Wednesday, 26 August 2020
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for the Environment. Will the minister update the House on how the Morrison government is streamlining environmental approvals to fast-track economic recovery while maintaining strong environmental protections?
I thank the member for Curtin for her question and congratulate her on her outstanding start on the floor of this parliament as an educator, vice-chancellor of Notre Dame university and someone passionate about young people and their learning.
As the Prime Minister said, we're working hard with our states and territories to focus our energy and our efforts throughout this pandemic not on wasteful process but on positive results. As part of this, the national cabinet agreed that all states and territories would move to single-touch environmental approvals, underpinned by national environmental standards. We're also fast-tracking assessments for 15 priority infrastructure projects, without reducing environmental protections. These 15 projects are worth more than $72 billion in public and private investment and they'll support more than 66,000 direct and indirect jobs. They include key WA infrastructure projects like the Metronet rail project, which will support growth of Perth metropolitan region, and Main Roads projects in regional WA like the Tonkin Highway, the Bunbury Outer Ring Road and the Albany Ring Road. The WA government is keen for these projects to progress, as are our Western Australian members like the member for Curtin, the member for Canning and the member for Forrest.
We know that WA will be one of the first takers of our single-touch model. Earlier this month, Premier McGowan made very strong statements in support, saying:
This agreement will pave the way for important job-creating projects, while maintaining the highest environmental standards.
He was most enthusiastic. The environment minister, Stephen Dawson, said:
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has never been a more important time to facilitate economic activity, while safeguarding the environment for future generations.
I look forward to similar support from the federal Labor Party for our single-touch approvals. In fact, yesterday the Leader of the Opposition was thumping the table in support of WA Labor, moving motions to suspend standing orders, saying, 'We stand with WA Labor.' And so they should stand with their Labor counterparts, both premiers and chief ministers.
We're doing more. We're halving the backlog of outstanding decisions. We're improving assessment times. We're delivering quick and robust decisions. But it's not just about faster approvals; it's about better approvals, with strong protections for the environment. After this year's bushfires, we're taking a careful approach. We're working closely with proponents to ensure that, whether we need to secure additional offsets for species protection or maintain the high-quality habitat that is so important post fires, we're protecting the environment, protecting jobs and protecting our economic future.