions to address climate change and to protect the environment and our quality of life, and to position the South Australian economy for resilience and growth at the same time. As outlined in my second reading explanation, this government is committed to statewide goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 50 per cent against 2005 emission levels by 2030, and to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

The Environment Protection Authority, as the state's principal environment regulator, is well positioned to play a pivotal role in assisting the delivery of actions to demonstrate leadership and collaboration across government areas and to support industry in achieving a net zero emissions future.

The objects of the Environment Protection Act underpin functions of the Environment Protection Authority. The amendments contained in this bill will clarify the existing role of the Environment Protection Act and its application towards climate change to ensure that all stakeholders—business, government and the community—are aware of its ability to assist in providing the stated net zero future.

The Environment Protection Authority must have regard to the objects of the act when considering applications for environmental authorisations under the act and when considering development applications that are referred to under the Planning, Development and Infrastructure Act 2016. The objects of the Environment Protection Act also inform the environmental protection policymaking powers in part 5 of the act in that an environmental protection policy may be made for any purpose directed towards securing the objects of the act. Therefore, the proposed amendments will support future development of climate change focused environmental protection policies under the legislation.

The addition of the climate change knowledge and expertise to the membership of the board of the EPA will provide the necessary expertise and guidance on the board as the authority's regulation of climate change related matters evolves over time. The Environment Protection Authority has consulted with key stakeholders on the elements of this bill and the future work the agency intends to do on clarifying its role in regulating climate change matters through climate change environment protection policy, where the support for progressing this work was unanimous.

These amendments to the Environment Protection Act 1993, and further policy-related work to come, will facilitate the government's climate change agenda and assist the government to meet its greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets into the future.

Bill read a second time.

Committee Stage

In committee.

Clause 1.

The Hon. C. BONAROS: For the record, I would ask the Attorney to confirm that it is already the case that we can have a board member—and probably do have board members, given the EPA's published role last year—with experience specifically related to climate change.

The Hon. K.J. MAHER: I thank the honourable member for her question. Yes, that is definitely the case. There is nothing that prohibits that, so you can already have that, but this makes an important clarification that it is a requirement into the future that there be a board member with those attributes.

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI: I have a question for the minister in regard to stakeholder consultation. Were any primary industry stakeholders consulted in the preparation of this bill?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER: I do not have access to a list, but I am happy to take it on notice and provide for the honourable member, if I can, who was consulted in relation to this bill. As I understand it, there were a bit over a dozen submitting stakeholders, but I am happy to take it on notice and provide a response.

Clause passed.

Remaining clauses (2 to 5) and title passed.

Bill reported without amendment.

Third Reading

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (12:19): I move:

That this bill be now read a third time.

Bill read a third time and passed.