Department of the Environment

Archived media releases and speeches

The Hon Tony Burke MP

Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities

Queensland environmental regulation

Media release
1 June 2012

I was shocked to see the media statement from Deputy Premier Seeney today.

Up until that media statement, I had understood that the Queensland Government was still considering reopening the Queensland Coordinator General’s process to avoid a duplicate process for the environmental assessment of the Alpha project.

In his media statement the Deputy Premier appears to have reneged on that and is now demanding that I deal with the report in its current, incomplete form and make my decision within 30 business days despite those deficiencies.

Make no mistake, if I were to deal with a report which does not fully address the environmental issues which I have a legal obligation to consider, then there are serious repercussions for the soundness of the decision which follows.

It is not in the interest of the company, or the environment, or the Queensland economy to have a situation where I have to make decisions on incomplete information.

Because the Queensland government has not provided a sound assessment, I will be required to obtain the information that Queensland has failed to provide.  This will result in unnecessary and costly delays for the project.

If Queensland had made clear to the Commonwealth some months ago, when the new government came to office, that they did not intend to have a streamlined process for environmental assessments, then the Commonwealth would have dealt directly with the proponent and this work would have commenced some months ago.

I do not want to be in a situation where I am announcing on the weekend a duplicate Commonwealth process.

But it would be deeply irresponsible if I were placed in a situation where I was otherwise compelled to make my decisions on a report which my department advises me is seriously deficient and which the report itself acknowledges is deficient.

I’m not sure if the Deputy Premier realises the cost of the political game Queensland is playing.

The streamlining of environmental approvals is an important policy objective, but a childish game which creates a duplicated process so the Queensland Government can point to it and say how bad it is, is a crude and offensive way to treat a major job creating project.

The previous calls from Premier Newman to reduce green tape can only be described as utter hypocrisy given the behaviour this week of his Deputy Premier.

All this can be avoided by the Queensland Government doing what every other state government does when a bilateral agreement is in place, and that is to conduct a single assessment process to the satisfaction of both jurisdictions.

If I am going to have to commence a duplicated process then I would rather make that decision soon than add to the irresponsible delay the Queensland Government has already created.

I have asked the Deputy Premier to show a willingness publicly to reopen this process by 5pm today.

I hope he cares enough about Queensland jobs to stop the games and get on with the work.