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Environment Protection Authority - Independence of Office


Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Wednesday, 27 October 2021

Tags: Environment Protection Authority

Ms WOODRUFF question to MINISTER for ENVIRONMENT, Mr JAENSCH

In a version of Groundhog Day during Estimates you announced your Government would be separating the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) from the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE) into a stand-alone, independent state authority. To clarify, you said, 'The actual and perceived independence of the EPA.'. You also said:

Legislative amendments to the Environmental Management and Pollution Control Act (EMPCA) would be required to clearly delineate the roles of the EPA and DPIPWE, with the new arrangements commencing on the 1st December.

Yesterday, in question time, you said:

The even more independent EPA is being separated from DPIPWE under our policy direction as of the 1st December.

Have you shelved your commitment to a legislated separation of government policy and ministerial influence on the work of the EPA? Coastal communities are aghast at the secret plan for salmon expansion and deeply concerned about JBS moving in to capitalise on our weakly regulated industries.

Members interjecting.

Mr SPEAKER - Order.

Dr WOODRUFF - Surely, you understand the damage to consumer confidence in Tasmanian-farmed salmon will not be fixed by green-washing? Will you legislate, minister -

Members interjecting.

Mr SPEAKER - We do need a question.

Dr WOODRUFF - I am trying to speak over the interjections, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER - There is certainly a lot of lenience given to the question when it is put. I have been doing that and, as indicated in the past, that is why ministers get some leniency in answering it. However, they do need a question before I can ask -

Members interjecting.

Dr WOODRUFF - If I can finish, without interruption then I would be able to get to my question.

Members interjecting.

Mr SPEAKER - Order.

Dr WOODRUFF - I hope you can keep the House in order for me to be able to ask my question.

Members interjecting.

Mr SPEAKER - Order.

Dr WOODRUFF - Thank you. Minister, surely you understand the damage to consumer confidence in Tasmanian-farmed salmon will not be fixed by greenwashing. Will you legislate to remove all directions, by government, over the EPA's activities and if so, when?

 

ANSWER

Mr Speaker, I thank the member for Franklin for her many questions. The Tasmanian Government has announced the structural and organisational separation of the Environment Protection Authority from the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and the Environment into a stand-alone, independent state authority from 1 December this year.

This is important reform that will result in the policy and government-led functions remaining with DPIPWE, while the EPA retains the statutory assessment and regulation functions, clearly delineating the different roles. Importantly, as part of the reforms and in working to meet recommendation 2 of the Premier's Economic and Social Recovery Advisory Council's final report we will be providing additional resources to the EPA as well.

Legislative amendments to the Environmental Management and Pollution Control Act 1994 will support the change and just like any other bill these amendments will be subject to public consultation before being tabled in parliament. The proposed new model will ensure public confidence in environmental regulation in Tasmania and promote certainty for proponents. We are proud of the work being undertaken by the independent EPA and the Tasmanian Government looks forward to undertaking this further significant reform.

In relation to the statement of expectations matter, raised in the series of questions by the member for Franklin, it is the Government's intention to retain a statement of expectation. It will obviously require updating to reflect the announced changes. A statement of expectation does not increase or decrease the independence of -

Dr Woodruff - It absolutely 100 per cent does.

Mr SPEAKER - Order.

Mr JAENSCH - The current statement, to be clear, already states that the EPA is established as an independent, statutory body responsible for performing its functions and exercising its statutory powers at arms-length from government. However, the EPA remains an instrumentality of the Crown and must work within the established administrative framework of the state of Tasmania.

The statement is a high-level document and provides an important opportunity to outline the Government's broad expectations. There is a ministerial statement of expectation, or similar, for a number of other including the Tasmanian Planning Commission, the Heritage Council, TasNetworks, Hydro Tasmania, the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, and legislative amendments to the Environmental Management and Pollution Control Act 1994 will support the proposed change and clearly delineate the roles of the EPA and the department and clarify the actual and perceived independence of the EPA.

As I said before, these amendments will be subject to public consultation before being tabled in parliament.