At the end of the day, the Commonwealth totally vacating the space of environmental protection in Australia is an overly drastic move that is just not necessary to achieve the efficiency and productivity savings advocated for by the Business Advisory Forum.
This is certainly the view of the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists, who in September published a paper on the COAG reforms, proposing a method for a reduction in duplication between State and Commonwealth processes. That’s right – the ‘one stop shop’ that is so coveted by major project developers.
It’s surprisingly simple, and it does NOT involve the Commonwealth handing over approval powers to the States. Assessment bilateral agreements are already in place between the Commonwealth and all of the States. It would just be a matter of making these work better. (Note: the EDO doesn't support the current assessment bilaterals in place, as the majority of the State processes accredited just aren't up to scratch. But this doesn't mean they could never be done well).
Under the Wentworth proposal, state government agencies would become the ‘one-stop-shop’ single entry point for business. A developer would have the option to submit their project referral to the relevant state government agency, which would then automatically refer it on to the Commonwealth, rather than a developer having to submit referrals separately to the two levels of government. The Commonwealth Environment Minister would still retain final EPBC Act approval powers, but there would be one process, one set of documentation and common public participation period.
Read more about the COAG attacks on environmental laws