Environmental approvals for major projects should take 30 days to complete, Prime Minister Scott Morrison believes.
Approvals under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act took 90 days on average at the end of last year, and take 40 days now.
Mr Morrison has set a 30-day target in the hope it’s achieved by the end of the year.
“According to departmental estimates, delays associated with these approvals alone cost industry over $300 million just in 2019 and that’s not good enough,” he told an economic forum in Canberra on Monday.
Environmental assessments occur before it’s decided if approval is given.
The assessment time currently takes three and a half years on average, which the government wants to reduce to 21 months.
EPBC Act approvals are currently in addition to any state or local council processes.
But Mr Morrison wants to streamline the approvals into one, which will be discussed by national cabinet.
Environment Minister Sussan Ley says fast-tracked approvals won’t impinge on environmental safeguards.
“In the process we are making companies even more proactive in identifying and complying with environmental safeguards under the Act, particularly in the light of the bushfire crisis,” she said.
Fifteen major projects will be fast-tracked for approvals in a bid to help with the recovery from coronavirus.
The EPBC Act is currently under review, with an interim report expected this month.
Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young says easing environmental protections will hurt the environment, with the current laws resulting in the loss of one million hectares of critical koala habitat.
“Rio Tinto was able to blast away 46,000 years of indigenous heritage. Water catchments for Sydney have been polluted by dirty coal mines,” she said.
“Using COVID-19 as an excuse to scrap environmental protections is an act of bastardry. Most Australians want better protection for the environment, not less.”