One-stop approvals must be pursued without delay

The Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA welcomes the release this week of the Samuel Review into the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. The review highlights the duplication between state and federal environmental laws, and the threat this poses to investment in Western Australia.

The review recommends a WA-Commonwealth bilateral environmental approvals agreement be struck under the Act. Such an agreement would address the slow, complex and costly duplication of processes between the state and federal laws. Importantly, this wasteful duplication can be addressed without compromising the quality of regulatory oversight or Australia’s high standards of environmental rigour.

The review also proposes the development of granular National Environmental Standards in consultation with stakeholders. It is critical that the development of National Environmental Standards does not delay the pursuit of a bilateral agreement with Western Australia. If necessary, interim standards should be developed to ensure a bilateral agreement can be achieved in a timely way. Western Australia has considerable experience and expertise when it comes to major projects and environmental assessment, demonstrating over a long period that it can effectively accommodate the national interest when it comes to environmental regulation.

At the start of 2020, there were $80 billion in planned or possible major projects across the resources and agriculture sectors. It is critical not just to Western Australia’s economic recovery, but to Australia’s recovery more broadly, that major projects and the thousands of associated jobs are delivered without costly and unnecessary delays. Avoiding any further delays in the development of a bilateral agreement between the State and Commonwealth Governments is critical to unlocking productivity, stimulating capital investment and fuelling Australia’s recovery amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

Aaron Morey

CCIWA Chief Economist

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