Business urges Gillard to honour promise to cut green tape and abandon Greens bill

Business groups are calling on Prime Minister Julia Gillard to fulfil her promise to cut green tape, and strike down a Greens bill before Parliament which would further strengthen environmental law.

The bill would outlaw bilateral agreements. These agreements, supported by business groups, would allow large projects to avoid duplication between states, making it easier for projects to get approved.

Business is already angry at Gillard after she said last year at the Council of Australian Governments Business Advisory Forum she would slash green tape, but ultimately backed down due to pressure from the Greens.

The Business Council of Australia has said in a submission to a Senate inquiry for the Greens’ bill, outlawing the agreements would throw the timeline of major projects into flux.

“The Business Council considers that bilateral agreements that accredit state and territory government approvals processes under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, with appropriate assurance and monitoring mechanisms, are a key vehicle for reducing this costly double handling at no cost to the environment.”

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry also told SmartCompany this morning it supports the view of the BCA.

The debate over cutting green tape has been ongoing for several years, but reached a significant point last April when the BCA, ACCI and the Australian Industry Group called on Gillard to take significant action.

At the COAG Business Advisory Forum, Gillard agreed to cut down on green tape, which would include giving states the power to approve certain projects. But Gillard backed down, saying bilateral agreements with each state weren’t appropriate.

However, the BCA suggests 30% of economic activity depends on capital projects and these agreements make it easier for states to work together.

The support from business groups references a review of environmental law conducted by Allan Hawke, which support bilateral agreements. But the Greens say creating bilateral agreements would take regulation out of the Federal Government’s hands, opening further possibilities for breaking environmental law.

The BCA said in its submission economic prosperity is at stake.

“The successful delivery of major capital projects is critically dependent on timely regulatory approvals and well-considered and well-managed regulatory conditions upon approval.”

“If Australia takes too long to deliver approvals, or the conditions placed upon approvals are unworkable, major capital projects will not proceed, or will not deliver full value to their owners or to the Australian community.”

The inquiry is set to hold hearings next month.

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