In order for the Commonwealth government (Minister for Environment) to know that an action requires assessment, it must first be made aware of the proposed action. The process of telling the Minister about a proposed action is known as referral. This referral can be made by the person proposing the activity (eg. a developer or landowner), by another Minister, or by a Commonwealth or State Government agency or local council.
In practice, a member of the public may refer a proposed action or development to the Environment Minister, however the Minister is not legally obliged to respond. If a member of the public believes the proposed activity should be referred, he or she can either ask the person proposing the activity or a State or Commonwealth agency or Minister to make the referral.
Once the referral is made the proposed activity is assessed to decide whether it requires approval under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth) (EPBC Act). If the action is assessed to be likely to have significant impact of a matter of national environmental significance, then it will be declared to be a controlled action that requires Commonwealth environmental impact assessment and approval. Once the action has been declared a controlled action, the Minister publishes a notice to that effect on the EPBC Act website:http://www.environment.gov.au/topics/about-us/legislation/environment-protection-and-biodiversity-conservation-act-1999.