Transparency International Australia is concerned about the Prime Minister’s stated plans to drastically reduce approval timeframes for complex projects.
“TIA has engaged in a major, multi-year analysis of precisely this issue –how approvals are granted for mining projects. We have found a number of gaps in this process that enable corruption to occur. One of the key corruption risks is exactly what the Prime Minister now wants to ‘fast track’ –the environmental impact assessment (EIA).”Said TIA CEO Serena Lillywhite.
“Mining projects, and indeed all massive infrastructure projects, are corruption-prone. They are complex, involve enormous amounts of money, many contractors and sub-contractors, often have a huge environmental footprint and leave a substantial mark on local communities–not always positive. They are sectors with huge lobbying power and deep pockets.
“It’s essential that the approvals process is rigorous, transparent and accountable to ensure they deliver the best returns for the Australian public, with as little adverse impact on the environment and the local community as possible. That’s what our rules are for –to protect the public’s best interest and our natural environment from corruption and exploitation.
“Our research into the mining sector in Queensland has highlighted lack of independent verification of environmental impact assessments as a key corruption loophole. Without independent scientific verification of the environmental impact assessment, how can the community know for sure that the environment will be adequately protected and taxpayer funds well spent?
“Transparency International’s global work on the mining approvals process advocates for a clear process –one that is easy to follow, transparent and fair. However, a clear and fair process is not the same as a fast process. It takes time to conduct checks, to make sure that applicants’ claims are correct and to conduct due diligence verification of the applicants’ integrity, character and track record. A good process is a smart mix of rigour and transparency.
“Without these checks, a ‘fast-tracked’ process becomes a shoddy process. The larger the project the greater the risk –of damaged environments, wasted funds, disappeared tax revenue and harm to local communities.”