'One-stop shops' get COAG green light

All states and territories have agreed to start the process towards "one-stop shops" for environmental approvals at the Council of Australian Governments meeting in Canberra, in a move that was immediately condemned by the Greens.

Despite federal Labor criticisms of the Coalition's approach to "one-stop shops", Labor-led Tasmania, South Australia and the ACT signed memoranda of understanding with the Commonwealth, along with the Coalition-led Western Australia, Victoria and Northern Territory.

Speaking after his first COAG meeting as Prime Minister, Tony Abbott said the memoranda would move the jurisdictions "towards a one-stop shop process for environmental approvals".

New South Wales and Queensland - which had already agreed to the plan the government says will reduce "green tape" - have signed what the Prime Minister termed "assessment bilaterals".

These agreements will allow states to carry out the environmental assessments for major projects and pave the way for states to also carry out the approvals.

Mr Abbott argues that the "same high standards of environmental approval" will apply but with a "much swifter outcome".

While Labor supports the streamlining of environmental approvals - to get rid of state-federal double-ups - it does not agree with giving the states final approval powers over environmental sites of national significance.

"We do not support handing over the protection of the Great Barrier Reef to Campbell Newman," Labor's environment spokesman Mark Butler said earlier this week.

The Greens are vehemently against the move, and even before Friday's COAG press conference had ended issued a statement condemning the agreements as "dodgy deals".

"These deals pave the way for Tony Abbott to abolish a 30-year-old federal safeguard for our most precious natural places and wildlife, established when Bob Hawke stepped in to save the Franklin from being dammed," environment spokeswoman Larissa Waters said.

"Labor governments in South Australia, Tasmania and the ACT are trashing Bob Hawke's legacy and contradicting federal Labor's position ... Tony Abbott wants to put states and territories in charge of approving environmentally destructive projects that impact our World Heritage Areas and nationally endangered species."

smh.com.au

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