A new analysis released today reveals that claims of savings from the Federal Government’s proposed amendments to fast-track environmental approvals cannot be believed.
Industry groups such as the Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) and the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA) have made the claims via a number of documents and reports.
The so-called “one stop shop” proposal would strip away federal oversight of nationally significant environmental decisions. Federal Governments have previously used these oversight powers to stop State Governments from damaging iconic places such as the Great Barrier Reef and the Franklin River.
The new analysis from The Australia Institute for WWF-Australia comes on the eve of a Senate vote on amendments to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act that would create the “one stop shop” by handing sole approval powers to the states.
The analysis shows that reports commissioned by business lobby groups to justify the “one stop shop” are based on woefully inadequate economics and also finds that the Federal Government’s own report contains major methodological errors.
The Federal Government’s modeling claimed $417m in cost savings from the watering down of environmental legislation, but was based on a number of projects that had already been abandoned, as they weren’t viable. This includes the Wandoan Coal Project in Queensland, and the Oakajee port and rail development in Western Australia.
The analysis found three common attributes in all documents reviewed:
- Most assume that all time spent under Commonwealth approval results in an equal delay to the project cash flows. This isn’t necessarily the case – many other aspects of project preparation, planning and financing occur concurrently.
- They assume that all projects proposed are financially viable and will proceed immediately following approval. This isn’t the case. Many projects are cancelled or delayed after gaining approval due to changes in commodity prices or other considerations. For these projects, there is no time cost associated with EPBC referral.
- None consider that there is economic value in conducting Commonwealth environmental approval. In fact, further assessment of environmental impacts often protects valuable environmental assets.
- WWF-Australia CEO Dermot O’Gorman said the new analysis exposed industry claims on the so-called cost savings as “misleading and deceptive”.
“If passed, these amendments will limit our ability nationally to protect the places and iconic creatures Australians love,” Mr O’Gorman said.
"The $417m in cost savings quoted by the Government to justify the One Stop Shop cannot be taken seriously because the Government’s own modelling is completely flawed.
“It deceptively overstates delay timeframes and includes projects which failed to even get off the ground.”
Mr O’Gorman called on all Senators to carefully examine this new analysis, before making a decision on whether to support the proposed legislation.
WWF-Australia Media Contact:
Daniel Rockett, National Media Manager