Edotas is a not-for-profit community legal centre that provides environmental and planning law advice. Our goal is to raise public awareness about environmental laws and remedies and assist the community in ensuring a healthy and sustainable Tasmania.

The House of Representatives released a report on “streamlining and red tape” yesterday. Despite concerns raised by various stakeholders (including ANEDO) that the policy would weaken environmental protections, create conflicts of interest, and reduce consistency across Australia, the Liberal/National majority report supports the government’s one-stop-shop policy.

In Labour’s dissenting report, these conclusions are described as “disingenuous” and “without factual support”.

According to the report, the investigation focused on “excessive environmental regulation that does not result in associated improvements in environmental outcomes,” rather than environmental regulation in general. On the other hand, the report fails to critically examine environmental outcomes, the economic value of environmental protection, or the criteria used to determine whether a regulation is “excessive.”

The report assumes that faster approvals are inherently better approvals, and it accepts industry stakeholders’ largely anecdotal evidence that environmental regulation is affecting productivity growth. This differs from a previous report. by the Environment and Communications Legislation Committee on the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Retaining Federal Approval Powers) Bill 2012, which found no empirical evidence that Commonwealth involvement in assessments was a significant additional burden. It also contradicts recent OECD findings that tighter regulation does not reduce productivity, particularly when the economic value of a healthy environment is taken into account.

EDOTas supports efforts to eliminate unnecessary duplication but believes the report misses an opportunity to examine ways to improve regulatory efficiency without jeopardizing environmental outcomes. Despite this, the information makes several positive recommendations, including coordinated threatened species lists, public-access databases, practitioner accreditation to improve impact assessment quality, and increased use of strategic assessments.