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A Law Unto Themselves? Australian Regulation of Forestry Operations


Baxter, TI, A Law Unto Themselves? Australian Regulation of Forestry Operations (2014) [PhD]


This thesis critically examines federal environmental regulation of Australian forestry, particularly the exclusion of forestry operations in regional forest agreement [RFA] regions from Australia’s omnibus Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth) [EPBC Act]. The thesis tests: governments’ official rationale for this exclusionary policy (which it terms ‘RFA exceptionalism’); and where it leaves Australian compliance with key international environmental treaty obligations. Australia’s federal and State governments and industry assert that RFAs (governed by the Regional Forest Agreement Act 2002 (Cth)) provide equivalent environmental protection to the EPBC Act. Therefore, they say, forestry operations in RFA regions do not require EPBC Act assessment. The thesis tests this justification for RFA exceptionalism by doctrinal analysis and case studies. In particular, it assesses the Tasmanian RFA against two key objects of the EPBC Act ss 3(1)(a), (e), to: • ‘provide for the protection of the environment, especially … matters of national environmental significance’; and • ‘assist in the co-operative implementation of Australia’s international environmental responsibilities’. The thesis proves that RFAs do not provide equivalent protection to the EPBC Act. Hence, that claimed justification for excluding RFA forestry operations from the EPBC Act is a false premise. Moreover, the Australian Government has, through the RFA regime: • left forestry regulation to the States; and • thereby, abdicated its responsibility to ensure Australia fulfils its international obligations. Federal environmental regulation of Australian forestry appears a case of ‘systemic capture’. Law reform is therefore recommended to repeal RFA exceptionalism, in order to promote a level playing field and fulfilment of Australia’s treaty obligations.

Item Details

Item Type:PhD
Research Division:Law and Legal Studies
Research Group:Environmental and resources law
Research Field:Environmental law
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Other environmental management
Objective Field:Other environmental management not elsewhere classified
UTAS Author:Baxter, TI (Dr Tom Baxter)
ID Code:97829
Year Published:2014
Deposited By:TSBE
Deposited On:2015-01-14
Last Modified:2015-01-19

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