Response to ANAO report on EPBC Act controlled actions

25 June 2020

The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) has recently undertaken an audit of referrals, assessments and approvals of controlled actions under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).

The ANAO audit report, including the department’s response, was tabled in parliament on 25 June 2020.

We welcome the findings and agree to implement all recommendations to improve our efficiency and effectiveness in administering the EPBC Act.

The department is a robust regulator with policies in place to ensure consistency in decision making, compliance and administration of decisions under the EPBC Act.

As an organisation, we are committed to the continuous improvement of our processes and procedures. The department has already made significant progress to improve our performance which addresses the core findings of the audit.

As a result of the Australian Government’s $25 million investment to reduce unnecessary delays in environmental assessments and approvals, the department is now meeting statutory timeframes in 87 per cent of cases, an improvement on 19 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2019.

This work is complemented by clearing the backlog of overdue project assessments, which has reduced by 43 per cent since December 2019.

The department, business and communities have known for some time that the EPBC Act is complex and cumbersome to administer. This is reflected in the audit findings and those of previous audits.

The current independent statutory review of the EPBC Act will provide a basis for legislative reform to streamline environmental regulation and maintain standards of protection, while providing improvements for industry, taxpayers and the environment.

By accepting the recommendations of this report, we are agreeing to build upon the expertise already in place to underpin our work into the future.

The Audit report titled Referrals, assessments and approvals of controlled actions under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 is available on the ANAO website and the department’s response is available on our website at Department response to ANAO Performance Audit: Referrals, Assessments and Approvals of Controlled Actions under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.