Senator slams idea of state controlled environmental laws

THE Labor chairman of a parliamentary committee examining the potential effects of a handover of federal environmental laws to the states has panned the idea.

Senator Doug Cameron spoke in the Senate on a Greens bill designed to retain the Commonwealth's control of environmental assessments.

An inquiry into the Greens bill chaired by Senator Cameron found this week there was no evidence to back the business lobby's case that commonwealth environmental laws were slowing approvals.

"We have not had one hard piece of evidence before this committee that says the federal government should change the EPBC Act," Senator Cameron said.

"There is a process already underway - this (bill) tries to pre-empt that process, because I want the minister to look at changes to the bill in the context of all the evidence."

But he also warned against handing federal approval powers to the states at all, and particularly through the Council of Australian Governments process.

It was through lobbying by various industries last year that the issue was put on the agenda at several COAG meetings, before Prime Minister Julia Gillard said in December it would not be considered.

But Mr Burke this week opened up the issue for further consideration, saying the government would have more to say on the issue.

Senator Cameron said on Thursday the COAG process was simply insufficient to deal with federal environmental issues, on the basis the changes were nearly passed last year, despite the lack of evidence.

He said he would also be talking to his Labor colleagues in an effort to ensure the handover would be taken off the agenda altogether.

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