Single-touch process for approvals will lift national economy

National Cabinet’s decision to adopt a single-touch process for environmental approvals will cut excessive waiting times for mining project approvals, boosting the efforts of Western Australia’s resources sector to help repair the nation’s finances.

The Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia’s (CME) Director of Policy and Advocacy Rob Carruthers said Western Australia will lead all states and territories in assuming responsibility for a single touch approvals process under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act), which will significantly streamline duplicative approval processes.

“The Treasurer and Finance Minister yesterday clearly reinforced the importance of WA’s resources sector in underpinning the strength of the nation’s economy through the COVID-19 crisis, with the sector’s strong export volumes providing much needed income for the nation,” he said.

“For the past few months, the State and Commonwealth Governments have supported the resources sector’s efforts to keep safely operating during COVID-19, which has provided a crucial financial buffer for the nation and saved Australia from a total economic fall.

“We welcome today’s commitment for ‘single touch’ environmental approvals, which will help bring forward capital investment and new jobs from the estimated $91 billion of prospective mining and oil and gas projects in WA. 

“Western Australia is ideally placed to lead adoption of ‘single touch’ approvals announced by the Prime Minister today. CME applauds the cooperation in this time of crisis between the Morrison and McGowan Governments to facilitate this long-held aspiration. The role of the Assistant Minister for Deregulation, Ben Morton, in driving regulatory efficiency across the federation should also be recognised.”

Mr Carruthers said while a high standard of approvals was essential for ensuring robust environmental outcomes, the current inefficient approval processes that companies had to navigate was holding the sector back rather than allowing it to grow and remain internationally competitive.

“Successive government-led reviews have 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 said.

“Last month, it was revealed that delays to approvals for projects under the Commonwealth EPBC Act cost industry $300 million in 2019.

“This new system of streamlined approvals will assist the sector’s efforts to facilitate job creation and aid the future expansion of the mining and oil and gas industries.

“Our focus coming out of COVID-19 is to continue to support safe operations, create jobs and invest in the community.”

Earlier this week, CME released a survey of 53 Western Australian resources sector companies, which revealed that the State’s mining, oil and gas, energy and contractor industries contributed more than $67.1 billion to Australia’s economy in 2018-19 and directly created more than 71,000 full-time jobs.

On top of the $67.1 billion direct contribution to Australia, there is additional $50.3 billion in value created by the WA resources sector through supply-chain purchases and creation of 311,796 full-time jobs in related fields, such as freight and logistics, geologists, laboratory testing of ore samples, and site preparation services.