Commission endorses giving environmental decisions to states

THE Abbott Government's moves to hand environmental approval powers to the states have been effectively endorsed by a new report from the Productivity Commission.

While the government has already signed tentative agreements with Queensland and New South Wales, it is yet to sign similar arrangements with other jurisdictions.

The hand over of approval powers forms part of the government's election promise to cut "$1 billion in red tape", from regulation.

In its report, the Commission found there remained "substantial scope" to improve Australia's development assessment and approval regime.

Focused on major projects, such as mining and infrastructure proposals, the report made a series of recommendations to the government.

Crucially, it recommended limiting "stop the clock" provisions, previously used to ensure environmental concerns were alleviated.

It also recommended removing review powers of ministerial decisions on major projects, effectively making minister's approvals final, except on judicial review grounds.

The review identified "areas that require attention", including complex and duplicative processes, lengthy timeframes, conflicting policy objectives and inadequate consultation and enforcement.

It also found there was a lack of regulatory certainty and transparency in government decisions and actual outcomes of regulations were "falling short of their objectives".