CCWA response to EPA review

CCWA Director Piers Verstegen has outlined what must occur to restore confidence in the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) following the Roe8 debacle, and called for WA Environment Minister Albert Jacob to resign if he is not prepared to tackle these issues including his own own role in the whole mess.

Predictably, Minister Jacob has responded to the court decision overturning the EPA approval for Roe8 by announcing his own review of the EPA.

This is a classic defensive response by a Minister who is deeply complicit, and to a large degree directly responsible for the circumstances that have given rise to this crisis of confidence in the EPA.

Any review of the EPA must also consider the ongoing management and manipulation of the EPA by successive environment ministers under the Barnett Government, including stacking the EPA board with industry and political allies and installing yes-men who make an art of bending the rules to the most senior public service positions servicing the EPA.

It is extremely unlikely that any review commissioned by Minister Jacob will investigate these issues - and it must or it will never get to the core of the problem.

A truly independent review is required. It must take and consider evidence from the public. It must report publicly. It must be done in a way that is not subject to political influence or manipulation by Minister Jacob or any other person associated with the government that created this mess.

Minister Jacob's attempt to paper over the issue with a 'mickey-mouse' review (in the same way they papered over conflicts of interest affecting numerous projects with 'retrospective validation' legislation) will simply make the problem worse.

If the Minister and Premier are genuine about restoring confidence in the EPA then they must at the very least cause the following to occur:

1) A thorough, genuinely independent review of the EPA that examines not only the EPA itself but the management and manipulation of the EPA (including key appointments) by Ministers under the Barnett government. This must take public hearings and report to Parliament.

2) The review must explicitly include a detailed examination of a number of controversial EIA processes in recent years including uranium mines, gas fracking, LNG processing facilities, native forest logging plans, marinas and others. Each assessment process must be compared against the EPA's policies and the Environmental Protection Act in WA. We know that the same issues uncovered in the Roe8 case apply to many other projects and this must be made public so the community can see the extent of the rot and which projects and industries are now implicated.

3) The Minister must immediately spill any of the existing EPA board members who have conflicts of interest or who do not meet the requirements of the EP Act for board members - genuine expertise regarding the environment.

4) Immediately move to sack the head of the Office of the EPA, Kim Taylor. His toxic influence over environmental assessment on this state must come to an end now. I'm confident that the above investigation will reveal that he had a major role in the Roe8 debacle and will also uncover numerous other examples of his preparedness to bend rules, policies and science to give the government the answers it wants at the expense of the environment. There can be no confidence in the EPA with him in this role.

If Minister Jacob is not prepared to do the above as an absolute minimum then he should resign immediately as he will be continuing to allow the degradation of his own office and that of the States badly broken environmental agency.