Australia's native animals will belong to history books sooner because of the federal government's planned changes to environmental protection laws, a conservation group warns.
Environment Minister Sussan Ley has on Thursday introduced a bill which establishes a national environmental assurance commissioner.
The commissioner - to be appointed by the governor-general - won't be able to look at specific environmental protection decisions or kick off legal challenges to them.
Instead, the role will focus on how effectively decisions are being made.
"The environment assurance commissioner will not have a role in monitoring or auditing individual decisions," Ms Ley told parliament.
"It is not a second decision-making body and it isn't a replacement for, or a precursor to, legal review processes for decisions."
Former competition watchdog chairman Graeme Samuel recently released his review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, highlighting the need for fundamental reform.
He said an independent watchdog and new national standards were immediately needed to stop Australia's environment being further destroyed.
The government is instead focusing on one aspect of the review, which recommended cutting red tape to prevent doubling up on decisions.
Federal authorities are already moving to shift decision-making powers to the states, with those plans facing a roadblock in the Senate.
Instead of introducing new, tougher national environment standards, Ms Ley's bill would cement the existing rules.
Prof Samuel said they were not fit for purpose.
Ms Ley told parliament decisions under the EPBC Act don't always have to adhere to the standards.
"There may be circumstances where it is in the public interest to make a decision that is inconsistent with the national environmental standards," she said.
"The amendments provide the minister, and only the minister, with the ability to do this."
This paves the way for economic interests to win out over the environment.
Australian Conservation Foundation boss Kelly O'Shanassy says this will harm the nation, which is already a world leader in extinction.
"If you fast-track approvals without environmental protection standards you will fast-track extinction," she told AAP.
"People will come to visit Australia and they will be looking around for koalas, and they are going to see forests that have been cut down instead.
"That's what we allow when we're destroying habitat in this country, because the national environment law allows that to happen without proper standards in place."
Ms Ley insists the government is committed to further reforms.
That verbal assurance has not been good enough for key crossbench senators, who the government needs on side for the bills to pass.
Independent senators Rex Patrick, Stirling Griff and Jacqui Lambie say an independent watchdog and tougher environment standards must be stamped into law before anything else.
Australian Associated Press