Originally published in Crikey on March 20, 2013

Although the new water trigger law, recently introduced by the Government was cheered by the rural independents, Greens and environmental groups, the proposal is illogical, runs counter to existing policy structures and is unlikely to improve environmental outcomes. The government has unilaterally introduced this water trigger in breach of the 1997 Council of Australian Governments agreement that stated the Commonwealth would handle environmental matters that transcend state interest and are of national significance. By abandoning the rationale for designating matters of national environmental significance, the government has reopened the can of worms on where the legitimate boundary of Commonwealth involvement in environmental regulation lies. Also, by confining the operation of the water trigger to CSG projects and large coal mines, the government has created a trigger that runs counter to the design philosophy behind the EPBC, which regulates projects on the basis of their impacts (irrespective of what type of project they are).

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