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It is reckless for the Commonwealth Government to hand over more responsibility for environmental protection to the States. As Bruce discussed, time and time again we have seen that the States simply do not have the resources and institutional capacity to administer their own laws, let alone those of the Commonwealth. This has been exacerbated by recent budget cuts which have seen State environment departments around the country stripped bare.

And it’s not just ‘the vibe’. State Auditor-General's reports across the country have reported on the gross failure of State Governments to fulfil their existing statutory obligations within current biodiversity budgets and staff numbers.

In Victoria, the Auditor-General’s 2009 report found that fewer than half of the 653 threatened species and communities and threatening processes listed under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 have had their conservation and management set out in an Action Statement, despite a clear obligation to do so.The Auditor-General estimated that at the current rate of progress, within existing resources, it will take a further 22 years (until 2031) for the Department of Sustainability and Environment to complete Action Statements for the items currently listed (assuming no additional listings beyond 2008). The Department has made little progress since the report, with EDO’s recent report finding that, three years on, it still remains that less than half of the now 675 threatened species and communities and processes listed have associated Action Statements.

In Tasmania, the Auditor-General found that as at mid 2008, only 18 per cent of the 674 species listed as threatened had a complete Listing Statement, and Recovery Plans had only been prepared for 20 per cent of these species.

In Queensland, the Auditor-General found that in 2010 only 17 per cent of State’s 576 protected areas requiring park management plans had them in place.  This figure was still at 17 per cent in June this year.

State Government’s should be focussing on finding resources to ‘catch up’ on their existing obligations, not trying to carve out capacity to take on Commonwealth powers and look after the most important and precious of Australia’s environmental assets.

Read more about the COAG attack on environmental laws.