Chris Murphy

Chris Murphy

Abstract | How bureaucratic structure influenced the assessment of transport infrastructure under the EPBC Act from 2006 to 2008

The conventional wisdom of environmental impact assessment is that the environmental outcomes that result from the assessment processes are primarily determined by the statutory or legal frameworks under which projects are assessed. (I call this the ‘legal paradigm’).

However, the reality is that a range of non-legal institutions – both within Government bureaucracies and external to them – are the primary drivers of environmental impact assessments.

Between 2006 and 2008, a small group of bureaucrats had the responsibility of managing the assessment of all transport infrastructure projects that triggered the EPBC Act around Australia.

As a result of the bureaucratic specialisation into the assessment of transport infrastructure across Sate and Territory jurisdictions, we acquired an insight into the different cultures of road Departments in planning transport infrastructure. It also gave us an insight into the deficiencies of managing environmental impact assessments when each project is managed as an end in itself.

A key outcome of taking a more holistic view of the impacts of transport infrastructure projects, was the publication of the document ‘Review of mitigation measures used to deal with the issues of habitat fragmentation’ in 2009.

That document reviewed the literature on the mitigation of impacts of transport infrastructure projects with the aim of getting a better understanding of how proponents, consultants and bureaucrats can better manage impacts. And we were also able to take the lessons learned from the assessment of the impacts of a road project in one jurisdiction to other jurisdictions.

Bio | Chris Murphy

Educational Qualifications Bachelor of Science from Murdoch University (WA). Experience in environmental matters I have administered the assessment of a wide range projects between 1995 to 2017, with officers from all states and territories, applying their respective legislation. Those proposals include LNG facilities, mines, powerlines, pipelines, wind-farms, roads, military exercises, airport runways, historic heritage, aquaculture facilities, urban developments, forestry and dams. Relevant positions within the Australian Environment Department 1995 to 2000 – Assessed offshore oil and gas proposals under the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act. 2000 to September 2005 – Worked on approval conditions and audits of projects under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC Act). October 2005 to June 2011 – Director of different Assessment Sections responsible for the assessment of a range of projects, including housing, linear infrastructure, and projects on Commonwealth land and Australian Territories under the EPBC Act. July 2011 to June 2012 – Director of the Tasmanian Forests Taskforce. Managed the process of negotiations between the forestry industry and conservation groups through an expert independent panel. October 2012 to April 2017 – Director of different Assessment Sections responsible for the assessment of coal mines and port infrastructure in Queensland under the EPBC Act.