The Morrison Government has unveiled a new deregulation agenda that could see wait times for environmental approvals for quarries and other major projects significantly reduced.
Speaking at a Business Council of Australia event on 20 November, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said better use of technology could hold the key to transforming the approvals process, reducing wait times and accelerating economic activity.
To speed up assessments, the Federal Government would start by partnering with the Western Australian Government to develop a nationally consistent, digital environmental approvals regime and a biodiversity database to store and share information.
It will also modernise Australia’s business registers to make it easier and faster for business to interact with government. The new registry will allow business to view and manage their data in one location, adopting a ‘tell us once’ principle.
“[It] will reduce approvals times, allow project proponents to submit a single application via a single online portal, track its progress and access a database of biodiversity studies relevant to their project,” Morrison told business leaders, according to the Australian Financial Review.
“It takes approximately 3.5 years for a complex major project to navigate the state and Commonwealth environmental assessment process.
“It’s estimated that this timeframe could be reduced by between six and 18 months through better use of technology.”
Morrison said the government was focused on “busting the obstacles” that slow down business investment and new job creation.
“We want to create the space for businesses in our economy to back themselves and take our growth to the next level,” he said.
“Our deregulation agenda has a laser focus on reducing the regulatory compliance burden on business.
“The reforms we’re delivering hone in on what we’ve been hearing directly from Australian businesses that will help them grow and employ more people.”
Meanwhile, Morrison also announced $3.8 billion in brought-forward and additional spending on major infrastructure projects.
Over the next 18 months, the stimulus package will reportedly comprise $1.27 billion in fast-tracked funding along with $510 million in new money, while over the forward estimates the amount brought forward will total $2.72 billion, with $1.06 billion in new money.
“We’ve painstakingly gone through this process of identifying the projects that could be brought forward, the scoping of works, the scheduling of works, the additional funds that may be required, the movement and things like material prices and things of that nature,” he said.
CCAA supports agenda
Cement Concrete & Aggregates Australia (CCAA) CEO Ken Slattery said the organisation supported the Federal Government’s deregulation agenda as important steps in speeding up the supply of vital infrastructure.
He said while federal deregulation surrounding infrastructure may not be directly applicable to quarries, which typically take around eight years for approval, he expected an acceleration of infrastructure projects to have a pull through effect on the industry.
“Anything that smooths the pathway for developments is going to be important to the industry,” he said.
“Short term injections of infrastructure funding to stimulate the economy are welcome but they are of no practical value if they can’t actually be spent for years to come because of inefficient processes. That funding needs to be able to be spent now.”
To speed up projects and stimulate the economy, Slattery said resources also needed to be made readily available. “There’s no point creating demand for our industry’s materials if inflexible state and local government processes get in the way.
“It’s vital that state and federal and indeed local governments co-operate to deliver meaningful improvements in the way that infrastructure projects and the materials that they rely on are delivered. We absolutely believe that level of cooperation is going to be very important.”