Different human activities create hazardous and harmful effects on the environment. Governments in Australia and all over the world try to protect the environmental damage through the introduction of environment-related laws and regulations. Legislations passed may be directed to punish the corporate, business community, or the individuals who damage the environment. Nongovernmental organizations and public agencies work in partnership to conserve the environment and the natural habitat. In Australia, the State, Commonwealth, and the local governments introduce and administers legislation directed towards the protection of the environment.
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In Australia, the Commonwealth was established during the merger of the six colonies to become states of one new nation in 1901 (Dorweiler and Yakhou 2004). This merger created a federal government system where power is shared equally among the commonwealth government and the six states (Dorweiler and Yakhou 2004).
Environmental accounting is a field in accounting that offers reports for internal use by organizations. These reports produce environmental information that assists the organizational managers in making decisions relating to the prices, budgeting, and controlling expenditure. Environmental accounting also provides reports for the organizational external use by exposing the environmental information required by the entire public and the financial community. Reports for internal use are also referred to as environmental management accounting (Dorweiler and Yakhou 2004). Most of the time,
State governments monitor the appropriate environment. It is the obligation of the Commonwealth Government to pass laws if the matter of the environment’s condition and safety becomes of great national environmental importance or if it is a state responsibility.
To protect the environment and control pollution in Australia, most states and federal territories enact very similar laws and regulations. The government’s mandate is to enact legislation that guards the environment. Both governments establish and then pass legislation to become a law. These legislations are amended if necessary to keep them up to date. Everyone in Australia adheres to the laws strictly. The individuals, corporations, and business entities that break these laws are fined severely. Through these laws, the governments of the six states have mechanisms to oversee and protect the environment.
This paper discusses the introduction of environmental legislation in different economies. A special focus has been placed on entire Australia particularly the six states and the commonwealth government. The two approaches of the free market and pro-regulatory approaches are discussed in depth. The general environmental legislation is discussed in the first section followed by the environmental pollution laws in Australia. However, the introduction of environmental legislation in an economy poses several effects on the growth and development of the economy. These effects could be negative or positive. The writer supports the introduction of environmental-related laws in an economy as it contributes to the growth and development of the economy. The justifications provided are based on the environmental laws and Acts in the Australian governments of the commonwealth and the six states.
The laws and regulations relating to environmental and pollution control in Australia are formed and enforced in three different levels of the commonwealth, central government, and finally the decentralized local governments. The main establishment and administration of these regulations are done at the state level. Commonwealth may formulate laws that are above or at par with those set by the central government. Australian central government may formulate and pass legislation that supports those set by the commonwealth. This shows the state’s responsibility of adhering to international conventions, treaties, and/or policies. To narrow down to the environmental legislation in Australia, such laws are complex and are of great importance to both the commonwealth and the state.
In Australia, the departments of climate and energy formulate policies and laws relating to climate change. To strategize on the management of climate change, the sector is held liable for establishing and administering the 2007 National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Act. This legislation forms a national avenue for reporting and the passing of information to the citizens. The information to be disseminated includes those of the greenhouse gas emissions and the use of energy in Australia (Baker and Carter 2007).
In Australia, the system of governance is federal, which shares and delegates powers to the central state and the federal government. The federal government’s mandate is to make legislations on specific issues as well as establish the shared powers between the two sets of governments. The central state, on the other hand, is responsible for making laws on the general issues not assigned particularly to the central government. However, federal laws are universal and stand above all the other laws in Australia.
Several environmental laws are administered in Australia ranging from the basic laws and the related laws at the federal, state, and local governments. These legislations address the issues of climate change (Baker and Carter 2007),
Environmental pollution laws in Australia
The historical development of pollution laws in Australia dates back to the colonial era. At this time, pollution control was done at a slower pace because the citizens placed lower emphasis on the need to have an unpolluted environment. The first environmental legislation was administered in the nineteenth century. This legislation was meant to enhance the utilization of natural resources and not the protection of the environment.
When the focus was shifted to pollution control, the area of public health was aimed especially the prevention of water-borne diseases. With the increase in pollution and the growth of industrialization sectors, the number of pollution-related laws increased. There was no relevant legislation to control pollution until the 1950s. Unregulated industrialization in Sydney led to the establishment of the Clean Waters Act of 1970 due to the waterways that were polluted by factory waste.
In the past, pollution control was seen as the responsibility and role of the public health sectors and the affiliated utilities. The penalty to be imposed on the person who breaks the environmental law was lenient until the 1980s when the fine imposed for breaking the Clean Air Act of 1961 and the Clean Waters Act of 1970 was increased to $10 000. This law was amended in 1981 to differentiate the penalties for the corporate from those of the natural persons, by which the penalties for corporate are much higher than those of the natural person.
In the late 1980s, the Australian government made considerable changes to the environmental offenses and the penalties to be imposed. These changes came with the establishment of the Environmental Offences and Penalties Act of 1989 of South Wales. The main purpose of this Act was to provide a tough penalty for pollution offenses. The penalty to be imposed was raised to a maximum value of $1m in the case of a corporation. For the natural person, the Act stipulates that pollution offenses will attract a fine of a maximum value of $150 000 and/or imprisonment for a jail term of seven years (Norbery 2007).
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Between the late 1980s and the early 1990s, the Australian government established several laws on pollution. Among the legislation enacted in the late 1980s included, the Environment Protection Act of 1986 formed in Western Australia and the Act stated above. In the 1990s, Australia established the Protection of the Environment Administration Act of 1991 enacted in New South Wales, the Environment Protection Act of 1993 enacted in South Australia, the Environment Protection Act of 1994 formed in Queensland, and the Environmental Management and Pollution Control Act of 1994 enacted in Tasmania (Comino and Leadbeter 2006).
The Australian government proposed and passed a bill on July 1, 2012, to increase the price of carbon to twenty-three US dollars per tonne. The commonwealth treasury devised several models to control the price of carbon and maintain it at par to avoid mistreatment of the consumers by cartels. Despite such models by the Commonwealth Treasury, there is evidence that the carbon tax in Australia will pose an economic impact on the country. However, the mode of distribution of the tax burden was unfair in the sense that the households with low income carried a higher tax burden than the high-income households (McNeill, Meng, and Siriwardana 2011).
Taxes on emissions are levied based on the unit of pollution emitted and the person, business or corporate causing pollution takes into account the external costs of all the emissions. The emissions tax states that the person causing pollution will halt the emissions to a point where any additional cost per unit of pollution is the same as tax (Baumol and Oates 2010).
The National Pollutants Inventory (NPI) is a collection of databases of air, land, and water emissions that can be accessed publicly. Such emissions are from the ninety-three substances and wastes from industrial actions and the emissions from the diffuse sources. NPI aims at assisting the industry and the state with environmental planning, pollution control, and environmental management. It also provides updated information of the emissions and wastes transfers from the industrial actions to the public, minimizes waste, ensures cleaner production, and resource efficiency (Commonwealth of Australia 2012).
The National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting (NGER) was established in 2007 by the Howard government. The purpose of this legislation is the provision of accounting data. The data to be provided should be in line with the greenhouse gas emissions, energy use, and production. The scheme controls the carbon prices as well as directs the policy formulation and informs the Australian inhabitants. It also ensured that the international reporting responsibilities are adhered to by the Australian government and unified the framework for national energy and emissions reporting Australia’s Department of Climate Change and energy efficiency administers this scheme. The department achieves its aim through the environmental legislation that supports carbon price control mechanisms as well as educating the policy formulators and the entire Australian public.
NGER established an overall national standard for reporting and passing information relating to the greenhouse gas emissions, projects, energy consumption, and output values of corporations and governments. The legislation states that the Act is meant to disseminate the government policy, standards, and laws to the Australian public. It also ensures that Australians adhere to the international reporting responsibilities. The act also helps Commonwealth, state, and local government programs and activities by avoiding the duplication of obligations (Baker and Carter 2006).
These pollution laws in Australia are founded based on four principles. The first principle is Pollution Prevention; the pollution laws, policies, and regulations target the elimination or reduction of polluting products (Comino and Leadbeter 2006). To achieve this goal effectively, other pollution principles should focus on pollution strategies. The second principle is the principle of Integrating Pollution Control. This principle considers the effects of pollution across the air, land, and water. The third principle is the Precautionary Principle. The fourth principle is the optimization of the regulatory mix – this principle attempts to find the optimality in the approaches of pollution prevention and control as well as the market-oriented approaches (Comino and Leadbeter 2006).
A free-market approach to regulation
The free market valuation of the resources helps in determining the real value of environmental safety only if the environmental legislations are administered. Environmental laws and policies encourage the preservation and conservation of environmental resources. This is achieved when the players in the free market establish the actual value of preservation or when the pollution value of the resources is below the non-polluted resources. This implies that the government should allow the free market valuation of the resources by the participants to establish the economically efficient level of pollution (Kyle 1992).
Every organization has financial statements and reports and thus they have accounting information. This information is just like any other product of the business and therefore obeys the laws of demand and supply. Organizations therefore should provide the accounting information to the consumers as per their demand. They must provide the required information at the required levels even without any governing regulation (Deegan 2009).
Regulatory measures and approaches are costly therefore, rather than adopting an expensive approach to climate change management, the cheaper free-market approaches should be adopted in suppressing the rate of energy use and economic development. Policy formulators should try to avoid government involvement in the marketplace, which prevents emission reductions and discourage the use of lower-emission technologies. This approach known as the no-regrets strategy offers both economic and environmental benefits through the encouragement of innovation, inventions, and economic efficiency (Adler 2000).
Pro-regulatory approach to regulation
It is necessary to have regulations or laws to protect the interests of the citizens in every society. Without the regulation, companies and other organizations may decide not to reveal the appropriate accounting information. Companies need to know that the public has a right to access accounting information since it is a public good. They, therefore, spend a lot of money in ensuring that the appropriate accounting information is relayed to the public in form of financial reports (Deegan 2009).
Regulation leads to the mass production of free goods. Regulation, therefore, provides an estimate of the level of accounting information to be provided by the companies to meet the requirements of the public. In the past few decades, there has been a move from the command and control regulatory approach of pollution control, in which legislation clearly states the dos and don’ts to a model by which the enforcers emphasize the outcomes of the law to the environment (Comino and Leadbeter 2006).
The free-market approach ensures equitable distribution of the benefits among all the market players while the regulatory model on the other hand distributes the benefits unequally by directing excess benefits to some parties at the expense of other parties. In most of the free markets, there are little or no transaction costs and thus no party exchanges a valuable resource for another resource of value less than the original one. In this model, one party must perceive that the good of the other party is more valuable for it to be an exchange transaction. For instance, a motor vehicle company will buy land from an individual if the buying price is below the best alternative available. The seller, on the other hand, will engage in the transaction only if the motor vehicle company will buy the land at a value above his valuation and expectation of the land. An exchange transaction will occur only if the two parties agree and both of them will benefit (Kyle 1992).
Potential effects of the introduction of environmental legislation
The first effect is on the business activities. The environmental legislation in Australia affects Australian businesses. These businesses have a role to play in environmental conservation. The effects that environmental legislation has on businesses depend entirely on the nature of the business activities one engages in. Commonwealth, central, and the local governments establish and enforce the environmental protection legislations together by way of an agreement. Business people need to understand the specific legislations that apply to them. For instance, The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) law evaluate and approves the stages of the concerns of the national environment and culture. This legislation is established by the environment, heritage, and water sector in Australia (Australian Business Website 2011).
This sector also establishes and maintains laws relating to the activities of the sea, culture and heritage, waste management, fuel, and the importation of goods and services. Central government environmental legislation is established by the state and the local government and they touch on the specific business activities through the licenses and permits (Australian Business Website 2011).
The second effect of environmental legislation is on the economic growth of the nation. Research shows that environmental controls reduce the economy of the country and derail economic competitiveness. Economists believe that the recession experienced in the 1990s was due to the environmental legislation and that the economy will grow only if such controls are loosened, however, environmental deregulation is relatively expensive because of the effort of having purified water, air, and land will be reduced or eliminated at all. Because of this wildlife, forests and ecosystems will be endangered nationwide (Meyer 2001)
The third positive effect of introducing environmental legislation is the protection of the unique natural heritage. The federal environmental laws of Australia protect the natural heritage from depletion. The national environment laws, for example, protect Australia’s unique iconic landscapes. The landscapes include the coral reefs in the tropical regions and mountains covered by snow. If not regulated, such unique landscapes will be destroyed. The Great Keppel Island forms the unique heritage listed in the world. The Queensland government of Australia passed a law that led to the establishment of a massive resort in 2009. This resort had three hundred apartments, a shopping mall, a golf center, and a sports field. However, the Federal government disapproved of this following the national environmental law. They argued that the resort would affect negatively the national heritage site (Ingwersen 2008).
The fourth positive effect of the introduction of environmental legislation concerns the protection of environments from the emission of harmful pollutants and the dumping of dangerous wastes to the consumers. Environmental legislations prevent the dumping of wastes into the seawater and the emission of harmful pollutants into the air. Wastes that are harmful to health include oil, sewage wastes, and other garbage. Dumping involves the release of wastes to the water either from the routine incidental operations to the accidental causes (Bricknell 2010).
The carbon tax legislation in Australia of twenty-three dollars per tonne reduces the carbon dioxide emissions to the air that causes pollution. This legislation allows the Australian government to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. The research finding shows that the Carbon dioxide emissions reduced by approximately twelve percent during the first year of the legislation operation (McNeill, Meng and Siriwardana 2011).
Negative effects of the introduction of the environmental legislations
By establishing and administering the environmental legislation, the government makes many problems instead of solving them. When the free market is regulated by the state, they tend to cause other problems. Research shows that in an attempt by the government to solve a problem, they often worsen the problem. For instance, the federal policy of subsidizing fossil fuels results in more environmental pollution through carbon emissions. This will finally lead to climate change, which could adversely affect human beings (Harbin 2011).
The second negative effect of the introduction of carbon tax legislation in Australia is the economic crisis and the increase in the living standards of people. Research shows fabulous findings on the effects of the Carbon tax in Australia of twenty-three dollars per ton. For instance, the legislation will influence Australia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by reducing it to 0.68 percent, increasing the prices of essential goods and services by 0.75 percent. Another effect of the carbon tax legislation is the increase in the price of electricity by approximately twenty-six percent (McNeill, Meng, and Siriwardana 2011).
The third negative effect of the introduction of environmental legislation is the increased cost of manufacturing. Restrictions of the pollution emissions cause increased economic costs of environmental regulations. Such environmental regulations include the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. Research shows that the more strict environmental legislations are the higher the polluting firm’s production costs. This weakens the country’s firm position internationally and increases the price of essential goods and services. The establishment and enactment of the environmental policy reduce the country’s manufacturing employment tremendously. Strict environmental regulations enhance the growth in productivity of the firms through the firms’ rationalization of operations (Greenstone 2012).
In Australia, a controversial bill was passed in 2010 that lead to sidelining of the aboriginals and the marginalized societal groups. The bill proposed the dumping of harmful radioactive material to the remote aboriginals. The Australian government enacted the bill, which creates the nuclear waste dump regardless of the court petitions filed by the aboriginals and the environmentalists. The bill passed by the senate namely the National Radioactive Waste Management Bill leads to the development of the plan to dump nuclear wastes in a station occupied by the Aboriginal community in the drylands of Australia’s Northern territory. The government supported by the coalition opposition passed the bill and assented it into law despite the court proceedings trying to stop the dumping of the radioactive materials at the proposed site. Today, Australia dumps its nuclear wastes from the industries in over one hundred temporary stations in the learning institutions, hospitals, laboratories, and other proposed sites (Milman 2012)
Justifications as to why the environmental legislation should be introduced
The writer fully supports the introduction of environmental legislation in every economy to support its growth and development. Environmental accounting poses the greatest impact on business activity. The environmental impacts to the economic growth and development exist in different forms including the transmission media for example air and water pollution. The targeted areas of pollution that can affect the health of beings include the drinking water as well as encroached land and habitat for endangered species of animals and plants. Other areas that can be polluted include global sites such as the seas, oceans, atmosphere, and land surface. Several pollutants for instance toxic and hazardous actions may affect business activities. These environmental impacts pose a need to analyze the effects and incorporated them into the management decisions and accounting reporting.
Based on the following Australian regions, the writer supports the idea that environmental legislation should be introduced to protect the environment and hence the growth and development of the economy.
In the Australian Capital Territory, the Environment Protection Act and the Land Act were passed in 1997 and 1991 respectively. The two laws protect the environment by controlling air, land, and water pollution. The law also controls waste storage, collection, transportation, and treatment. The government fines any business entity found polluting the environment. This shows that the introduction of environmental legislation leads to a non-polluted environment that guarantees the health and safety of human beings. A healthy nation can grow and develop easily. In the same territory also, the Nature Conservation Act was passed in 1980 to preserve wildlife and nature (Norberry 2007). The introduction of such laws leads to the protection of the life of the animals and plants to avoid extinction. These act as tourists attraction sites, which brings a lot of revenue to the government (William 2012).
In New South Wales of Australia, the government passed the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act in 1979, which stipulates that the individual and the business fraternity should properly manage the conservation and preservation of the natural resources for example land, forests, water bodies, towns, and the settlement schemes. This means that environmental legislation should be introduced that protects the natural resources from destruction by human beings. This preserves the natural heritage like forests, which attract rain. A natural environment guarantees fresh air. On the same territory, several environment-related legislation was introduced that prevent the extinction of the species and safeguard their habitats; such Acts include the Fisheries Management Act of 1994, The Marine pollution Act of 1987 among others (William 2012). The introduction of such legislation ensures that the endangered species of animals and plants are protected against malicious destruction (William 2012).
Queensland in Australia was the first state government to enact and administer environment-related legislation and planning laws (William 2012). Today, Queensland uses The Environment Protection Act enacted in 1994 together with the Nature Conservation Act passed into law in 1992 that protects the environment (William 2012). The writer concludes by stating that the introduction of legislation that protects the environment and the ones that conserve nature is healthy for the growth and development of the country’s economy.
South Australia has the Environment Protection Act passed into law in 1993 and the Native Vegetation Act passed into law in 1991. The Native Vegetation Act controls the clearing and damage of the native vegetation. To conclude this is that, governments need to introduce legislation controlling the clearing of the native vegetation because such vegetations attract rain and guarantee agricultural produce. In the same government, the Water Resources Act was enacted in 1997 to manage and protect the government’s water resources. Water is life and is used in all spears of life. The Wilderness Protection Act enacted in 1992 by the South Australian government brings back the original state of land (William 2012).
In Tasmania, the Environmental Management and Pollution Control Act was enacted in1994 to provide for the “environmental management and the eradication of pollution” (William 2012). Another Act was enacted into law in 1987 that tries to control water pollution by the oil and the harmful noxious substances (William 2012). The writer supports the introduction of such laws so that the water for human consumption remains fit for human beings. This will reduce attacks by the water-borne diseases that are sometimes regarded as killer diseases in most parts of the world.
Victoria is another region in Australia that has enacted environment-related legislation just like the other Australian States. The Environment, Protection, and Planning Acts of 1978 protect the land in Victoria. Victoria also passed the Wildlife Act in 1975 and the National Parks Act in the same year to protect the National Parks and the game reserves. It is, therefore, necessary to protect the National Parks since they act as homes for different plants and animals that attract tourists to the nation as well as protecting the natural heritage of the country.
Western Australia states passed the Environmental Protection Act in 1986 and another Act in 1945 that guards the soil and the land against erosion and salinity (William 2012). It is, therefore, necessary to introduce environment-related laws that protect soil erosion because soils are used for agricultural purposes and soil erosion leads to a massive reduction of agricultural produce (William 2012).
From the environmental legislation enacted and administered in Australia’s Commonwealth, State and territory governments, the writer concludes that it is necessary to introduce environmental-related regulations and those related to climate change in every economy. Such legislations have both negative and positive effects on an individual, business, or corporation. However, the positive effects outweigh the negative effects and that is why it is necessary to introduce such legislation. In any organization, the public has the right to access the financial reports as they are regarded as public goods.
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