CME Concerned at Lack of Reform Progress

CME is concerned by the communiqué released by the COAG Business Advisory Forum which shows that little progress appears to have been made.

The Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia (CME) is concerned by the Communiqué released by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Business Advisory Forum which shows that little progress appears to have been made towards reforming and streamlining environmental assessments and approvals.

“The West Australian resource sector had expected the full implementation of bilateral agreements between the Commonwealth and the State/Territories as agreed at the last forum meeting. Bilateral agreements would have avoided unnecessary duplication in environmental assessments and delivered much needed certainty, efficiency and transparency of decision making for resource projects,” CME Chief Executive Reg Howard-Smith said.

“Despite concerns raised by conservation lobby groups, bilateral agreements would not see a “watering down” of environmental standards. It would be disappointing if the Federal Government missed this significant opportunity to streamline project approvals.”

“Today’s announcement comes on top of industry concerns that Australia is becoming a less attractive place to develop projects and investment may be driven to other regions because of additional layers of taxation through the Minerals Resource Rent Tax and the Carbon Tax, coupled with rising costs for doing business and an inability to source skilled labour,” he said.

“The original intent of the EPBC Act was to provide a framework for a more effective national environmental management system, which ensured resources are focussed on delivery of better environmental outcomes at all levels of government, whilst ensuring efficient and timely assessment for proponents.”

“CME believes environmental regulation should principally be the responsibility of States/Territories as part of an accredited or bilateral process.”

“A 2009 Australian National University study estimated a direct cost to all industries of up to $820 million over the life of the EPBC Act, with little demonstrable improvement in environmental outcomes. The Productivity Commission has also concluded the cost of project delays due to duplication and inefficiencies in regulatory systems ‘could total several billion dollars each year’.”

“Such important and necessary reform should not be allowed to stall and CME urges all Government representatives at tomorrow’s COAG meeting to press on with this crucial reform agenda.”