Regulation & infrastructure
As a ‘price taker’ in global markets, the minerals industry has a vital interest in efficient, stable and risk-based regulatory systems that meet policy objectives without imposing unnecessary cost burdens. The industry supports the principle of ‘minimum effective regulation’, whereby regulation can both meet its policy objectives and do so at least cost.
Across all stages of activity – from grant of tenure, exploration, extraction, processing, transport and mine closure through the relinquishment of tenure – the minerals industry is subject to more regulatory requirements than most other industries. The industry’s capacity to grow and to be competitive is also shaped by regulation across the broader economy in such areas as energy and water markets, business services and labour markets.
The MCA in 2014 released a comprehensive review of the minerals industry’s priorities for regulatory reform. It outlined 12 priority areas:
- Environmental approvals – “One-stop shop” reforms would make project approval processes more efficient without compromising environmental outcomes. Further steps can be taken to integrate Commonwealth and State/Territory environmental approval processes using existing provisions of the EPBC Act.
- Workplace relations – Significant reforms to the Fair Work Act are needed to better align workplace incentives with enterprise flexibility and improved productivity.
- Coastal shipping – The anti-competitive Coastal Trading Act should be repealed and replaced by new legislative provisions to ‘open the coast’.
- Local content reporting – The Australian Jobs Act 2013, based on the false premise that bureaucratic intervention in company purchasing decisions is the way to support Australian jobs, should be repealed. Australian Industry Participation plans are a regulatory solution in search of a problem.
- Energy and climate change – The Renewable Energy Target is a costly form of industry assistance and an inefficient means of achieving emissions abatement. Duplicative energy reporting requirements can be further streamlined.
- Business taxation – The forthcoming White Paper on tax reform is an opportunity to improve consultation and the administration of Australia’s complex business tax system.
- Skilled migration – Labour market testing imposes unnecessary costs on business. Engineering professions in particular should not be targeted.
- Indigenous economic development – The Aboriginal Lands Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 requires systemic review. By contrast, the Native Title Act 1993 has experienced a high level of legislative and regulatory churn and a degree of stability would aid stakeholder confidence.
- Water access – Clause 34 of the National Water Initiative, which recognises the unique nature of water use in the minerals industry, should be formalised and integrated with water sharing plans and other water market mechanisms. The ‘water trigger’ for coal seam gas and coal projects in the EPBC Act should be removed.
- Occupational health and safety – Consistent implementation of the Model Work, Health and Safety regime is unfinished business.
- Exploration – Governments should work to increase the transparency of regulatory decisions, improve target time-frames, develop appropriate accreditation of State/Territory Indigenous heritage protection regimes and ensure regulatory agencies develop least cost, risk-based measures affecting exploration activity.
- Uranium – The regulatory framework for uranium mining in Australia can be improved without any diminution of scrutiny or safeguards. For example, the EPBC Act should be amended to remove uranium mining, milling, decommissioning and rehabilitation from the definition of ‘nuclear action.
The MCA also recommends the Australian Government establishes a systematic, regular program of benchmarking the nation’s policies and performance in key areas – including health and education, energy, transport, telecommunications, taxation and trade and investment.
Timely and cost-effective provision of economic and social infrastructure is needed to underpin industry competitiveness and growth.
- Governments have a responsibility to foster open, transparent and competitive infrastructure markets while also being alert to how differing industry characteristics can give rise to specific regulatory challenges
- The MCA recommends that in tandem with the Australian Government’s asset recycling program there needs to be consideration as to whether existing regulatory arrangements are appropriate to ensure efficient provision of infrastructure services by the private sector
- Governments at all levels face important social infrastructure responsibilities in regional and remote Australia. The White Paper on Developing Northern Australia provides an opportunity to trial new and innovative approaches to the provision of infrastructure services.
Media releases on regulatory and infrastructure issues
18 Jun 2015 Release of the Northern Australia White Paper