Submission to Senate Select Committee on Red Tape Inquiry into Environmental Approvals

The Australian minerals industry supports environmental regulation that is both efficient in its operation and effective in achieving the desired outcomes.  In this submission, the industry does not seek to remove or diminish environmental standards or safeguards.  Rather, the minerals industry seeks only to create a more efficient process in meeting environmental objectives through the removal of unnecessary regulatory burden.  This submission focuses primarily on areas of Commonwealth responsibility.

Australia enjoys a comparative advantage in minerals exports, which must be continually defended by reducing costs, improving productivity and pursuing innovation.  Regulatory settings have a profound impact on the minerals industry’s cost competitiveness, productivity and capacity to adapt to changing market conditions.

The continual expansion in regulation affecting the mining industry at the federal, state and local levels has created significant regulatory ‘churn’.  This is highly destabilising for business and undermines community confidence in the rigour of existing processes.

Commonwealth and state duplication and poor coordination creates overly complex processes/arrangements and have long been identified as major causes of approval delays and result in substantial additional costs for businesses.  

Governments (state and federal) are taking an increasingly risk averse approach to environmental impact assessments, resulting in unnecessarily complex assessment processes and increasing EIA information requirements resulting in wide ranging assessments of all impacts, regardless of materiality or level of risk.

Opponents to development – often removed from the local community – are deliberately misusing the appeals process to halt or delay projects.  While most appeals are not successful, they can delay projects many months or years, providing little environmental benefit but at substantial cost to the project proponent.

Significant unnecessary regulatory burden is also driven by state and territory processes.  Accordingly, the MCA encourages continued effort to reduce unnecessary regulatory burden by all levels of government.

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