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Minerals industry welcomes 2013 breakthroughs on project approvals

By: John Kunkel, Deputy Chief Executive Officer - Minerals Council of Australia
03 January, 2014

The progress in 2013 on reducing Australia's green tape burden, including the recent Council of Australian government's endorsement of the federal government's one-stop-shop for project approvals, is warmly welcomed by the minerals industry.

Successive governments have failed to make material progress in reducing Australia's cumbersome and duplicative green tape burden. As a result billions of dollars in export revenue and thousands of new jobs have slipped through the nation's fingers.

The COAG agreement coupled with the bilateral deals between the Commonwealth, New South Wales and Queensland governments is proof that solid progress is being made at last.

The minerals industry has long advocated the need to streamline federal and state project approvals processes, while maintaining high levels of environmental protection.

The Commonwealth government's commitment to establish standards for environmental protection consistent with the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act while devolving assessment and approvals functions to the states, with appropriate checks and balances in place, achieves this goal.

T his does not reduce protection for the environment, but significantly improves the efficiency of Australia's project approvals process. It also carries the potential for improved environmental outcomes through freeing resources for better data, administration and enforcement capabilities.

An audit for the Minerals Council of Australia by environmental and economic consultants URS comparing approvals laws in 2006 and today shows there has been more than 120 changes to state and federal government approvals laws and supporting legislation.

The audit shows there have been six new pieces of legislation, six replacement Acts and more than 60 sets of amendments to approvals laws; and 50 sets of additions and amendments to subordinate legislation, regulations and codes of practice.

If Australia is to maximise the return from the millennium mining boom, we must stop placing regulatory roadblocks in the path of economic growth.

The Abbott government, and in particular Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt, should be applauded for the leadership shown in addressing Australia's regulatory burden.

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