Teal independent MPs have accused the Greens of “incredibly short-sighted” opposition to Labor’s proposed nature repair market, urging them to improve rather than stall or block the bill.
The members for North Sydney, Kylea Tink, and Wentworth, Allegra Spender, have suggested the Greens are “cutting off their nose to spite their face” and “blocking things that are important because they don’t get everything they want”.
The crossbench has negotiated amendments that have been approved by the environment minister, Tanya Plibersek.
The bill passed the House of Representatives on Wednesday evening, with Labor, Helen Haines, Spender, Tink, Zali Steggall, Sophie Scamps, Kate Chaney and Monique Ryan in favour. It was opposed at the second reading stage by the Coalition, Greens and Zoe Daniel.
The proposed legislation establishes a scheme to incentivise investment in nature restoration by creating tradable certificates for projects that protect and restore biodiversity.
In March, the Coalition party room resolved to support the bill in principle because it had proposed the same scheme in government. But in June it backflipped, meaning in the Senate the Albanese government will need to pass the bill with the 11 votes of the Greens, who regard it as “irreparable”.
The bill is supported by the National Farmers’ Federation, the Northern Land Council, Farmers for Climate Action and Landcare but is not widely supported by environment groups, due to concerns that the scheme as proposed could be used to offset habitat destruction caused by other developments.
Spender’s amendment attempts to address this by allowing landholders to specify if the certificates created protecting nature on their land are able to be used for offsets or not.
Spender told Guardian Australia the purpose of the bill is “positive nature repair … not primarily offsets”. “People doing this are doing it because they’re committed to nature, that’s why this [amendment] is really important.”
“People can specify ‘I’m trying to invest to improve nature, not to offset’. This gives clarity to investors, and landholders to make that investment with certainty.”
Spender said it “beggars belief” that the Coalition is standing in the way of a scheme “that can benefit farmers and rural communities”.
“When it comes to the Greens, obviously the scale of the environmental challenge is massive, but it is up to the Greens to make it better, not to stand in the way.
“People are out there giving nature credits now, with no oversight on those – it’s a huge opportunity for greenwashing, this really reduces that opportunity.
“It’s not perfect … But the Greens have got to stop blocking things that are important because they don’t get everything they want.”
Tink’s amendment increases the transparency and accountability of the scheme by requiring activity reports of the regulator and annual reports about the purchases of biodiversity certificates to be tabled in parliament.
Tink said the crossbench had sought to improve the legislation “rather than take an ‘it’s our way or the highway’ approach that doesn’t benefit anybody”.
“The government is never going to be able to spend enough money to fix this problem.
“The only way to make a significant impact is by getting all of society engaged in pursuing solutions. Part of that is private philanthropy and corporate money into the problem, dedicated to fixing it.”
Tink said the market for environmental improvements will be supported by philanthropists and businesses because “that’s what shareholders and customers expect, and what international trade conditions require”.
“It’s good for their business to invest, not just to pay for a sin that they may have done somewhere else.”
Tink said the Coalition’s backflip was “completely nonsensical”, because the bill was “two-thirds exactly what they” had proposed in government.
Tink said the Greens current opposition is “incredibly short-sighted”, likening it to an approach of “cutting off their nose off to spite their face”.
Plibersek said the government had agreed to some amendments from Tink, Spender, Zoe Daniel, Zali Steggall, and Kate Chaney.
Those include Spender’s amendment on offsets, Tink’s on transparency, expanding statutory reviews to include the performance of the regulator and clarifying the objects of the bill to include our goal of zero new extinctions.
“It’s been great to work constructively with independents on the crossbench to encourage greater investment in nature repair,” she said. “I look forward to the bill being voted on in the House.”
The Greens environment spokesperson, Sarah Hanson-Young, said that “Green Wall Street is not what nature needs”.
“The free market will not save our koalas.
“An environment plan that doesn’t stop logging and stop pollution is not a real plan for the environment.”