Business welcomes the government’s commitment to implementing recommendations of the Samuel Review of our environmental protection laws but we’ll need to work closely together to avoid creating more complexity, Business Council President Tim Reed said.
“Big reform is hard, so we appreciate the government’s willingness to design these changes through a consultative process that gives us the opportunity to work through the detail.
“The current system doesn’t deliver businesses certainty or facilitate environmental outcomes. Complexity makes project approvals too slow and a lack of clear accountability means we’re not getting the best environmental results, we need a win-win system.
“All the parties to this process agree that protecting the environment and getting major project approvals right are not mutually exclusive goals. We need to build a better system for approvals with a streamlined process, transparent decision making and crystal clear accountabilities.
“We’re ready to work with the government and other stakeholders to deliver the economic opportunities Australians deserve alongside the environmental safeguards they expect.
“This must include strengthening the joint approach to project assessment between the Commonwealth and the states to avoid duplication and overlaps.
“A less complex system that sees projects approved quickly doesn’t just mean new jobs and new opportunities, it will be critical to delivering the investment needed to decarbonise the energy grid and meet our net zero commitment.
“Through this process, we can’t lose sight of the Samuel Review’s commitment to a streamlined and less complex system, that reduces unnecessary, expensive and confusing duplication.
“We support the concept of an independent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), however there are risks making it a decision making body.
“We must ensure a new EPA doesn’t add a new layer of complexity, so we’ll need to work with government and our members to make sure this change is delivered in tandem with simplification of the system including how it interacts with state planning processes.
“For a new EPA to work properly it will need balance delivering social, environmental and economic outcomes for communities.
“The new national environmental standards need to be delivered alongside a comprehensive planning and assessment standard with regional plans at its centre.
“New standards need to create a credible biodiversity offsets scheme alongside simple, predictable decision making, and clear actions with timeframes to improve outcomes for at risk areas.
“As part of a new and strengthened approach to offsets, we welcome the Government’s proposal for conservation payments to facilitate net positive environmental outcomes.
“Regional plans will need to be delivered much earlier than 2028 to avoid the risk that communities miss out on jobs and opportunities while projects are held hostage in a tug of war between state and federal agencies.
“Our natural resources and our environment are amongst our greatest economic and community assets, so we have to have a regulatory environment that protects them.
“The State of the Environment report clearly shows we must lift our environmental performance but we also have to get on with lifting the living standards of all Australians.
“If done well these reforms are an opportunity to deliver the environmental standards that are important to businesses and Australians, while building a system that helps create the new jobs and better living standards.”