Prime Minister Scott Morrison has talked up the importance of protecting heavy industry, days after another 12 Australian animals were declared extinct.
"Biodiversity is essential for life on this planet," Mr Morrison told reporters in the NSW Hunter region on Thursday, after boasting about reading a book by naturalist David Attenborough.
"That is absolutely true. It's been the case forever.
"And our policies are designed to try and support that biodiversity ... but do so in a way that protects and supports the very heavy industries that we've had in our regions for a long time."
A recent independent review found the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act was not fit for purpose, while warning Australia's environment is on an unsustainable trajectory.
Another 12 Australian animals were declared extinct under those laws this week, taking the total to 34.
Mr Morrison is trying to change the protection laws so a "public interest" exemption can be used to circumvent environmental standards, paving the way for economic interests to win out.
Sir David has recently focused his attention to climate change and the importance of sustainability, to ensure the planet and biodiversity is not further damaged.
The prime minister explained them as two separate problems.
"As serious as issues around climate change and these things are ... at the end of the day, what actually supports the planet is ensuring that we maintain and support biodiversity," he said.
"That is his fundamental point. And there are a range of things you need to do to address biodiversity.
"That's why we have the EPBC Act."
Australian Associated Press