Committee chair Alex Hawke said that during the inquiry, the committee found instances where laws were duplicated, confused, unduly onerous or were not delivering an environmental benefit.
“This sort of unnecessary environmental regulation, or green tape, serves only to hamper business, slow down the economy and reduce investor confidence. And that doesn’t benefit anyone,” said Hawke, who is also the federal member for Mitchell in northwest Sydney.
However, he conceded that Australia had “some very stringent environmental protection laws” and stressed that there was no suggestion that the preservation of the environment should be compromised in any way.
The committee has listened and made 13 recommendations to the government covering energy-related laws, the listing of threatened species, improving the consistency of environmental laws between the different states and territories, reducing duplication, making environmental data more readily available, and making reporting requirements more user-friendly.
Other recommendations relate to the government’s “one-stop shop” proposal for environmental assessments and approvals, which will see state and territory governments assessing and giving final approval to development projects that fall under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.
“The committee has made some very good and very practical recommendations for changes, and I believe these will complement the federal government’s deregulation agenda nicely,” Hawke said.
The report stipulates that the intention of the present inquiry is not to water down environmental protections or to reduce regulation for its own sake.
“The driving force behind this inquiry has been the committee’s desire to identify aspects of the current regulatory regime that are unwieldy, overly complex or which place unnecessary, onerous burdens on businesses and the community, but which do not deliver any associated improvements in environmental outcomes,” the report states.
This focus has informed the committee’s approach to the conduct of the inquiry and forms the basis for the report.
The Productivity Commission released a report on Australia’s development assessment and approval framework for major projects in 2013, and the committee adopted broad terms of reference in February last year, with a focus on arrangements both between and within jurisdictions, improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the regulatory framework, the balance between regulatory efficiency and environmental protection, and areas for potential deregulation.