University of Tasmania
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A law unto themselves? Australian regulation of forestry operations

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posted on 2023-05-27, 15:34 authored by Thomas Baxter
This thesis critically examines federal environmental regulation of Australian forestry operations, particularly the effective exclusion of forestry operations in regional forest agreement [RFA] regions from Australia's omnibus environmental statute, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth) [EPBC Act]. The thesis tests the official rationale for this exclusionary policy, termed 'RFA exceptionalism', and where it leaves Australia's compliance with key international environmental treaty obligations. Australia's federal and State Governments and industry have asserted that RFAs (governed by the Regional Forest Agreement Act 2002 (Cth)) provide equivalent environmental protection to that of the EPBC Act. Therefore, they say, forestry operations undertaken in RFA regions do not require assessment under the EPBC Act. This thesis tests this justification for RFA exceptionalism, a policy embedded in both the EPBC Act and RFA Act. In particular, it assesses the Tasmanian RFA's legal protection against two key objects of the EPBC Act (with equivalent goals in Australia's National Forest Policy Statement 1992), to: ‚Äö 'provide for the protection of the environment, especially matters of national environmental significance'; and ‚Äö 'assist in the co-operative implementation of Australia's international environmental responsibilities'. The schemes of the EPBC Act (applicable to all other industries which significantly impact matters of national environmental significance) and RFA Act are examined in Chapters 2 and 3 respectively. Research questions and hypotheses are then developed to test the Tasmanian RFA against the above two statutory aims.


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