• Media Release

EPBC reforms must get the balance right

The Government’s changes to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act must strive to get the balance right between better outcomes for the environment and supporting economic growth, investment and job creation.

The Australian minerals industry is committed to the protection of Australia’s unique environment.

The minerals sector takes its environmental stewardship seriously investing heavily in world-leading environmental standards, land and soil management, protection of waterways, conservation of plants and animals, and regeneration, through the life of the mine and well beyond.

The government must ensure that economic and social impacts of projects are considered in project and development approvals.

Reform of this legislation is a significant undertaking and time is needed to robustly test and get the settings right without unintended consequences.

The establishment of Environment Protection Australia, where the Minister retains decision-making is a positive signal from the Government.

The MCA has long held the position that democratically elected government ministers are best placed to make decisions in the interests of the Australian people and economy.

Environmental, economic and social aspects of projects must be appropriately balanced in all decision-making.

Enforcement measures, including penalties and stop work orders must be proportionate, and governed by clear rules to ensure these are not misapplied, increasing investment risk at this critical time.

Importantly, industry has strongly advocated for the creation of Environmental Information Australia to collate national data and this will provide greater certainty and reduced costs for both government and project proponents. While it will take some time to deliver, providing industry access to high quality data has the potential to deliver practical outcomes and may shave years off project development.

The MCA has long called for improvements to the application process and welcomes the proposed service to facilitate industry applications, however this should be applied across the full approval process.

There is an urgent need to speed up existing processes affecting the sector. While the MCA supports additional resourcing to administer the current Act this must be directed to addressing existing procedural delays rather than expanding the bureaucracy.

Australia has one of the most comprehensive environmental approvals processes in the world and the MCA has been clear about the significant risks of duplicative, complex and uncertain approvals processes pose to the minerals sector, the broader economy and the environment if we do not get this right.

The industry remains committed to working constructively with the Federal Government on these reforms, ensuring that unintended consequences are avoided, there are better outcomes in local communities and that industry can get on with doing what it does best – creating jobs and economic growth for all Australians while supporting the energy transition.

If the Albanese Government wants to ensure a ‘Made in Australia’ future it is crucial they look to streamline and reduce the regulatory burden on the mining industry.

It is only by focusing on enhancing our competitive advantages rather than imposing regressive policies that we can signal to the investment community that Australia is an attractive place to do business.

Minerals responsibly sourced from Australia are essential for a nature positive future for our planet.