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Wednesday, 30 May 2012
Page: 6293

Queensland Environmental Assessments

Mrs D'ATH (Petrie) (15:04): My question is to the Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. Can the minister please advise the House on the latest developments in streamlining environmental assessments to avoid duplication with the Queensland government?

Mr BURKE (WatsonMinister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities) (15:04): I thank the member for Petrie for the question. It is an important question for all Queenslanders, given the significant job opportunities that will come from the pipeline of investment that is coming before us in Queensland at the moment. With that in mind, at the last meeting of COAG the Prime Minister and the premiers, including the Queensland Premier, made clear that where we can avoid duplication we want to; when we can streamline processes we want to.

That is why I was astonished yesterday to find the Queensland government adding a layer of environmental duplication on referrals that was not previously there. They did it on the Alpha coalmine project, which will have 990 Queensland jobs when operational, 3,600 Queensland jobs during the construction phase and which was being assessed under a bilateral agreement—a bilateral agreement which matches what people on both sides of this chamber have been talking about for some time, where we get the state level to do a single assessment process so that we do not have a federal process then a state process and at the end of that it goes back to each minister for approvals.

Yesterday the Queensland Coordinator-General released his report. When he released it the Deputy Premier in his media statement said, 'The federal minister for the environment is yet to complete his assessment under the Commonwealth environmental legislation.' There is a reason why I am yet to complete it: until yesterday there was not going to be a Commonwealth assessment. Until yesterday that duplication did not exist. Until yesterday we thought that, under a bilateral agreement, Queensland was going to be serious on eliminating the duplication so we could meet the same environmental standards which we want to hold—no reduction in the standards—but streamline the process as a company goes towards a final investment decision on a project worth $6.4 billion.

While we have been sitting here, the Deputy Premier has stood up in the Queensland parliament and said he has just checked with the Coordinator-General and they did meet all the federal standards. I suggest the Coordinator-General in Queensland reads his own report. On page 198 he acknowledged that he did not only have insufficient information coming back from our department, he did not even wait for the Queensland agencies to comment on whether or not they had met the federal standard. On page 220 of that report he acknowledged that they had not met the survey standards.

Mr Dutton interjecting

Mr BURKE: The member for Dickson—a Queensland member, of all people—says, 'Hold the front page!' I have to say that if you are delaying and risking and adding to the process, for a $6.4 billion investment and 3,600 jobs, if it doesn't matter to the Queensland members of this parliament it matters on this side. (Time expired)