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Estimates: Questions about an independent Environmental Protection Agency for Qld

During Parliamentary Budget Estimates on Friday 30 July 2021, I asked for an update on the Government's commitment to progress the creation of an independent environmental protection authority for Queensland. 

You can read the answers below or in the official Queensland Parliament Record of Proceedings (Hansard).

Mr BERKMAN: Prior to the last election, I remember the then environment minister committed to the creation of an independent environmental protection agency, which we agree is urgently needed to properly enforce environmental law in Queensland. Director-General, what funds, if any, were allocated in the 2021-22 budget to begin the establishment of the EPA and what steps, if any, have been taken towards that?

Mr Merrick: The work around the investigation that the government committed to through its government election commitment is being funded internally by the department. We have a dedicated executive director who is leading that work. Extensive work is underway to benchmark other models as they exist not only in other states across the nation but also internationally and best practice in terms of environmental regulation. We have also seen the publication of the final Samuel review, which again highlighted that independent environmental regulation is indeed best practice. We are undertaking initial work around the potential to perform benchmarking with other jurisdictions. We will be moving towards a consultation phase, both targeted and more public, in the coming months.

Mr BERKMAN: The commitment was made before the last election. Is there a time line for its establishment in this term of government? Given comments at the last estimates, what consultation has been undertaken so far with stakeholders?

Mr Merrick: I might pass to the minister in just a minute. In terms of establishment, it would necessarily involve a legislative process as well. There will be policy decisions for government to make as part of the process of both investigating and making a threshold decision to establish an EPA and then enacting legislation that will bring an independent EPA into being. We see in other states—Victoria is an example—that there is specific legislation that creates the environmental protection agency as an independent body. I might ask if the minister wants to say anything more on that consultation.

Ms SCANLON: The commitment was to consult on an independent EPA. We will do that consultation and look at the pros and cons of establishing an independent EPA. The Samuel review very clearly sets out some of the benefits from having such an agency that is seen as being independent from the arm of government that creates policy. I understand why people have a view around wanting to see an independent EPA in Queensland. I think we also need to be mindful of the review that has taken place federally around the EPBC and the single-touch approvals processes and how that will all play out together. Of course, we remain committed to making sure that we do that consultation at the end of this year and we look forward to hearing the views of Queenslanders about that.

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