INQUIRY INTO GREENFIELDS MINERAL EXPLORATION AND PROJECT DEVLOPMENT IN VICTORIAN

The Victorian Minerals industry has the potential to continue to be an important contributor to Victoria‟s growth, particularly in regional and rural Victoria. For the sustainable future of the industry, the policy and regulatory framework must be balanced between promoting investment in the State, good practice and the expectations of the community in an efficient way with a minimum but appropriate level of direct control of economic agents by government authorities.

Over recent years the State has lost market share in minerals activity to other states and is no longer seen as prospective or an attractive place to invest. However, the substantial contribution of the mining sector to Melbourne‟s economy is indisputable.

In this increasingly difficult financial environment, the importance of attracting investment into Victoria is paramount. For investment to occur, an investor must be confident that the sovereign risk to its investment is as low as possible. Changing policies, onerous and duplicative legislation leading to very unpredictable and often inexplicable outcomes does nothing to provide the investor with confidence. Nor do approval processes that cost millions of dollars and cause significant delays to investment decisions. A legislative spider web with reams of red tape will result in investors looking elsewhere.

The Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) recognises that this Inquiry provides a unique opportunity for Victoria to focus on developing the minerals industry and recapturing lost market share. Significantly streamlining regulations without compromise to quality of regulation could make Victoria the showcase for mineral development with real outcomes.

Victoria faces a range of issues when compared to the other mainland jurisdictions of Australia. Two in particular - a small land mass with the 2nd largest population of the country; this same land being well endowed with economically recoverable mineral resources and an abundance of brown coal.

Victoria‟s policy and regulatory environment is by no means leading practice. Many regulatory systems are ineffective and inappropriate with obstructive laws, regulations and guidelines, as well as inadequate administrative arrangements for the implementation of the laws and regulations.

The MCA does not advocate a reduction in social or environmental standards. We do however; seek greater efficiency, effectiveness and consistency. We see the resources and competency of the industry regulators as a critical area for attention. We also seek a whole-of-government approach to project approvals so as to avoid the need to satisfy the often personal view of every relevant (and often not so relevant) individual in every relevant agency.

Ideally we seek a one stop shop for project approvals. That is, a single agency charged with the authority to approve projects. Whilst such an agency would be required to do an intense amount of work across all relevant agencies to reach a whole of government position on a proposal, the proponent would only deal with the one point in Government.

The Victorian minerals industry has participated in dozens of inquires and reviews over the past decade. Each being conducted at the portfolio level, focusing on single issues. The Victorian Competition and Efficiency Commission has also done some excellent work, however as with portfolio reports, we see little change in the policy or regulatory environment.

Industry simply asks government to implement the recommendations of these various inquiries and reviews. Many recommendations come at no or little cost but would see an extraordinary impact on efficiency and effectiveness of government processes and encouragement of investment in minerals projects.

Further, scorecards prepared by MCA demonstrate that Victoria has ample scope for improvement.

It is also noted that the Fraser Institute continues to rate Victoria as one of the least attractive jurisdictions in Australia on its Policy Potential Index. South Australia is consistently rated best Australian jurisdiction and in the top quartile each year.

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