Australian Opposition leader Bill Shorten (left) and his wife Chloe wave at delegates as he arrives to deliver his speech during day one of the Labor Party National Conference in Adelaide, Sunday, December 16, 2018.
Australian Opposition leader Bill Shorten (left) and his wife Chloe wave at delegates as he arrives to deliver his speech during day one of the Labor Party National Conference in Adelaide, Sunday, December 16, 2018. AAP Image - Lukas Coch

Labor promises new environment agency

Australia's environment laws would be rewritten under an elected Labor government, which would also create a new national protection authority.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten made the announcement at the ALP's National Conference today after a deal was struck to avoid a stoush on the conference floor.

He said a new Environment Act and the Environmental Protection Agency would preserve oceans, rivers, coasts, native speciesand bushland.

The agency would conduct public inquiries, provide advice to the environment minister within a clear decision-makingand enforcement framework.

Labor's environment spokesman Tony Burke said the policy avoided the ignorance and laziness of conservative governments determined not to act.

"The EPA will give us fair environmental laws that make sure we are no longer the extinction capital of the world," Mr Burke told conference delegates.

An administrative error saw the measures included in the final draft policy platform taken to conference, before an agreement between internal lobbyists and the parliamentary party was sealed.

But a deal was struck with Labor's environmental group ahead of the conference, heading off a potential stoush on the conference floor.

Labor Environment Action Network co-convener Felicity Wade said the new laws would replace Howard era environment legislation.

"A new Environment Act is huge," Ms Wade told AAP.

"The federal Environment Act which we work under is a Howard piece of legislation and it really is about making sure the market has untrammelled access to the environment and to the communities affected."

She said the national EPA would depoliticise environment policy, with a focus on scientific evidence informing decision-making.

"Actually having some institutions Australians could trust on the environment would be very powerful," Ms Wade said.

But the compromise wasn't enough for the 800 people protesting outside the conference, which was also disrupted before Mr Shorten's speech by anti-coal activists.

Wilderness Society SA director Peter Owen said Labor's climate policy would become irrelevant if the influence of fossil fuels was not contained.

"Fossil fuel burning is what's driving climate change and all of the environment is going to be devastated, seriously impacted by that," he said.

"If we can't stop the expansion of the fossil fuel industry, strong environment lawfare is not going to save us."



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