Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2011 Week 02 Hansard (Tuesday, 8 March 2011) . . Page.. 450 ..
environmental harm. This perhaps would have been a more precautionary approach and still allowed streamlining where annual reviews were not necessary. However, in the end, it may have effectively led to much the same outcome since the decision to set a longer review period would have been left with the authority nonetheless.
I do not think there is any intention in this legislation to reduce the role of the EPA in addressing issues of concern. To the contrary, the stated intention is to reduce administrative time on routine reviews and increase the amount of time undertaking inspections. The Greens are pleased to hear this, as there must also be some triggers that will prompt a review of any environmental authorisation should a problem arise. I understand that, if the EPA receives complaints about a particular authorised activity, that acts as a trigger for a review of the authorisation.
Inspections by the EPA are likely to result in better enforcement and compliance inasmuch as they occur without notice and, therefore, obtain a more accurate representation of how the authorised facility or process is operating. It would perhaps have been of some comfort to have included in the legislation what triggers might be used to determine that an authorisation on a five-year review cycle would be reviewed earlier. From my conversation with the EPA, I understand that these are the kinds of things that are already taken into account.
Complaints from the public, changes to knowledge base about pollutants, or even poor performance by operators might mean they are not placed on a five-year review schedule in the first place. And this is an important point. This amendment leaves it open for the authority to undertake reviews at any time at the discretion of the authority. I think the Assembly should accept the premise of this bill today and also acknowledge that there is no benefit to those at the Environment Protection Authority to be lax with reviews of authorisations. In matters such as these, prevention is a much better path than cure. Mopping up after an incident is not a good outcome for the EPA and it is not a good outcome for the community.
The intention of a regulatory framework such as the Environment Protection Act is to prevent problems from occurring in the first place. Indeed, the objects of the act include to prevent environmental degradation and adverse risks to human health and the health of ecosystems by promoting pollution prevention, clean production technology, reuse and recycling of materials and waste minimisation programs.
We will, of course, be watching closely to ensure this bill achieves what is intended—that is, the EPA is freed up to conduct more targeted enforcement and compliance activities—and that we do not see any increase in the number of breaches of authorisations or adverse environmental outcomes. If we do see this happen in the years to come, it may well be necessary to reconsider the schedule of reviews again.
MR CORBELL: (Molonglo—Attorney-General, Minister for the Environment, Climate Change and Water, Minister for Energy and Minister for Police and Emergency Services) (10.31), in reply: I thank members for their comments on and support of this bill. I would like to take the opportunity to outline again some of the provisions of the Environment Protection Amendment Bill 2010. The amendment proposes that environment authorisations of certain classes be reviewed at intervals