The following speech was made by State Member for Chatsworth Steve Minnikin in Parliament yesterday (Wednesday 11 July 2012)
I am extremely pleased to rise and speak on the Environmental Protection (Greentape Reduction) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2012 on behalf of the Chatsworth electorate. Given my property development background and close association with professionals from the resources sector, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak about what I consider to be significant improvements to Queensland’s environmental legislation that does not compromise environmental outcomes.
This bill will contribute significantly to promoting a true four-pillar economy in order to get Queensland back on track. It is important to note that the green-tape reduction amendments in this bill offer practical and innovative alternatives to the existing environmental regulatory framework in Queensland. Additionally and significantly, this bill will deliver a substantial reduction in administrative red tape. This bill represents the most significant reform to licensing processes under the Environmental Protection Act 1994 since it commenced. This is welcome news to many stakeholders throughout Queensland and beyond who have been frustrated by the current red-tape requirements.
At its heart this bill is a coordinated package of legislation, business process and information systems reform to the existing licensing application and assessment processes under the EP act. The bill rebuilds the approval processes for environmental licensing under the Environmental Protection Act to reduce costs for industry and the government, improve business investment certainty and allow for front-line environmental regulation to be delivered more efficiently. The essence of this bill continues with an election promise to streamline approvals and cut through red tape or, as the title of this bill suggests, green tape.
As the minister has alluded to, the green-tape project will produce estimated savings of $12.5 million per year contributing to the government’s policy to reduce regulation and red tape by 20 per cent overall. This will be fantastic news to the numerous stakeholders who have experienced frustrating and costly approval processes throughout the state.
The bill deletes three chapters of the Environmental Protection Act 1994 with duplicative provisions and replaces them with a single process. This will remove 90 pages of regulation from the act. The reforms will reduce delays in approvals and improve certainty for business. This is demonstrable evidence of the Newman government getting serious on cutting down red tape and convoluted processes of government. Very importantly, the changes being discussed here will make it easier and cheaper for small business to establish itself in Queensland. Indeed, the benefits to environmental licence holders in particular are many. For instance, the bill amends the Environmental Protection Act to change the way environmental approvals work by introducing corporate licences that are more flexible for operators. This is an area that they have been crying out for. It is quite ridiculous that under the current Environmental Protection Act a mining operation that has, for example, an associated power station or non-mineral extraction operation must have three separate approvals. These include an environmental authority for mining, an environmental approval for the actual power station itself and a further environmental approval for extraction. However, once the Environmental Protection (Greentape Reduction) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2012 is implemented this type of mining operation will be able to amalgamate these approvals to a single environmental authority, thereby allowing a single set of reporting and administrative requirements and removal of conflicting conditions. As I keep saying, along with my parliamentary colleagues, the ALP simply do not understand business.
1142 Environmental Protection (Greentape Reduction) & Other Leg. A‘ment Bill 11 Jul 2012
I congratulate the minister as this bill represents the most significant reform to licensing processes under the Environmental Protection Act 1994 since it commenced. It will assist with driving a four-pillar economy which was the centrepiece of our election commitment to the people of Queensland. Practical benefits include making it much easier to amend the approval as the business grows and changes and allowing the amalgamation of licences which will reduce reporting requirements. In practical terms, take a concrete batching plant in the heart of the electorate of Chatsworth at Tingalpa that is expanding and now needs to house fuel for its extra plant and equipment on the site. Under the current system it would require two permits, one for the concrete batching and one for the fuel storage. The new system allows one permit to take care of both activities. This obviously saves business time and money.
The vast size of Queensland brings its own challenges to business. This bill provides substantial benefits for companies that manage operations in different areas throughout the state. Under the current system the conditions for operation are contained in several different permits that relate to different sites scattered throughout Queensland. As a result obviously it leads to a large and unnecessary administrative workload for a variety of reasons, including permits with complex, varying and at times contradictory conditions across the different sites; permits that have different anniversary dates meaning fees are due on different dates throughout the year; and permits with annual reports due at varying times.
The new corporate licence system introduced by the bill means that the patchwork of approvals will be replaced by one corporate approval for all sites and environmentally relevant activities. One document will be the source of all operating conditions, obligations and responsibilities. Varying dates will be replaced by the one commencement date, obviously meaning that all fees and reports will be due on one business day. Another bonus is that operator licences will take effect from the date given by the operator, which means that the operator will not be required to pay an annual fee for the period prior to commencing the activity.
Despite the obvious benefits, corporate licences are not compulsory. If a company decides that obtaining a corporate licence does not suit its reporting requirements, it can elect to maintain the status quo. The flexibility provided by the provisions in the bill mean that businesses have more say in how they are regulated while ensuring that the same stringent environmental standards are met. The Newman government is looking at other options including removing the need for small business environmental risk assessments to obtain an environmental authority at all. This could include motor vehicle workshops, small chemical storage and boilermaking businesses, dry cleaning sites et cetera.
The bill provides three ways to apply for an environmental authority for environmentally relevant activities, ERAs, including an automatic approval process. It is a licensing model proportionate to risk, which industry has been screaming out for. I repeat, it is proportionate to risk. Following full implementation, around half of all ERAs will be able to go through the standard application process. Importantly, this will save each applicant an average of $20,000 in application preparation costs, 150 pages in avoided application materials and 68 days in processing time. This will result in a reduction of approximately 62,000 pages of application documents per year. That is a massive cost saving to business and fulfils an election commitment to assist business and get the state back on track.
Furthermore, changes are being made to how the environmental authority works so that operators can enjoy more flexibility with their approvals. The changes will make the process for amending environmental authorities much simpler, to enable a business to grow and change over time. Another benefit is the ability for operators of multiple sites toamalgamate all their different environmental authorities into a single document. This will mean that businesses have only one annual reporting date, as I said before. The timing of public notification has been changed so that public notification occurs earlier in the assessment process. This will reduce assessment time frames by around three months.
This bill also removes unnecessary administrative processes around managing an environmental authority, such as the need to apply to transfer the environmental authority when the tenure is transferred. This is extremely important to business because it will remove over 250 transactions per year. Additionally, small miners will no longer be required to prepare plans of operations, which will remove a 15-page administrative requirement from around 2,400 operators, a reduction of 36,000 pages overall. The bill will assist with streamlining information requirements and provide a clear list of information that needs to be in an application for an environmental authority.
The Environmental Protection Regulation is also being reviewed to reduce the number of matters that must be considered by an officer to make a decision to approve. This, in turn, will reduce the amount of information that is required to be prepared by an applicant. I am pleased and proud to rise before the House today and have the opportunity to speak on this important piece of legislation. I thoroughly commend the bill to the House.
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