Study of Major Project Development Assessment Processes

9 December 2013

The Productivity Commission has released the report from its study of major project development assessment processes. 

The Productivity Commission was commissioned to undertake a study benchmarking Australia’s major project development assessment processes against international best practice.

The final report, released on 10 December 2013, found that  there is "substantial scope to improve Australia's development assessment and approval regulatory framework for major projects". The full report can be downloaded from the Productivity Commission website.

The report identifies a number of DAA areas that require attention. These include:

  • unnecessary complexity and duplicative processes
  • lengthy approval timeframes
  • lack of regulatory certainty and transparency in decision making
  • conflicting policy objectives
  • inadequate consultation and enforcement
  • regulatory outcomes falling short of their objectives.

Specific reforms proposed include: 

  • A five-point plan to move towards a 'one project, one assessment, one decision' framework for environmental approvals. This includes strengthening bilateral assessment and approval agreements between the Commonwealth and the States and Territories.
  • Limiting the use of 'stop-the-clock' provisions.
  • States and Territories improving coordination between their regulatory agencies.
  • Institutional separation of environmental policy development from regulatory and enforcement functions.
  • Enshrining the principle that Ministerial approval — unless a deemed approval — should not be reviewable by review bodies other than on judicial review grounds.
  • Establishing statutory timelines, together with appropriate safeguards, for key decision points in the DAA process.
  • Expanding the use of Strategic Assessments and Plans where practical to do so.
  • Requiring that approval authorities publish reasons for their approval decisions and conditions.
  • Improving third party opportunity for compliance actions.

The report also points out that "any regulatory system is only as good as its weakest link", and argues that partial reform efforts are unlikely to achieve meaningful improvements.

 

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