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From Perth’s Sunday Times ( supporting documents to be posted soon.)
More leaked documents add to drama
Narelle Towie, environment reporter
March 28, 2009 04:28pm
MORE leaked documents have cast doubt on statements made this week by the State Government about proposed changes to mining approvals.
Last weekend The Sunday Times reported that a government-appointed industry working group (IWG) – tasked with devising a plan to streamline and speed-up mining approvals – favoured moves to dilute the power and role of the Environment Minister among other far-reaching changes.
The next day the Minister for Mines and Petroleum Norman Moore stated that a leaked document referred to in the newspaper report was not produced by the IWG.
He said the document, marked confidential, was a submission to the IWG by industry associations.
He said it had not yet been properly considered by the IWG or the government.
The Sunday Times has ascertained that the document was the end product of a workshop involving key members of the WA Chamber of Minerals and Energy (CME) and the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA).
The workshop, which also included at least one IWG member, took place in January and the document has been the focus of much attention by the IWG.
Moreover, further leaked documents show recommendations in the confidential report have been adopted by the IWG – in some parts, word-for-word – and are at odds with the Minister’s statement.
– See both group’s recommendations
– See more recommendations
– See the lead agency model submitted to the industry working group
Up until yesterday Mr Moore and his media advisor were insisting there was “no draft report or draft recommendations.”
The Sunday Times has obtained a copy of the IWG’s “working draft report” dated March 6, which includes an executive summary and eight key recommendations.
The incomplete report proposes similar sweeping changes to how mining applications are processed, though no specific mention is made about the role of the Environment Minister.
Parts of the document’s recommendations appear to be copied almost verbatim from the workshop report the Minister insisted on Friday had not yet been “properly considered or endorsed” by the IGW.
A spokesman for Mr Moore yesterday confirmed the existence of the draft – after a week of denials. He said the Minister was relying on advice from the IWG.
IWG chairman Peter Jones said there are working drafts within the group but the Minister doesn’t know anything about them.
Shadow Environment Minister Sally Talbot last night hit-out: “Last week Minister Moore denied that this report existed and now we have had it confirmed.
“We have a real fear that there is going to be a watering down of the authority for the Minister for the Environment,” she said.
Ms Talbot is calling on the government to come clean on what plans are being put together by the industry working group.
Mr Moore, who is due to receive the IWG’s recommendations in May, said there were several hurdles to be surmounted before any recommendations were implemented.
They would first be considered by him and a cabinet sub-committee before full Cabinet. And any legislative amendments would need the approval of parliament.
Mr Moore said he was aware IWG were considering transferring large parts of the Department of Environment and Conservation’s role to the independent Environment Protection Agency, which is currently an advisory body.
“I’m not sure that that is a good thing if you want the approvals process to move quickly,” Mr Moore said.
Mr Moore said he could not guarantee that the powers and the responsibilities of the Minister of Environment, when dealing with approvals processes, will not be diminished at all by the reforms being considered.
“It is not within my power to provide cast-iron guarantees about issues of this nature. The granting or relinquishing of Ministerial power is a matter for Cabinet and Parliament. That said, the aim of this exercise is not to diminish the level of scrutiny applying to the environmental conditions related to mining approvals,” he said.
MLC member for mining and pastoral region Robin Chapple said the IWG’s intentions were quite clear.
“The community at large must be very seriously concerned that the environmental controls and parameters that have been established over the years are going to done away with,” he said.
Robin Chapple Greens WA MLC elect warns on hijack of approvals