The Australian coal industry contends that environmental and social objectives are not diminished by improving the efficiency of regulatory processes, but can in fact be enhanced. The consolidation and coordination of assessment and approval processes provides an opportunity to encourage greater national harmonisation, to free up much needed Commonwealth Government resources to focus on strategic environmental objectives, and to ensure that high standards of environmental protection are maintained.
The resources sector has seen a considerable increase in regulation over the past several years, much of which has been duplicative of other processes, reactive and poorly defined in terms of objectives and outcomes.
The coal industry supports the streamlining of approvals processes so that the Commonwealth’s role is focused on oversight and enforcement with assessment and approvals processes devolved to the States/Territories. Specifically:
Role of the Commonwealth
- The Commonwealth should assume a strategic role as “standard setter” for EPBC Act environmental assessments.
- Where bilateral agreements between the State/Territory and the Commonwealth are entered into, these should be supported by robust accreditation standards developed in consultation with the States/Territories. The Commonwealth should audit compliance of performance under those agreements.
- Commonwealth resources should be directed towards strategic matters including:
- monitoring and reporting of EPBC listed entities;
- investing in the collection and integration of environmental data.
- resourcing of strategic programs to address the drivers of national biodiversity decline.
- supporting and resourcing regional environmental planning (strategic/bioregional planning).
- championing improved and harmonised State and Territory processes.
Role of the States/Territories
- All States/Territories should have responsibility for undertaking environmental assessment and approvals under the terms of the bilateral agreements and in line with agreed accreditation standards.
- States/Territories should seek to consolidate all jurisdictional approval processes for the minerals industry into a single co-ordinated process.
- States to issue a consolidated set of conditions, incorporating all intra-government and inter-government requirements.
- States to administer any offsetting requirements under the project conditions.
The minerals industry is subject to more regulatory requirements than most, if not all, other economic activities. Regulatory efficiency is therefore critical to the minerals industry if it is to be both globally competitive and competitive nationally relative to other sectors.