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Tom Arup. April 26, 2011

THE government will wait at least two years until it responds to a comprehensive review recommending a shake-up of national environment laws.

The two-year wait has been questioned by the review’s spearhead, Allan Hawke, who calls the decision ”curious”.

Under the laws the federal environment minister can approve or reject major industrial projects such as pulp mills and mines based on their impact on endangered species and other threatened environment.

The Hawke Review recommended the laws be significantly strengthened to give them greater environmental teeth while making them easier for business to navigate. The report was first delivered to then environment minister Peter Garrett in October 2009.

But current Environment Minister Tony Burke said the government did not expect to legislate any changes to the laws – known as the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act – until 2012.

”I’ve made it clear now is the time to be discussing the full range of options on how to improve our national environmental law, both to better protect the environment and cut red tape for businesses,” Mr Burke said.

”These are complex reforms and I want to take time to talk them through in detail with community, industry and business groups.”

Dr Hawke, formerly secretary of the Defence Department and chancellor of ANU, said: ”It is curious the government will take longer to respond to the review than it took a team of experts to investigate and write it.”

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