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The Productivity Commission (Commission) has released its draft report on Resources Sector Regulation, inviting submissions from the public and affected stakeholders on its proposed findings and recommendations by 5 June 2020.
In August 2019, the Commission was requested to carry out a study of regulation affecting the resources sector across Australia and to highlight instances of best practice. The Commission defines best practices as those seeking to minimise burdens on businesses and regulators, whilst achieving clear, evidence-based regulatory objectives.
The Terms of Reference for the study call for an examination of unnecessary burdens or impediments on resources companies operating, or seeking to operate and invest, in Australia – unnecessary, in the sense of delivering negligible benefit or improvement in regulated outcomes, for an increase in the cost, complexity, uncertainty and/or delay of regulatory processes.
The Commission also seeks to identify instances of best-practice regulation across all stages of the project life-cycle to provide opportunities for individual jurisdictions to assess their own regulatory environments. Areas of focus include project approval processes, environmental management and compliance arrangements, and effective community engagement and benefit-sharing practices.
The draft report contains a number of findings and recommendations including in relation to the following key areas:
Risk- and outcomes-based regulatory approaches
Efficiency in regulatory decision-making
Interjurisdictional cooperation, coordination and concurrence
Regulator capacity and capability
Effective community engagement and benefit-sharing
Sound environmental outcomes
The importance of policy certainty
The study runs parallel with a number of other reviews in relation to the regulation of the resources sector, including the federal review of the EPBC Act, the South Australian Productivity Commission inquiry into the effectiveness of regulation in the extractives supply chain, the review of the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972 (WA) and the NSW review of the work health and safety regime for mining. The Commission is due to report to the Australian Government by 7 August 2020.
As the Commission itself noted, many of the issues raised in this study and regulatory challenges facing the sector have been raised in previous reviews. Accordingly, the question of what consequences might realistically flow from the present review should be approached with a degree of guarded optimism.
We nonetheless encourage all affected stakeholders and interested parties to closely consider the regulatory burdens affecting them, and to identify any areas worthy of regulatory reform or consideration by the Commission. In that regard, we note the Commission has requested specific information with regards to the following key areas:
Any submissions on the draft report, including the provision of any further information, need to be provided to the Commission by 5 June 2020.
Please contact our Environment and Planning team if you would like further information about the review, or would like assistance in preparing a submission.
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