Queensland Government Elevates Carmichael Coal Mine to ‘Critical Infrastructure’ Status.
The Queensland Government has declared the Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project as a ‘prescribed project’ and ‘critical infrastructure’. The Project’s critical infrastructure label is generally reserved for significant facilities and networks that warrant enhanced protection. By labelling the Project in this way, the Queensland Government has said it will facilitate an integrated approvals process for the project and will reduce the red tape requirements for subsequent approvals such as granting easements over property. The only remaining key approval are water licences.
Queensland is currently amending the water law licencing scheme in the state. Under the Environmental Protection (Underground Water Management) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2016 (QLD) the Project will require a licence for associated take of groundwater. This licence approval, an outstanding requirement for the Project, can now be fast-tracked under the powers afforded to a ‘prescribed project’ and ‘critical infrastructure’. Further, these decisions can no longer be scrutinised judicial review.
The labels of ‘prescribed project’ and ‘critical infrastructure’ remove the opportunity for judicial review under s 76W of the State Development and Public Works Organisation Act 1971 (QLD). The Project has been stalled by several legal challenges by environmental groups and native title claimants. The removal of the court’s jurisdiction over any further ministerial and Coordinator-General decisions removes an additional layer of independent oversight of this project and the opportunity for public scrutiny of the project and its development. It further ousts the power of the judiciary and expands the power of the executive, arguably at odds with the separation of powers outlined in the Queensland Constitution.
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