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The economic and social impacts of governments’ health responses to COVID-19 have highlighted and exacerbated underlying structural weaknesses in the Australian economy.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, new private sector business investment in Australia is currently just 10.9 per cent of GDP, which is near the recessionary lows of the early 1990s and is lower than the rate which prevailed during the economically hostile Whitlam era.

The low rate of business investment will fall further over 2020 due to the heavy social and economic restrictions imposed by the Commonwealth and state governments in response to health concerns raised by COVID-19.

In addition, it has been conservatively estimated that Australia’s unemployment rate could increase to at least 10 per cent, and that up to a million additional Australians could become unemployment over the next six months.

Removing impediments to job-creating projects should be a public policy priority regardless of domestic economic circumstances. But at this critical juncture in our nation’s history, and with millions of jobs and livelihoods at risk, maintaining such impediments is unconscionable.

Main recommendations:

  • The total volume of regulation contained within the EPBC Act and associated subsidiary legislation should be returned to the year 2000 levels. This would mean a reduction in the number of regulatory restrictions from 4,820 to 855, an 82 per cent reduction.
  • Section 487 of the EPBC Act should be repealed.
  • The ‘water trigger’ should be removed from the list of Matters of National Environmental Significance.
  • Section 140A of the EPBC Act, which prohibits the development of nuclear power in Australia, should be repealed.
  • The EPBC Act should focus on localism and decentralisation to remove duplication and leave environmental regulation with states, territories, and the communities directly affected by such regulation.
  • Regulation under the EPBC Act should focus on environmental outcomes, rather than compliance with a process.
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