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Resources sector regulation

Terms of reference

I, the Hon Josh Frydenberg MP, Treasurer, pursuant to Parts 2 and 4 of the Productivity Commission Act 1998 hereby request the Productivity Commission to examine regulation affecting the resources sector and highlight best practice.


Commonwealth, state and territory governments are responsible for managing resources in their jurisdictions and are all involved in the regulation of the sector. For example, states and territories regulate health and safety, employment, community engagement and environmental management, while the Commonwealth has constitutional powers over many of these aspects of law, and in some instances overrides any legislative inconsistencies. Additionally, States negotiate contractual agreements with individual operators that are subsequently ratified by state parliaments.

Regulation plays a critical role in ensuring that resources projects across Australia meet community and environmental management expectations. However, regulations may pose unnecessary burdens or impediments on resources companies operating, or seeking to operate and invest, in Australia.


This study will focus on regulation with a material impact on business investment in the resources sector. The Commission is asked to identify effective regulatory approaches to the resources sector and highlight examples of best–practice regulation across the Australian resources sector and internationally, taking into account the unique regulatory challenges facing individual jurisdictions.

This will provide opportunities for individual jurisdictions to assess their own regulatory environments, and to draw on leading practice.

In undertaking this study, the Commission should:

  1. Assess best–practice project approval processes across Australia and internationally and identify any broader impediments to the timing, nature and extent of business investment in the Australian resources sector.
  2. Identify regulatory practices that have achieved evidence-based goals without imposing additional costs or regulatory burdens on industry, as well identifying jurisdictions’ successful efforts to streamline or augment processes to reduce complexity and duplication and improve transparency for current and future investors.
  3. Identify leading environmental management and compliance arrangements that have resulted in the removal of unnecessary costs for business while ensuring robust protections for the environment are maintained.
  4. Identify best–practice examples of government involvement in the resources approvals process – taking into account the context of each development – to expedite project approvals without compromising community or environmental standards, based on sound risk-management approaches.
  5. Examine regulatory and non-regulatory examples of effective community engagement and benefit–sharing practices, and establish best–practice examples of where mutually-agreeable relationships were successfully developed between the resources sector and the communities in which they operate, including with Indigenous communities.


The Commission is to consult with key interest groups and affected parties, invite public submissions and release a draft report to the public.

The Commission is to consult with COAG Energy Council working groups on existing studies related to land access, community engagement and regulatory benchmarking.

The final report should be provided within 12 months of the receipt of these Terms of Reference.

The Hon Josh Frydenberg MP

[Received 6 August 2019]