NEW VICTORIAN MINING LAWS FURTHER UNDERMINE INDUSTRY

The Victorian minerals industry is profoundly disappointed the State Government has ignored the mining sector’s concerns with the Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Amendment Bill 2012 and passed the legislation through the Lower House of Parliament yesterday.

This legislation unreasonably restricts the industry’s right to challenge Ministerial orders to cease work and take specific actions to remedy perceived problems.

While the industry does not contest the State Government’s right to make such Ministerial orders, this legislation restricts our right to procedural fairness.

The industry has been seeking a consultation process on the Bill but regrettably the flawed legislation was rammed through Parliament yesterday. It has a range of unintended consequences, including:

  • removing the right of licence holders to challenge these notices in certain circumstances;
  • requiring Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal to compulsorily dismiss an application by a licence holder for review of those orders where the Minister obtains an injunction; and
  • restricting the right of licence holders to obtain reasons for the decision to serve the notice from VCAT.

This could have significant adverse consequences on the safe operations of licence holders.

It is inconceivable that in 2012 any Government would pass legislation that reduces the right of any party to test a Ministerial direction in an appropriate forum. This is amplified in this case because so many mistakes have been made in the past. In some cases dozens of orders were withdrawn because of manifest errors.

The Bill also:

  • extends the responsibility and liability of businesses to matters beyond their control;
  • provides that third parties can be engaged to undertake work on a licence holder’s operation without appropriate consideration of safety, environmental, community or economic impacts and requires that a licence holder pay cost and compensation for these activities; and
  • incorporates transitional provisions that allow the new provisions to be applied retrospectively.

The Victorian minerals sector will be seeking amendments to fix this legislation in the upper house.

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