COAG deal gives states powers to approve mining projects

A NATIONAL deal to hand over the Commonwealth's approval powers over major projects such as mining and gas proposals was a key outcome from a meeting of state Premiers and Prime Minister Tony Abbott today.

The final Council of Australian Governments meeting in Canberra for 2013 was Mr Abbott's first at the helm.

Boosting the infrastructure pipeline, paid parental leave, deregulation and car manufacturing were also major issues discussed at the meeting.

But Mr Abbott said it was the deal to hand over assessments of mines and other projects that could affect "matters of national environmental significance" that was the big achievement of the meet.

While Queensland and New South Wales had already signed up to take over assessments, Mr Abbott secured the signatures of premiers and chief ministers from all other states and territories.

He said this initial deal would see state governments handle assessments of such projects, while he was working on a further deal to hand over the final approval powers to the states.

The handover of environmental powers forms a key plank of the Abbott Government's agenda to remove "unnecessary red tape and duplication", as part of the election pledge to cut $1 billion worth of regulation.

Mr Abbott said the meeting also heard from state premiers about what the big infrastructure projects were that they wanted "expedited", alluding to pushing forward some major roads projects.

The official communiqué from the meeting commissioned urgent work on fast-tracking planning and approvals for infrastructure, upping private sector investment and unlocking "economic growth potential including in regional economies".

Mr Abbott reiterated his desire to be known as "an infrastructure prime minister", promising further announcements on projects to be brought forward soon.

He also secured the states' agreement for the signature paid parental leave policy, to ensure state government employees would be covered, while the details of how it would be paid would be worked out before it takes effect in 2015.

Mr Abbott said the COAG has also confirmed a priority to create a structural adjustment package to help motor industry employees out of work from car manufacturing shut downs.

He said the package would help workers adjust to Holden's closure in 2017, as well as support the industry supply chain, indicating likely support for the car component businesses.



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