Industry, farmers unite against Greens

IT’S not every day farmers join forces with the mining and petroleum industries, but that’s what has happened this week as they united to call on the Senate to reconsider its position and pass the critical “one-stop shop” environmental approval reforms as soon as possible.
Industry, farmers unite against Greens Industry, farmers unite against Greens Industry, farmers unite against Greens Industry, farmers unite against Greens Industry, farmers unite against Greens

 

Anthony Barich

The Greens killed the reforms by securing Palmer United support to block the one-stop shop environmental approvals process by supporting PUP’s senate inquiry into the Queensland government’s use of federal funds plus CSG development approvals by both the current and predecessor Queensland administrations.

“After more than two years of fighting against handing federal environmental approval powers to the states, since Labor first proposed the plan, we can finally breathe a sigh of relief – our federal environment laws will remain safe from environmentally reckless state premiers," Australian Greens Senator Larissa Waters said.

"Tony Abbott's one-stop shop would have left [Queensland Premier] Campbell 'we're in the coal business' Newman in complete control over the Great Barrier Reef and we're so glad to have been able to avert the environmental disaster that would have been.”

However, Australia’s top business leaders said blocking this legislation would hinder Australian businesses’ competitiveness, lower national output and ultimately reduce the living standards of all Australians.

So said Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association CEO David Byers, Business Council of Australia CEO Jennifer Westacott, Minerals Council of Australia CEO Brendan Pearson, National Farmers’ Federation acting CEO Tony Mahar and Urban Development Institute of Australia national president Cameron Shephard in a statement this week.

They warned that lengthy and costly delays in securing project approval– one of the “biggest drags on Australia’s international competitiveness” – stem from the duplication of Commonwealth and state processes and impact a wide range of industry sectors, including agriculture, minerals, oil and gas, property and construction.

They noted the Productivity Commission’s emphasis that the one-stop shop was a crucial reform aimed at minimising regulatory duplication and making approval processes more efficient, without compromising the quality of environmental outcomes.

“The one-stop shop reforms represent a step towards cutting red tape and better aligning Commonwealth and state processes,” the chiefs said in their statement.

“The Commonwealth Department of the Environment has reported that Australia’s average time for project approvals is 37 months – an uncompetitive result by international standards.

“The department has also shown that implementing the one-stop shop for environmental approvals would provide economic benefits to Australian business in the order of $426 million every year.

MCA-commissioned analysis has found that reducing project delays by even one year – and in doing so help rebuild the competitiveness of the Australian mining sector – would add $160 billion to national output by 2025 will create 69,000 jobs across the whole economy over that period.

APPEA’s own Cutting Green Tape report found that a two-year delay in construction and production from an offshore LNG project could lead to not only increased costs for industry, but also a loss of nearly $1.3 billion in tax revenue.

BCA’s own analysis, meanwhile, has concluded that productivity on Australian projects is 30-35% lower than for comparable projects in the United States.

The Property Council estimates that more than 200 residential and over 100 commercial property developments have been referred to the Commonwealth in the past 12 months and that construction costs and delays could be substantially reduced through the implementation of the one-stop shop.

Meanwhile, the Urban Development Institute of Australia said the one-stop shop would considerably reduce costs and improve certainty for the development industry, supporting jobs, economic growth and new housing supply.

The National Farmers Federation noted that the one-stop shop would streamline environment laws and go a long way to ending the confusion of many farmers about their legal responsibilities.

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