We actively engage in environmental policy and law reform.
This work reflects our status as an independent, specialist legal centre. We put forward policy proposals suggesting ways the law can be improved in NSW and Australia. Our proposals may be in the form of:
- submissions to Governments or parliamentary inquiries
- proactive reports and consultancy projects
- policy advice to Governments as a member of expert panels or stakeholder reference groups.
For national environmental matters, we work with colleagues in EDOs of Australia and with national groups, to improve the law and protect the environment.
Review our submissions by topic using the right hand menu or use the search feature below to find a document of interest.
Current opportunities for comment on law reform can be seen at Have Your Say.
Inquiry into the provisions of the Right to Farm Bill 2019 - EDO NSW submission
October 2019 - Download >>
Based on our experience and expertise as specialist lawyers, we have four key areas of concern with the proposed Bill.
- First, we see this bill as unnecessary regulation
There is already sufficient regulation of the conduct purportedly targeted – ie. animal welfare activists trespassing on farms. Our view is that the existing legislative framework deals adequately with relevant offences, including trespass, obstruction and criminal damage. We do not support unnecessary or duplicative regulation.
- Secondly, we are concerned with the Scope of the Bill
Despite the purported intention of the Bill to target animal welfare activists trespassing on farms, the framing of the aggravated offence is not confined to achieve that objective and can just as easily apply to other kinds of political protestors and protest actions. In addition, the threshold for the commission of the aggravated offence is lowered by the Bill from interfering with the conduct of a business while trespassing to simply hindering the conduct of a business or undertaking while trespassing. The application of the offence is therefore extremely broad and potentially covers activities significantly beyond animal welfare activists.
- Third, the increased penalties are disproportionate
Despite penalties increases in 2016 – that are awaiting statutory review - the Bill seeks to increase the maximum fine for aggravated trespass again to $22,000, with a potential three year custodial sentence. Such a disproportionate penalty carries with it the potential to create a chilling effect on the preparedness of citizens to participate in legitimate peaceful protest.
The framing of the Bill is sufficiently wide as to capture protest more broadly, rather than what was apparently intended, and therefore apply disproportionately harsh penalties to a wide range of peaceful protest activities. A Bill of such extraordinary breadth must require careful scrutiny in terms of the appropriateness of legislative restraints on the freedom of political communication.
- Finally, we are concerned at the adverse effects of the proposed immunity from nuisance for agricultural activities.
The Bill proposes to create a ‘nuisance shield’ through firstly taking the step of removing any right of recourse to the law of nuisance for certain commercial agricultural activities, and secondly, by modifying the discretion of the Court in remedying nuisance. These proposed amendments are not a proportionate response to the problems identified in the Second Reading Speech. The majority of calls we get to the EDO legal advice line concerning nuisance from agricultural activities are actually from neighbouring farmers themselves, so this approach may simply exacerbate those tensions in rural communities. We submit that other options should be applied to address land use conflicts.
In light of these concerns our recommendation is that the bill is unnecessary, disproportionate and should not proceed. If the Bill does proceed, amendments are needed, and debate on the Bill should be deferred until the statutory review of the previous amendments has been completed, including by undertaking fulsome public consultation and evidence-based analysis of the effect of the amendments.
Inquiry into the Local Land Services Amendment (Critically Endangered Ecological Communities) Regulation 2019 and Local Land Services Amendment (Allowable Activities) Regulation 2019 - EDO NSW submission
September 2019 - Download submission
These two Amendment Regulations make changes to the Framework that was established by Part 5A of the LLS Act. EDO NSW has ongoing concerns regarding the implementation of the Framework and its ability to ensure the proper management of natural resources consistent with the principles of ecologically sustainable development.
In our view, the Allowable Activities Regulation will further weaken already lax land clearing laws, contribute further to substantial increases in land clearing rates, and put native vegetation and wildlife at risk.
We recommend that the Allowable Activities Regulation be disallowed.
With respect to the CEEC Regulation, we submit that this needs to be considered in the broader context of the recent listing of Monaro Tableland Cool Temperate Grassy Woodland in the South Eastern Highlands Bioregion and Werriwa Tablelands Cool Temperate Grassy Woodland in the South Eastern Highlands and South East Corner Bioregions as critically endangered ecological communities in NSW, and also changes made by the Land Management (Native Vegetation) Code Amendment (Monaro and Werriwa Grassy Woodland Critically Endangered Ecological Communities) 2019.
Select Committee into Jobs for the Future in Regional Areas - EDOs of Australia submission
September 2019 - Download
Our submission focuses on the need to establish a well resourced statutory authority to coordinate planning and funding for a just transition for regional communities affected by climate change.
Updating Climate Change Authority Advice on meeting the Paris Agreement - EDOs of Australia submission
August 2019 - Download
EDOs of Australia has made comments on a Climate Change Authority consultation paper about updating policies to meet the Paris Agreement.
In summary, our recommendations are to:
- Provide input into the upcoming review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, in relation to the need for a greenhouse gas trigger
- Address the need to consider a just transition for communities affected by climate mitigation
- Include a review of State and Federal policies and laws which currently incentivise or subsidise increased emissions, entrench fossil fuel technologies or delay a just transition;
- Emphasise the need for complementary policies at the State and Commonwealth level
- Include an express strategy to address the unique challenges of mitigating agricultural emissions.
Inquiry into Coal-Fired Power Funding Prohibition Bill 2017 - EDOs of Australia submission
August 2019 - download submission
In our comments on the Coal-Fired Power Funding Prohibition Bill 2017, we argue that public investment in technologies that are driving climate change does not make sense, because:
a) The evidence of impacts of coal-fired power on the climate is unequivocal,
b) Australia has committed to addressing these impacts, and
c) Renewables are a better investment of public funds.
While it should not be necessary to legislate to prohibit contradictory policy decisions, in our view the proposed Bill would provide clarity on this issue, particularly in the absence of other effective regulatory mechanisms to drive a transition away from fossil fuels.