States will not have the final say on environmental approvals if the coalition wins the election.
The clarification comes after both Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and Shadow Mining Minister Ian Macfarlane announced at a recent industry event it will create a “one-stop-shop” for mining approvals, if they come into power.
Streamlining the existing process for major project approvals is policy the mining sector has been long calling for, dubbing the current process as a bureaucratic nightmare full of red tape and duplication.
Currently the Federal Environment Minister has the final say on approvals and can veto state government environmental decisions.
The head of the Coalition's deregulation taskforce, Senator Arthur Sinodinos, said the current process has created too much uncertainty and delayed investment in the resources sector.
"In the sense they feel they've got to run the gauntlet of two processes, whereas, if we're having a commonly agreed process right from the beginning, everybody knows the ground rules, everybody knows what expectations are on proponents, and on government," he said.
"Then we cut back on the delays that go with that."
The Minerals Council of Australia recently highlighted policy that has the capacity to impact the sectors capacity to grow and create jobs includes budget policy and tax, energy and climate change, land access and environmental approvals, and infrastructure policy.
“As Australia’s most export orientated, globalised industry, we simply cannot continue to bear the unproductive burden of a progressive shift of economic policy from the productive to the distributive side of the economy,” former Minerals Council chairman Peter Johnston said.
Prolonged, duplicated, and costly approvals processes pushes development costs up, delays prospective projects, and has long been a bug-bear of the sector.
“Access to grounds for exploration is being constrained,” Anglo American chief executive Mark Cutifani said at the recent MCA event.
“Resource developments are being strangled by duplicated bureaucratic processes and red tape.”
Instead Cutifani suggested the planning and approval process requires clear rules and “no shifting of the goal post half way through the game”.
He explained that current approvals systems at a state and federal level “needlessly delay projects, costs companies millions and threaten job losses”.
Cutifani called for the “turf wars” between federal, state, and local governments to be ended.
“We can no longer handle having three levels of government telling us what to do or banning things from us in way of federal taxes that devalue Australia’s mineral assets or regulatory regimes that suffocate investment,” Cutifani said.
“Our industry responds to price signals set internationally so our ability to get production to customers without delay is absolutely critical.”
Hooke recently weighed into the approvals debate saying the process has moved on from a “major issue to a full blown crisis”.
“Every Australian mining company has a list of projects beset by unnecessary regulatory delay; bound-up in state and federal green tape,” he said.
“Much of the delay can be attributed to the duplication of state and federal approvals processes. This is not only creating significant and unnecessary delays but also adding massive extra costs.”
MCA chief Mitch Hooke called for a single assessment and approvals process which covers both State and Commonwealth environmental matters that is bound to statutory timeframes.
“The Commonwealth should be the standard setter and the states the deliverer. The Commonwealth should assume an auditing and enforcing role against an agreed set of standards for state approvals, not run a parallel process,” he said.
The Coalition’s plans to establish a “one-stop-shop” for environmental approvals has already garnered support from industry groups including the NSW Minerals Council.
“It’s encouraging therefore, that the Federal Coalition has committed to establishing a one-stop-shop for environmental approvals and undertaking an audit of all environmental legislation and regulation at state and federal levels,” NSW Minerals Council CEO, Stephen Galilee said.
WDS Limited managing director Terry Chapman explained there is opportunity for government to streamline regulation in the sector.
"Improved certainty in the approval process will stimulate more projects and consequently that results in more opportunities for the construction sector, as well as local jobs," Chapman said.