Environmental crime in Australia
Australian Institute of Criminology
Environmental crime encompasses a wide range of activities and behaviours that produce environmental harm. These activities range from careless behaviour to those of a more deliberate nature. The first true environmental laws were not enacted in Australia until the 1970s and in the 40 years since then, a plethora of statutes have been introduced to proscribe behaviours deemed harmful to the environment. These laws restrict polluting and waste disposal practices, ban the trade in, and exploitation of, protected faunal (animal) and floral (plant) species, regulate recreational and commercial fishing, prohibit unauthorised clearance of native vegetation, promote sustainable forestry and circumvent illegal logging and reverse past practices of water overuse.
In recent years, the work of a number of Australian scholars has contributed to filling in these research gaps. This report adds to this small but growing collection by providing a comprehensive overview of environmental crime as it is perpetrated, detected and dealt with in Australia. Employing a stocktake of existing literature, the report summarises for the first time what is known about the current status of different typologies of environmental crime and the international, national and state/territory controls in place to deter harmful practices. The report also highlights the difficulties in monitoring and detecting environmental crimes and describes to what extent penalties are meted out (and to what effect). The variability in information gathered means that the report cannot estimate which of the environmental crimes are most commonly committed, nor the accumulated harms these crimes produce. It does, however, present commentary on, and can be used to identify, different motivations and the offender groups associated with different categories of environmental crime, the inherent risks for continuing or escalating behaviour and how this might intersect with current laws and regulatory approaches.