SENATE COMMITTEE ON ENVIRONMENT AND COMMUNICATIONS INQUIRY INTO LANDHOLDERS’ RIGHT TO REFUSE

The Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) strongly opposes the Bill. It is unwarranted, unreasonable and unworkable. The case for action has not been made and the proposed legislative response is inappropriate. The Bill will act to undermine the rights of state governments to develop mineral resources. The complexity and uncertainty created by the Bill will put at risk existing minerals operations and act as a strong disincentive for future investment. 

The Australian coal industry recognises the importance of landholder relationships to the success of their activities. There is little to be gained through an adversarial approach. Instead industry coexistence is most effectively achieved through honest, open and respectful engagement with directly affected landholders and the broader community. Furthermore, obtaining and maintaining a ‘social licence to operate’ is critical to the long term prospects for any project, including future access to land. 

The Bill significantly increases the Commonwealth’s ability to regulate land access. Despite this, a compelling case for action has not been established. It is not clear that the current state-based systems are ‘broken’. Furthermore, there is no indication the COAG Principles of Best Practice Regulation have been considered. 

State access to minerals is an important right that enables each jurisdiction to realise the economic potential of its resource endowment. An absolute right of veto for any person or group with an ownership interest will impact on the right of the state to facilitate economic development and garner flow on benefits for the broader community. 

Mining legislation in major coal jurisdictions already provides a range of safeguards for landholders. Cooperation and/or compensation agreements must be in place before land can be accessed. Where mining leases are granted, landholders can refuse consent to access land where sensitive or restricted land uses may be impacted. 

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