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Report of the Independent Review of the

Environment Protection and

Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999


The Hon Peter Garrett AM MP

Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts

Parliament House
CANBERRA ACT 2600

Dear Minister

Independent Review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act 1999

I am pleased to provide you with the Report of the Independent Review of the EPBC Act 1999 (the Act) in accordance with section 522A.

As well as the operation of the Act and the extent to which its objects have been achieved, the Review has had particular regard to the:

  • Australian Government’s overarching policy objective of promoting sustainable economic development while protecting biological diversity and maintaining essential ecological processes and systems;

  • desire to work in partnership with the states and territories on environmental issues;

  • focus on reducing regulation while maintaining effective environmental standards;

  • need to facilitate Australia’s international obligations;

  • requirement to conform to the Expenditure Review Principles; and

  • commitment to seeking government, industry and community input.

The EPBC Act is a hard Act to follow in both senses.

First, the Act was deliberately drafted with large sections of text repeated in an endeavour to make it easy to understand, but has actually produced the obverse outcome. The Act is currently too repetitive, unnecessarily complex and, in some areas, overly prescriptive. It needs restructuring to make it more accessible, easier to navigate and reduce the regulatory and resource burden on those impacted by the Act, requiring the recasting of many of its provisions.

While this Report recommends significant changes to the Act’s operation and administration, it brought about important reforms and there are many positive features that should be retained, including:

  • clear specification of matters of National Environment Significance;

  • the Environment Minister’s role as the decision maker;

  • public participation provisions;

  • explicit consideration of social and economic issues;

  • statutory advisory mechanisms; and

  • the strong compliance and enforcement regime.

The EPBC Act is, however, a product of its time. The Review provides the opportunity to set the framework for future generations in the area of national environmental regulation, as a response to the body of information that has been acquired during the intervening ten years, and new and emerging issues affecting our environment.

In polls taken by the Australian National University during the middle of 2008, a period coinciding with onset of the global financial crisis, the economy and the environment were viewed by respondents as the two dominant problems facing the country – outranking water management, health care and education by a large margin.1

While environmental issues dominated the public consciousness, a majority –

56 per cent of respondents – considered that the Australian Government is doing too little.2The public has a higher expectation of the Government’s role in protecting the environment than is currently being delivered.

It comes as no great surprise then, that the Review attracted a wide range of contributions, including 220 written submissions and 119 comments following release of the Interim Report. Input was received from interested individuals, environmental groups, non government organisations, statutory committees, industry representatives, Government departments and agencies.

The Review process also involved extensive targeted face to face consultations and workshops with environmental and heritage groups, Indigenous representatives, industry associations, academics and scientists.

This Report took all that into account in reviewing the EPBC Act and, consistent with the objective of protecting the environment and biological diversity and maintaining ecological processes, recommends reforms that:

  • promote the sustainability of Australia's economic development;

  • reduce and simplify the regulatory burden;

  • ensure activities under the Act represent the most efficient and effective ways of achieving desired environmental outcomes; and

  • are based on an effective federal arrangement.

An integrated package revolving around nine core elements follows:

  • redraft the Act to better reflect the Australian Government’s role, streamline its arrangements and rename it the Australian Environment Act;

  • establish an independent Environment Commission to advise the government on project approvals, strategic assessments, bioregional plans and other statutory decisions;

  • invest in the building blocks of a better regulatory system such as national environmental accounts, skills development, policy guidance, and acquisition of critical spatial information;

  • streamline approvals through earlier engagement in planning processes and provide for more effective use and greater reliance on strategic assessments, bioregional planning and approvals bilateral agreements;

  • set up an Environment Reparation Fund and national ‘biobanking’ scheme;

  • provide for environmental performance audits and inquiries;

  • create a new matter of national environmental significance for ‘ecosystems of national significance’ and introduce an interim greenhouse trigger;

  • improve transparency in decision-making and provide greater access to the courts for public interest litigation; and

  • mandate the development of foresight reports to help government manage emerging environmental threats.

The Report is divided into two parts. Part I provides a high level summary for opinion leaders and details the associated recommendations. Part II deals with the issues in greater depth, setting out the reasoning behind each of the 71 primary recommendations. Adoption of this integrated package of reforms will place Australia at the forefront of best practice and set the standard for others to follow. Conclusions and findings that are more advisory in nature are interspersed throughout the text of Part II for your Department to pursue.

In closing, I acknowledge the dedication, professionalism and commitment of the Expert Panel and Secretariat who assisted in researching and writing this report. Any errors, omissions or oversights are my responsibility.

Yours sincerely

Allan Hawke

EPBC Act Reviewer

30 October 2009

Table of Contents

Independent Review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 – Part I

Introduction

  1. On 31 October 2008, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts, the Hon Peter Garrett AM MP, commissioned an independent review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth) (EPBC Act).

  2. The Review was undertaken in accordance with s.522A of the EPBC Act and the Terms of Reference (Appendix 1).

  3. This Report presents the findings and recommendations of the Review in two Parts:

  • Part I provides a high level summary of the process, findings and recommendations of the Review against the Terms of Reference; and

  • Part II provides greater explanation of the issues and information considered by the Review, which forms the basis of its findings and recommendations.

  1. The EPBC Act has made a significant contribution to environmental regulation in Australia. When enacted, the Act brought about many important reforms, and in many respects is still regarded as world leading.

  2. The Act is, however, a product of its time. There is now an opportunity to build on its framework for national environmental regulation for future generations, having particular regard to the information acquired over the intervening ten years since the Act commenced, and the new and emerging issues affecting our environment.

  3. The Review proposes a package of reforms that build on the current Act and are directed at better placing the Australian Government in managing the environmental challenges of the future. The core elements of the reform package are to:

  • redraft the Act to better reflect the Australian Government’s role, streamline its arrangements and rename it the Australian Environment Act;

  • establish an independent Environment Commission to advise the government on project approvals, strategic assessments, bioregional plans and other statutory decisions;

  • invest in the building blocks of a better regulatory system such as national environmental accounts, skills development, policy guidance, and acquisition of critical spatial information;

  • streamline approvals through earlier engagement in planning processes and provide for more effective use and greater reliance on strategic assessments, bioregional planning and approvals bilateral agreements;

  • set up an Environment Reparation Fund and national ‘biobanking’ scheme;

  • provide for environmental performance audits and inquiries;

  • create a new matter of national environmental significance for ‘ecosystems of national significance’ and introduce an interim greenhouse trigger;

  • improve transparency in decision making and provide greater access to the courts for public interest litigation; and

  • mandate the development of foresight reports to help government manage emerging environmental threats.

Background

  1. The Australian Constitution (the Constitution) does not expressly confer power on the Commonwealth Parliament to make laws with respect to the environment. While there was already significant interest in environmental matters at the time the Constitution was being developed, which saw some colonists in the 1880s argue for Federation on the basis that a federal government would be able to create uniform national laws for the protection of endangered species, this had little impact on the drafting of the Constitution.

  2. When Federation occurred, the new Commonwealth was quick to use its general powers for environmental ends. Within a decade, the Commonwealth had used its trade and commerce power to regulate trade in endangered birds as part of an international movement to stop the slaughter of birds for the millinery trade.1

  3. Until the 1970s, the Commonwealth had no ‘comprehensive regime for the protection of the environment’,2 and regulation of most environmental matters was left to the States and Territories. The Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act 1974 (Cth) (EPIP Act) only applied to decisions involving the Commonwealth or a Commonwealth authority, and the Environment Minister’s role was advisory only.3 The trade and commerce power was the Commonwealth’s prime basis for protecting the environment – most notably, when it came to stopping the export of mineral sands from Fraser Island, upheld by the High Court in Murphyores Inc Pty Ltd v Commonwealth.4 There was no overarching legislation that governed the Commonwealth’s involvement in environmental matters.5

  4. In the 1980s, further High Court judgments made explicit the foundation for the Commonwealth’s role in environmental matters – these cases clarified the scope of the external affairs power in s.51(xxix) of the Constitution by confirming that, under this provision, the Commonwealth has jurisdiction to make laws for the purposes of implementing Australia’s international obligations. The Tasmanian Dam case also demonstrated the importance of the corporations power as a basis for the Commonwealth to make laws relating to the protection of the environment.6

  5. In 1999, the Commonwealth Parliament passed the Act which repealed the EPIP Act and merged a number of other statutes into a single overarching framework for national environmental regulation.

  6. The changes wrought by the commencement of the Act were far reaching. For the first time, there was a national approach to environmental protection and the Environment Minister was placed at the centre of decision-making for matters of national environmental significance (NES). Accordingly, Parliament established a statutory requirement (in s.522A) that, prior to the Act’s tenth anniversary:

  1. The Minister must cause independent reviews to be undertaken by a person or body of:

  1. the operation of this Act; and

  2. the extent to which the objects of this Act have been achieved.7

  1. This is the first such review conducted under s.522A.

Scope of the Review

Terms of Reference

  1. The scope of the Review was determined by s.522A of the Act and the Terms of Reference (see Appendix 1). In summary, the Review was asked to assess the operation of the Act and the extent to which its objects have been achieved since the Act commenced. The Review was also asked to examine the appropriateness of current matters of NES and the effectiveness of biodiversity and wildlife conservation arrangements under the Act, and to have regard to key Australian Government policy objectives, including the following:

  • to promote the sustainability of Australia's economic development to enhance individual and community well-being while protecting biological diversity and maintaining essential ecological processes and systems;

  • to work in partnership with the States and Territories within an effective federal arrangement;

  • to facilitate delivery of Australia's international obligations;

  • to reduce and simplify the regulatory burden on people, businesses and organisations, while maintaining appropriate and efficient environmental standards in accordance with the Australian Government's deregulation agenda; and

  • to ensure activities under the Act represent the most appropriate, efficient and effective ways of achieving the Government's outcomes and objectives consistent with Expenditure Review Principles.

Senate Inquiry

  1. In March 2009, the Minister asked the Review to also consider the Reports, findings and recommendations from the Senate Standing Committee on Environment, Communications and the Arts’ Inquiry into the Operation of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth).8 The findings and recommendations of the Senate Committee were discussed in the Interim Report of the Review and are also considered throughout Part II of this Report.

Independent Review of Australia’s Quarantine and Biosecurity Arrangements (Beale Review)

  1. The Minister also sought advice from the Review on the implications for the Act arising from the One Biosecurity Report of the Independent Review of Australia’s Quarantine and Biosecurity Arrangements.9 A copy of the advice is provided at Appendix 6 of this Report.

Council of Australian Governments Working Groups

  1. At its December 2007 meeting, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) established seven working groups to develop and monitor the implementation of policy reforms that are of national significance and require cooperative action by Australian governments. The work of two of these working groups was of particular relevance to this Review, namely:

  • the Infrastructure Working Group (IWG); and

  • the Business Regulation and Competition Working Group (BRCWG).

  1. The IWG and BRCWG have been examining options for improving the national regulatory system. This has involved consideration of the Commonwealth, State and Territory regulatory systems and the way the two interact. In particular, the BRCWG has been examining opportunities for harmonising environment and planning regulation. The work of both groups has been considered as part of this Review.

Australia 2020 Summit

  1. The Australia 2020 Summit identified a number of ideas about the future direction for environmental policy in Australia and the role of the Australian Government in managing environmental issues.10 A number of these ideas have been considered by the Review, including:

  • the desirability of a set of national environmental accounts;

  • the potential role for the Australian Government in leading a nationally consistent approach to urban and regional planning, and transforming the ecological footprint of the built environment;

  • the need to develop markets for ecosystems services, including stewardship payments and biodiversity banking (biobanking);

  • the need to determine a process for the community to define the objectives and trade-offs to achieve sustainability, particularly in the context of the uncertainty created by climate change; and

  • the need for improved scenario planning for future environmental changes.

  1. The 2020 Summit participants agreed that Australia should aspire to be a leader in taking effective action on climate change and water management, with environmental issues integrated into decision making. Other ideas included the need to focus on a healthy ecology, incorporate environmental considerations into economic assessments and develop sustainable cities.

  2. The Australian Government’s response to the 2020 Summit Outcomes observed that climate change and sustainability issues are some of the greatest social, economic and environmental challenges of our time.11

The Australian National University Poll on the Environment

  1. In a Poll taken by the Australian National University (ANU) in 2008, a period coinciding with the onset of the global financial crisis, the economy and the environment were viewed by respondents as the two dominant problems facing the country – outranking water management, health care and education by a large margin.12

Purpose of This Report

  1. The aim of this Report is to review the performance of the Act and, consistent with the objective of protecting the environment and biological diversity and maintaining ecological processes, to recommend reforms that:

  • promote the sustainability of Australia's economic development;

  • reduce and simplify the regulatory burden;

  • ensure activities under the Act represent the most efficient and effective ways of achieving desired environmental outcomes; and

  • are based on an effective federal arrangement.

  1. In accordance with the Terms of Reference and the other mandates given to the Review, this Report considers the options for reform of environmental regulation in the context of those reforms also contributing to improved environmental protection. This Report offers a comprehensive solution to the issues identified over the course of the Review. The recommendations made in this Report should be implemented as a package.

Review Process

  1. The Review was undertaken by Dr Allan Hawke. Dr Hawke has extensive public policy experience, having served as the Secretary of three Departments – the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, the Department of Transport and Regional Services and the Department of Defence – and as the Australian High Commissioner to New Zealand. Dr Hawke has participated in other Inquiries and is currently Chairman and Director of a number of private and public sector Boards. Dr Hawke was appointed a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Public Administration in 1998 and a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Management in 1999 in recognition of his outstanding contribution to public service. In 2001, Dr Hawke was appointed a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and was named as one of Australia's Top 30 True Leaders.13

  2. In undertaking the Review, Dr Hawke was supported by an Expert Panel comprising:

  • Professor Tim Bonyhady – Director of the Australian Centre for Environmental Law and the Centre for Climate Law and Policy at the Australian National University;

  • Professor Mark Burgman – Adrienne Clarke Chair of Botany and Director of the Australian Centre of Excellence for Risk Analysis at the University of Melbourne;

  • The Honourable Paul Stein AM – former judicial officer in various New South Wales courts from 1983 to 2003, including the Land and Environment Court, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court; and

  • Ms Rosemary Warnock – former CEO of Castrol Asia Pacific and more recently CEO of the Clean Energy Council in 2008. She is currently an Executive Mentor with Merryck & Co.

  1. The Review was also ably assisted by a Secretariat comprising Mark Flanigan, Ashleigh Saint, Ilse Wurst, Caroline Reynolds, Caroline Nordang, Elizabeth McMillan, Mark Allen, Jonathon Hutton, Kate Palmer and Lisa Strickland.

Public Consultation

  1. To ensure consideration of a wide range of views, numerous opportunities for public input were provided over the course of the Review.

Discussion Paper

  1. The first stage of the public consultation process coincided with commencement of the Review on 31 October 2008 through release of a Discussion Paper and call for public submissions.

  2. The purpose of the Discussion Paper was to stimulate discussion about the Review. It set a framework for public input by providing an explanation of the main provisions of the Act, a summary of how the provisions had been implemented since the Act commenced in 2000, and posing questions about the operation of the Act.

  3. The Discussion Paper can be viewed on the Review website at:
    http://www.environment.gov.au/epbc/review/publications/discussion-paper.html

Summary of Public Submissions

  1. In response to the initial call for public submissions, 220 formal written submissions were received. A list of submitters, unless confidentiality was requested, is provided at Appendix 2 of this Report. Copies of the submissions, unless confidential, are available at: http://www.environment.gov.au/epbc/review/submissions/index.html

  2. A Summary of Public Submissions was published on 29 June 2009. This document provided an overview of the issues raised in the written submissions. It also provided information about submitter groups and common themes raised in submissions from those groups. The document was aimed at capturing, as far as possible, the common issues raised in submissions, but was not intended to be a comprehensive list of all the issues raised with the Review.

  3. The Summary of Public Submissions can be viewed on the Review website at: http://www.environment.gov.au/epbc/review/publications/public-submissions-summary.html

Targeted Face-to-Face Consultations

  1. The second stage of the public consultation process was a series of targeted face-to-face consultations. Meetings were held in each of the Australian capital cities during the period from March to May 2009. Further meetings were held with some parties during the preparation of the Final Report.

  2. Input was sought from submitters and others with an interest in the Act to ensure broad based input to the Review.

  3. Following the close of the formal submission period, some additional materials were received during face-to-face consultations. These were also considered during preparation of this Report.

  4. A list of organisations and individuals who participated in these consultations is provided at Appendix 3.

Interim Report

  1. The third stage of public consultation process sought public comments on an Interim Report which was released on 29 June 2009.

  2. The Interim Report identified the major issues raised over the course of the public consultation and provided commentary on these issues. It also referred to issues identified in the two reports from the Senate Standing Committee on Environment, Communications and the Arts’ Inquiry into the Operation of the EPBC Act,14 and other issues identified by the Review and related Government inquiries. The Interim Report did not make recommendations.

  3. The Interim Report can be viewed on the Review website at: http://www.environment.gov.au/epbc/review/publications/interim-report.html

Comments on the Interim Report

  1. In response to the call for comments on the Interim Report, 119 written comments were received. A list of those who provided comments on the Interim report, unless confidentiality was requested, is provided at Appendix 2 of this Report. Copies of the comments, unless confidential, are available at: http://www.environment.gov.au/epbc/review/comments/index.html

Workshops

  1. A number of workshops were held to explore issues in greater depth.

  2. One issue that was raised frequently with the Review was the notion of ‘landscape-scale’ approaches to biodiversity protection. To explore the effectiveness of the current biodiversity conservation provisions under the Act, the Review convened a workshop of biodiversity and landscape planning experts to consider options for broader landscape or ecosystem approaches to biodiversity conservation.

  3. Comments on the Interim Report led the Review to convene and support further workshops to explore issues in greater detail with:

  • heritage groups;

  • peak environmental non government organisations (NGOs);

  • experts from the Australian National University, CSIRO and the University of Canberra; and

  • infrastructure and industry organisations.

  1. Details of the workshops participants are provided at Appendix 3.

Input from Statutory Bodies and Government

  1. The Review also consulted with, and obtained input from, three statutory bodies that have an advisory role under the EPBC Act, namely, the Australian Heritage Council (AHC), the Indigenous Advisory Committee (IAC), and the Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC).

  2. The views of Australian Government agencies were sourced via an Inter Departmental Committee and directly to fill out the picture on some issues. Discussions were also held with State and Territory Government officials.

Statistics on Public Input Received

  1. The Review’s initial invitation for comments attracted a total of 220 submissions. The Interim Report drew an additional 119 written responses. Materials were also provided to the Review informally, confidentially, or during public consultations.

  2. Input was received from a wide range of sectors. Many submissions were from environmental NGOs (32%) and other NGOs, such as industry bodies (21%). A significant number of responses also came from individuals (21%). Other submissions were received from research groups and academics (8%), individual corporations (5%) and from Local, State, Territory and Australian Government bodies (13%).

Other Reports

  1. Coincident with the timing of this Review, other reviews considered issues that were relevant to this Report. These are discussed below.

  2. The Senate Standing Committee on Environment, Communications and the Arts conducted an Inquiry into the Operation of the EPBC Act and natural resource protection programs. The Committee produced two reports – the first was tabled on 18 March 2009 and the second on 30 April 2009. Both reports included additional comments from Coalition Senators and the Australian Greens.15 As noted earlier, the Minister referred the findings and recommendations of the Committee to this Review for consideration. These were discussed in the Interim Report and are also considered throughout this Report.

  3. Other reviews touching on the operation of the Act that were referred to the Review and are considered in this Report include:

  • the One Biosecurity Report of the Independent Review of Australia’s Quarantine and Biosecurity Arrangements;16

  • the Productivity Commission’s Review of Regulatory Burden on the Upstream Petroleum (Oil and Gas) Sector;17and

  • an in-confidence Report of the COAG Infrastructure Working Group.

Issues and Recommendations

  1. The Act establishes a national approach to a wide range of environmental protection and biodiversity conservation matters, and places the Environment Minister at the centre of decision making for matters of NES.

  2. The Act codifies the Australian Government’s role in protecting matters of NES, regulating the environmental impacts of actions involving the Commonwealth and actions on or affecting Commonwealth land. It is also the primary tool for regulating wildlife trade and protecting World, National and Commonwealth Heritage properties, places and values.

The Act is Supported

  1. Public comments received by the Review were broadly supportive of the Act. While this Report recommends significant changes to the Act’s operation and administration, it is important to acknowledge the many positive features that should be retained.

  2. The support that exists for the Commonwealth’s role in environmental regulation is even more important. While arguments were received both for and against an expansion of the Commonwealth’s role, there was general agreement that the Commonwealth has a legitimate and necessary role in regulating impacts on matters of NES and protecting Australia’s environment.

  3. The positive features of the Act include:

  • clear identification of the matters of NES;

  • the Environment Minister’s role as the key decision maker;

  • public participation provisions;

  • explicit consideration of social and economic issues;

  • statutory advisory mechanisms; and

  • the strong compliance and enforcement regime.

Clear Identification of the Matters of NES

  1. The Act clearly identifies that the Commonwealth’s focus in protecting the environment is on matters of NES. Conferring power on the Commonwealth to protect the matters of NES and regulate the possible impacts on those matters is a significant improvement on the previous regime where the Commonwealth’s environmental impact assessment and approval process was triggered in an ad hoc fashion and by factors not necessarily related to environmental concerns.

The Environment Minister’s Role as Decision Maker

  1. The Act establishes the Environment Minister as the primary decision maker on environmental matters. This is a fundamental and positive change from the previous regime where the Environment Minister’s role was limited to providing advice to other Australian Government Ministers making decisions affecting the environment (including heritage).

Provision for Public Participation

  1. The Act provides substantial opportunities for the public to engage in environmental decision-making. Effective management and protection of the environment requires engagement of the community, as many actions impacting on matters of NES (both actions with significant adverse impacts and recovery actions) rely on local and regional participants. An important part of engaging the community involves seeking community input when actions are proposed or species, ecological communities or heritage places are nominated for listing. This Report recommends changes to the public participation process to build on the current Act’s provisions for public engagement and disclosure.

Explicit Consideration of Social and Economic Issues

  1. The cornerstone principle on which the Act is based is the internationally recognised notion of ‘ecologically sustainable development’ (ESD). The primary aim of the Act is to regulate impacts on the environment through promoting ESD. Achieving ESD requires integration of environmental, social and economic factors into decision making. While the Act affords a high priority to environmental considerations, the requirement to consider social and economic issues explicitly in deciding project approvals under the Act is a positive attribute.

Role of Statutory Advisory Bodies

  1. An important feature of the Act is the role it provides for statutory advice bodies, in particular, the AHC, the IAC and the TSSC. The requirements for these bodies to provide advice prior to key decisions being made under the Act, and the ability for the Minister to call on the expertise of these bodies when considered necessary, is an important feature of the Act and is essential in ensuring that decisions are made on the best available advice.

Strength of the Compliance and Enforcement Regime

  1. The Act provides for a wide array of enforcement mechanisms that encourage compliance and allow flexibility in the approach that can be used to deal with breaches. These tools include compliance action to deal with breaches of varying severity and consequence.

Some Areas for Improvement

  1. While submissions were generally supportive, suggestions about areas where the Act could be improved, expanded or refined included:

  • clarifying the purpose and objects of the Act;

  • confusion about the different roles of the Commonwealth and the States and Territories in environmental regulation;

  • room for improving the relationship between the Commonwealth and the States and Territories to encourage collaboration in environmental management;

  • earlier engagement by the Australian Government in the planning process as a means of streamlining environmental regulation;

  • further matters of NES for possible inclusion as triggers under the Act;

  • alternative approaches to biodiversity conservation, including decision making at a landscape scale and the potential to better implement an ecosystems approach to environmental management. Those who suggested this idea were driven by concerns about the need to manage cumulative impacts and threats to biodiversity such as climate change;

  • scope for improved arrangements for performance auditing and compliance, including auditing Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs) and other bilateral agreements;

  • scope for increasing transparency of decision making;

  • a call for greater access to merits review; and

  • concerns relating to administration, including the development of better policy advice.

  1. Concerns about the capacity of the DEWHA to resource the activities necessary to ensure efficient and effective operation of the Act were also pervasive. These concerns were shared, one way or another, by all sectors consulted.

  2. Representatives of infrastructure developers held the view that investment in the basic environmental information and skills necessary to support future development should be regarded as a ‘national infrastructure building project’ in its own right. The petroleum sector estimated, using modelled numbers,18 that the opportunity cost associated with the need to undertake extensive time consuming field studies ahead of new developments was $300 million per year that a project was delayed for the average LNG project.

  3. To reduce regulatory burden, two things must occur:

  • the regulatory environment needs to be reformed so that unnecessary regulation is removed and more efficient approaches are adopted; and

  • administration needs to be funded so that early investments can be made in the things that will make the regulatory system work smoothly. These include funding the basic building blocks for best practice administration, such as skills development, engagement in strategic planning, development of better policy advice, improvements in spatial information, and investment in business management systems.

  1. Efficient operation of the regulatory system is important to the wider economy. Investment in the administration and information base supporting the system should be regarded as fundamental to building the national infrastructure and funded accordingly. The Australian Government’s infrastructure package provides a suitable vehicle to achieve this.



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