The Chamber of Minerals of Western Australia (CME) has welcomed the Prime Minister’s plan to cut lengthy waiting times for mining project approvals and reduce red tape, which it highlights will ‘significantly boost’ efforts to repair the nation’s finances after the widespread economic impact caused by COVID-19.
In an address at CEDA’s State of the Nation Conference on Monday, Mr Morrison said to build the pipeline of future projects, the Government is determined to ‘get out of the way and speed up progress’ by improving approvals processes.
“One area in which the Commonwealth has a direct regulatory role for relevant projects is through approvals under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999,” the Prime Minister said.
According to departmental estimates, delays associated with these approvals alone cost the industry over $300 million in 2019.
“The Commonwealth has already taken steps to cut project approval times under the EPBC Act. At the end of 2019, approval decisions took 90 days on average. Today they take 40. That is what we’ve achieved this year in 2020.”
Mr Morrison said the goal is to cut these times by a further 25 per cent by the end of this year – to 30 days for major projects.
“Ultimately, our objective is the streamlining of Commonwealth and state processes to a point of ‘single touch approvals’,” he stated.
The National Cabinet has already had early discussions on how best to achieve this objective, and the PM assured that there is already a high level of engagement and agreement on the matter.
“Now when it comes to major projects, focusing on Commonwealth approvals won’t do much to deliver projects faster if we don’t address the state approval processes,” Mr Morrison said, before announcing a priority list of 15 major projects that are on the fast-track for approval under a bilateral model between the Commonwealth, states and territories.
The priority list includes:
- Inland Rail from Melbourne to Brisbane;
- Marinus Link between Tasmania and Victoria;
- Olympic Dam extension in South Australia; and
- Road, rail and iron ore projects in Western Australia.
Joint assessment teams will work on accelerating these projects – which together are worth more than $72 billion in public and private investment, and will support over 66,000 direct and indirect jobs.
CME Chief Executive Paul Everingham said the Federal Government has previously admitted the resources sector was being held back by complex layers of State and Federal regulations, making it harder than ever to get new resources projects off the ground. He noted that, far from a cliché, streamlined approvals literally bring forward capital investment and create jobs sooner.
“While a high standard of approvals is essential for environmental outcomes, the current inefficient and duplicative approval processes that our mining and oil and gas members have to navigate is holding the sector back rather than allowing it to grow and remain internationally competitive.”