Recently our government marked our first anniversary in office. It’s an exciting milestone, but it’s one where we also reflect on what we’ve already achieved and the huge amount of work that remains, and this bill really fits into that area. It’s an area where, under the previous government, we saw neglect. It’s an area that our government is determined to do more in.
As I’m sure many of us here in this place would agree, we are here to serve our communities and to leave a legacy for future generations; to make the lives of people in our communities better today, better tomorrow and better well into the future. For me, bills like this one are ones where I think about the future of my children, and I know that for many people in my community these are the types of issues they talk to me about: ‘I want to know what sort of world am I leaving to my children. I want to know will they be able to see the very special, amazing, unique places, the nature in Australia that I got to see growing up. Will that be there for future generations?’ That’s really what we’re considering here: what kind of world are we leaving for the next generation, and the next and the next?
It is one of the reasons why I am proud to be part of this government, one that has already, in our year in office, taken great strides on climate action and on protecting the environment, including through the nature repair market, which is a key plank in our government’s nature-positive plan. And this market is important. In facing the challenges in environmental protection and climate action, everyone—governments, organisations, individuals—must work together. We know that we need significant investment in conservation and restoration for a nature-positive future, and that all of these parts of our communities can contribute to reversing environmental decline. Every single one of us has a role to play in this. And this is where an initiative like the nature repair market can really make a difference. The market will make it easier to invest in projects to protect and repair nature. It does just what it says. It will help in supporting landholders, including farmers and First Nations communities, to do things like plant native species, to repair damaged riverbeds and to remove invasive species.
One of the welcome developments we’ve seen in Australia in the past few years has been the expansion of interest in driving better environmental outcomes. I know I said there is huge interest in my electorate in this, but I know it’s not just in my electorate. I know there are people right around Australia who have a genuine interest in this, who are getting involved in so many different ways. I know there are landholders across Australia who are interested in doing more, in doing their bit as part of this broader effort to conserve and restore nature across our country.
Conservation groups have been doing this important work for decades, but they are now being joined by more farmers and landholders as well as all the community organisations and companies who do want to play their part in this really important effort, in this work that we are doing to protect these places not just for now, but into the future and for the generations to come.
Last year, the Minister for the Environment and Water released the State of the environment report. It’s a five-year report card on the Australian environment. For those who were not following that release closely, I remind the House that this was a report that those opposite didn’t want us to see. The member for Farrer, now the deputy Liberal leader, was at the time the minister for the environment. She really didn’t want the public to see that report, because she refused to release it. We know why, now that we have seen that report. It is, put simply, a horror of a read. There is example after example of just how much damage a decade of the Liberal and National parties in government did to our environment—once again, one of those key areas just neglected. The damage done under their watch is nothing short of disgraceful. Because of that neglect by those opposite—we’ve learned through the report—the Australian environment is in very bad shape, and it was heading in the wrong direction. The report found that Australia has lost more mammal species to extinction than any other continent. For the first time, Australia has more foreign plant species than native. Habitat the size of Tasmania has been cleared. Plastics are choking our oceans—up to 80,000 pieces of plastic per square kilometre. And the flow in most Murray-Darling Basin rivers reached record low levels. It is in no way exaggerating to say that these facts paint a dire picture.
Of course, it is no surprise. It is incredibly disappointing, it is distressing, but it is really no surprise that the environment fared so badly under the Liberals and Nationals, in their decade of waste and denial, when you think of what they did. They got rid of any sort of climate laws we had in the country, failed to fix our broken environment laws, laughed about Australia’s Pacific island neighbours going under water—we all remember that comment—and failed to land a single one of their 22 different energy policies. They sabotaged the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. They promised $40 million for Indigenous water but never delivered a drop. They set recycling targets with no plan to actually deliver them. They voted against the safeguards mechanism, the policy that they previously championed—although that one came after we were in government, but still there is a pattern emerging here, isn’t there? They cut highly protected areas of marine parks in half. They cut billions from our environment department.
As I said, this record of really doing nothing, of in fact actively working to undermine our environment, actively enabling the type of damage that we have seen, has continued. There have been a number of bills before the parliament in the year since the election which have presented a number of opportunities that have been put to those opposite to acknowledge that their approach failed during their decade in office. But it continues to be clear, through their actions in this place and outside, that they have not learned anything. Regardless, our government will continue to do the important and necessary work on repairing nature in this country, on fixing our environment, on protecting the places that are so special and unique to this country and, of course, on addressing climate change.
In one year alone, our government has already taken important steps on our ambitious agenda for the environment and our goal of a nature-positive Australia, protecting more of what’s precious, repairing more of what’s damaged and managing nature better for the future. Our government is developing stronger laws to better protect nature, to give faster, clearer development decisions—and that’s a move that has been welcomed across the board. We are establishing a federal environment protection agency, a tough cop on the beat enforcing the stronger laws. I know there has been a lot of support for that move, in particular, in my community. We are working towards zero new extinctions, backed up by our $225 million investment to protect koalas and other threatened species. We are restoring our urban rivers and waterways. Again, this is one that is close to the heart of my local community. There are three projects in my local community that are benefiting from this work. There is $1.7 million for the Annulus Billabong in Yarra Flats Park, $150,000 for the Friends of Edendale in Eltham North and $500,000 for the Darebin Creek—all important urban waterways in Jagajaga. We know how important it is that we do the work to restore and protect those areas. We’re restoring mangroves, saltmarshes and seagrasses along our coast in Queensland, Tasmania and South Australia, through our Blue Carbon projects. We’re cracking down on plastic pollution, doing that work that was neglected for far too long. We’ve signed up to ambitious global targets and we’re giving plastic recycling a $60 million boost. We’re doubling the number of Indigenous rangers to help look after country, and that’s just a taste.
The Nature Repair Market Bill 2023 and the Nature Repair Market (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2023 add to the work our government is doing in so many areas to repair the environment. Once established, the nature repair market will be a world-leading voluntary market framework to support landholders in protecting and restoring nature. It will include a tradable biodiversity certificate, assurance and compliance arrangements, a public register, and a nationally consistent approach for measuring biodiversity outcomes. The market will help to mobilise private investment to protect, manage and restore Australia’s natural landscape. As I’ve already said, there are so many people in Australia—corporations and others—who want to be involved in this work. What they’ve been looking for is the mechanism to allow them to get involved to do their part to help conserve, protect and restore nature, and that is what this will do. It will enable the Clean Energy Regulator to issue Australian landholders with tradable biodiversity certificates for projects that protect, manage and restore nature. These certificates can then be sold to businesses, organisations, governments and individuals. There are a wide range of provisions to ensure the biodiversity certificates have integrity, so that people can invest with confidence.
All landholders, including First Nations peoples, conservation groups and farmers can participate in the market. Landholders can undertake projects that improve or protect existing habitat as well as projects to establish or restore habitat. These projects can be on land, in inland waterways, lakes or rivers, or in marine and coastal environments. Some examples of the type of work that might be undertaken through this are: improving or restoring existing native vegetation through fencing or weeding; planting a mix of local species in a previously cleared area; and protecting rare grasslands that provide habitat for endangered species. The bill includes provisions to ensure that nature projects are based on the best available science, because on this side of the House we listen to the science. We know that being guided by the science is the way to protect our environment, to tackle climate change, and to ensure a sustainable future not just for us but also for our children and their children, the work that good governments should do in this place. The provisions that ensure that include: an independent expert nature repair market committee; methodology determinations that set out the requirements for different types of projects, meet legislative biodiversity integrity standards and are endorsed by the repair nature market committee; a consistent way of measuring improvements in biodiversity, set out in an overarching biodiversity assessment instrument; requirements for biodiversity projects to be undertaken in line with the methodology determinations; tradable biodiversity certificates that are regulated to ensure they provide accurate information about projects; and a public register of projects and certificates.
Our government is making it easier for people to invest in the activities that help repair nature. We are incredibly fortunate in this country to live on a continent that includes such special, magical places. These are the places that are our heritage. They are the places that our First Nations people are offering to share with us—offering through the work that’s happening in this place today on the Voice—for us all to protect and look after as part of our history and ongoing future. When we have those places here, it behoves all of us to do everything we can to protect them and to make sure that we do the work now that means they will be there for future generations. That’s why this bill and the work our government has been doing more broadly to protect the environment and tackle climate change in this country are so important. It is why I am so proud to be a member of the Albanese Labor government. It is why members of my community come to me and say: ‘It is so important you do this work. I want you to do this work now for us, for our children. This country is worth protecting.’ We know we have to do the work now to make sure the environment is protected into the future. We do want to leave the environment across our country better off because that is better for all of us—it is better for those of us here today and it is better for our kids and our grandkids. We do want to work with communities right across the country to do this work. This bill will support landholders, farmers and First Nations communities to do those things that many of them are already doing off their own bat. This will provide the mechanism and the market to do the work and to have more people get involved, things like planting native species, repairing damaged riverbeds and removing invasive species. Beyond those just doing the work, we are making it easier for others in Australia to invest in that work. We are creating a market that will allow for people who do want to support this work to see how they can be involved through the market, a market that is, as I said, based on science and based on what is best for the environment. We are setting this up so that it is not only a scheme that works for the short-term or in special interests—in fact not for special interests—but also a scheme that is set up to protect our environment into the future and allow all of us to be part of making sure that our country’s environment is protected and that we do the work that’s necessary.