States have agreed to take control of environmental approvals from the Commonwealth under a proposed single-touch process.
Scott Morrison discussed changes to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act with premiers and chief ministers on Friday.
“The next phase is that we have to move to put interim standards in place, we have to move to put bilateral agreements in place, so that work starts now. It’s a green light,” the prime minister told reporters in Canberra.
Mr Morrison said the states were enthusiastic about the changes, which would see them sign off on major projects under a set of federal government rules.
“They all wanted to be first movers on this, and I think that’s great,” he said.
“We want to create jobs. We want to get projects happening. We want to remove the impediments that are unnecessarily preventing investment and development from taking place.
“This process will enable standards to be upheld, but ensure process doesn’t destroy projects.”
The federal government wants to legislate the draft national standards as early as next month, at the same time as opening public consultation on formal rules.
National cabinet also endorsed 15 major projects for which Commonwealth environmental approvals will be fast-tracked.
For projects in the early stages of assessment, the leaders have agreed to halve Commonwealth approval times, from an average of 42 to 21 months.
Governments will seek to push more advanced projects through as quickly as possible.
Specialist teams will work on accelerating the projects, which are worth more than $72 billion and will supposedly create more than 66,000 jobs.
Greenpeace Australia Pacific campaigner Steph Hodgins-May said light-touch approval would lead to the loss of even more threatened species.
“We need a new generation of environmental laws that are effective in protecting nature, governed by an independent, transparent and accountable regulator and access to justice.”