Delay caused by administrative error highlights flaws of approval process

Mine_memes

Groups such as GetUp! and 350.org could barely contain themselves at the news of a delay to the approval of the Adani coal mine in Queensland.

 

The decision by the Federal Court to temporarily overturn the approval of the $16 billion Adani coal mine in Queensland on a bureaucratic technicality is bad news for employment, bad news for Queensland and bad news for Australia’s investment reputation.

Indeed, as The Australian‘s environment editor said yesterday, it will embolden partially taxpayer-funded environmental campaigners to re-double their efforts to destroy the mining industry.

While the precise details are unclear, it appears that the federal environment department made some sort of administrative error when it provided the approval papers to Minister Greg Hunt that dealt with the mine’s protection of local skink and snake species. It is expected to be another eight weeks before the mistake can be rectified.

Despite only being a paperwork issue, it unsurprisingly did not stop campaigners such as GetUp! and 350.org claiming absolute victory.

The problem here is not that there is a process that needs to be followed. Of course there needs to be a system of rules governing the approval of a major infrastructure project to which proponents and opponent can put their case.

However, a process is merely a means to make a decision. An “approvals process” is not an excuse for opponents to try their luck again, and again, and again until they win.

That a $16 billion mining project, which would potentially provide 10,000 jobs and operate for 60 years, has been delayed for five years now and counting is red tape gone mad.

It was only three days ago that the Productivity Commission’s Workplace Relations Framework Report highlighted how in 2014 the Fair Work Commission rejected a workplace agreement because an employer put a staple in a three page document.

The law should allow genuine procedural mistakes to be corrected, not insist that a whole approval process start again.

While the federal government is currently trying to negotiate a Free Trade Agreement with India, decisions like this will send a message that investment is not welcome.

The rest of the world will pass Australia by, if we insist on wrapping every new project in red tape.

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