Australia’s key piece of national environmental law – the Environment Protection & Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) – is currently under review. The Act must be reviewed every 10 years and this review commenced on 29 October 2019.

A website (1) has been established to keep the public informed about the review. Professor Graeme Samuel AC has been appointed as the independent reviewer. An expert panel will support, and provide advice to, Professor Samuel on specific issues.

Over 12 months, the review will look at how the EPBC Act has been operating and any changes needed ensure it meets its objectives.

A discussion paper (2) has been released for public comment by 17 April 2020 (this date was extended in response to the bushfires catastrophe.) The discussion paper is intended to guide initial community feedback via 26 questions. However, there is also an opportunity for the community to comment more broadly on matters relevant to the terms of reference via the review website.(3) A draft report is expected by June 2020 and a final report by October 2020.

The Environmental Defenders Office will be making a detailed submission in response to the discussion paper. Our detailed submission will draw extensively on previous work undertaken by our law reform team in collaboration with Humane Society International. That work resulted in a report called ‘Next Generation Biodiversity Laws: Best practice elements for a new Environment Act’.(4) That report recommends the EPBC Act be replaced by a new Commonwealth Environment Act. The report’s vision for new biodiversity laws could also be achieved through substantial amendments to the EPBC Act, for the purpose of this review.

In the meantime, our community guide outlines how the Act can be improved to better implement our vision for next generation biodiversity laws. It is intended to be used by members of the community to help inform responses to the 26 questions in the discussion paper. If you agree with our ideas, you are welcome to adopt them in your own submissions. You should not feel obliged to answer all of the questions in the discussion paper.

We have grouped some of the questions from the discussion paper together where appropriate and there is a glossary at the end of this paper to explain highlighted terms that are used throughout.

Our full submission will contain significantly more detail than this document and will be available on our website ahead of the submission deadline. We will also be publishing more national law reform ideas in the coming months.

For more information visit our EPBC Act Review page:


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