A one-stop-shop for environmental approval for major construction projects in Australia would be created under a plan the Coalition says would see both the carbon tax and the resource rent tax scrapped and would slash $1 billion from business regulation costs annually.

Announcing the plan on Monday, the Coalition says it will also set aside specific parliamentary days to focus solely on legislation regarding red tape and green tape reduction and would tie the remuneration of senior public servants to reductions in business administration costs and procedures relating to approval processes and other compliance costs.

In a statement, the Coalition says too many construction projects are being weighed down in unnecessary regulation.

Citing Minerals Council of Australia figures, it says average approval times for new thermal coal projects sit at 3.1 years – almost double the international average (1.8 years).

Last week, Mauls Creek (NSW) project owner Whitehaven Coal said the entire approval process for its $767 million development had taken three years and cost ‘tens of millions of dollars’.

Key elements of the plan include:

  • Repealing the carbon tax and the Minerals Resource Rent Tax
  • Establishing a one-stop-shop for environmental approvals for major projects
  • Linking remuneration of public servants to proven reductions in red tape and green tape
  • Undertaking an audit of all environmental legislation and regulation at state and federal level
  • Setting aside two parliamentary days each year to deal specifically with red-tape and green tape regulation
  • Reporting to Parliament annually on red and green tape reduction
  • Creating dedicated units within each department to focus on red and green tape reduction.

Building industry groups welcomed the policy, saying a raft of new legislation introduced over recent years had added a significant compliance burden on the sector.

“The building and construction industry is one of the most intensely regulated industries in Australia, with legislation and red tape applied at all three levels of Government” Master Builders Australia Chief Executive Wilhelm Harnisch says.

“Time spent dealing with red tape and duplicative compliance processes diverts precious resources from the industry and stops it from doing what it does best – creating jobs, driving the economy and building homes, hospitals, schools roads and other vital community infrastructure.”

Australian Industry Group Chief Executive Officer Innes Wilox says new requirements for a Regulatory Impact Statement and a cost-benefit analysis prior to the introduction of new regulation would be a step welcomed across the country.

  • “Coalition to Slash 1 Billion in Red Tape”. Thereafter the Coalition will cost the Australian public 10 Billion more in environmental and social damage. Hey but all good the miners and large developers friends profits will soar.

    • Andrew Heaton
      Industry Journalist
      4 years, 3 months ago

      Hi Gerhard,

      I guess there is always a tough challenge to make processes as efficient as possible without compromising environmental protection.

      Certainly one would hope this policy, if the coalition does win the election and it becomes law, results in better and more streamlined processes as opposed to any watering down of environmental requirements.

    • Of course the industry will be pushing for this,I agree with Gerhard, this will only help the miners and developers. Who is fighting for the environment?

  • A great deal of “Red Tape” is unnecessary. Witness the compliance and environmental studies for a Coal mine, these usually are volumes of material, which are larger than two encyclopedias worth of verbage. Once the approvals are provided these gather dust and are never referred to again. The environmental conditions could be summed up on one A4 page, and are most often no different to any other commercial enterprise. There are consultants and environmental studies and department of environment compliance, most of which are not used or useful. In central Qld the most important environmental issue for coal mining would be to ensure saline and acidic spoil, flood water and industrial waste is not pumped into natural waterways. These important environmental protections are ignored in the aftermath of a flood, which probably means there is actually no environmental protection whatever, and the whole process is a huge furphy. Coal mines are not permitted to bury industrial waste at 80m depth in open pits, but must send the waste to the local tip where it is buried just below the surface. However the coal mines spend millions on environmental monitoring every year. When a mine or coal seam gas have such huge impacts, are we not gilding the lily with all this environmental red tape? The de-industrialisation tax or “Carbon” tax seeks to put a value on environmental pollution. One must wonder whether the whole process is a gravy train invented by clever lawyers?

    • ‘Green tape’? If a Federation of Sates constructs three levels of Government: Local, State and Federal then all have a duty of care you and get three levels of regulation. So which level will absent themselves from the regulatory process? Not the Federal government I’m certain. As for coal mines taking 3 years to get up – leave it in the ground – it’s polluting and CO2 emitting causing global warming and human induced climate change. My suggestion is halve the time it takes to get a renewable energy project up and extend coal mine approval. Put a rigorous and mandatory ‘show cause’ requirement on new coal mines and keep carbon pricing – it works well. Without revolutionary CO2 emission technology coal mines are feedstock for lethal emissions, a global and local liability and are becoming an investment liability as time passes.

  • Andrew Heaton
    Industry Journalist
    4 years, 3 months ago

    Hi Julia/Grant,

    Thanks for your comments. Obviously, with any changes like this, there is a fear on the part of some environmental groups that processes will be watered down rather than simplified, though of course the industry would have reason to be frustrated about unnecessary layers of duplication.

    Grant’s point about controls being misdirected is an interesting one.

  • Andrew Heaton
    Industry Journalist
    4 years, 3 months ago

    Hi Patrick,

    I too like the idea of a price on carbon of at least some sought, though I would understand those who own businesses in areas which have absorbed the increase in energy cost perhaps not feeling the same way, and it is, admittedly, difficult for our trade exposed industries trying to cope with higher carbon costs than what I understand to be generally the case even in countries which have carbon pricing, notwithstanding compensation they have received. To me, though things like emission control standards for set products/industries the concept of a price on carbon represents a consistent and conceptually straightforward economy-wide approach toward dealing with climate change.

    It is interesting that as much as Australia’s carbon tax has attracted criticism domestically, it has attracted praise from at least some sections of the business media overseas, such as The Economist. As well, even some of the business lobby groups here, such as Australian Industry Group, are saying we should have a carbon pricing scheme – albeit from what I understand a substantially more modest scheme than what we have now under the tax.

    Your point about the ‘show cause’ for coal mines sounds interesting, though the industry would understandably be opposed to yet more regulation.

  • Anything to speed up the process is a good move, so long as the necessary checks and balances are in place.

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