RESOURCES projects worth billions of dollars face delays and a business push to cut “green tape” will be derailed if the federal and Queensland governments fail to settle the $6.4 billion Alpha mine dispute.
The row escalated yesterday after federal Environment Minister Tony Burke gave Queensland 10 days to explain why a bilateral agreement to streamline environmental approvals for major projects should not be scrapped.
Such a move would slow major resource project approvals in Queensland and could stymie business ambitions to streamline environmental decision-making nationally.
Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney yesterday accused the federal government of manufacturing the spat to derail “green tape” negotiations agreed to at COAG, while Treasurer Tim Nicholls said federal Labor was risking billions of dollars in investment by delaying major projects.
Mr Nicholls said a delay of one year to the Alpha project – the conditional approval of which by Queensland last week sparked the dispute – would cost the state about $300 million in exports.
Mr Seeney is due to meet Mr Burke in Sydney this morning to discuss approval of the Alpha mine, jointly owned by India’s GVK and businesswoman Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting.
Queensland increased the stakes yesterday, nominating the proposed Alpha rail corridor as its preferred route to open up the Galilee Basin. Mr Burke had been particularly critical of the approval of the rail corridor as part of the Alpha project.
Mr Seeney said Mr Burke had provoked a political fight over Alpha “on the flimsiest of grounds”.
He said it was an attempt by the commonwealth to back away from the COAG deal to negotiate a transfer of federal decision-making powers over environmental approvals to the states.
“This is a political fight picked on the very flimsiest of grounds in a very well-thought-through way,” Mr Seeney said.
“It took us three days to get from Tony Burke the detail of his concerns. The formal advice from the (Queensland) controller-general last night was that it was a complete rehash of information already considered with no new issues.”