Environment Minister Tony Burke says he won’t play “pin the tail on the donkey” with the environment as the squabble over the Alpha coal mine with the Queensland government continues.
The federal and Queensland governments have been warring for more than a week over the approval process for the $6.4 billion GVK-Hancock Coal mine, in central Queensland.
The feud has prompted the federal government to ask Premier Campbell Newman to justify why it should continue the bilateral process for assessing mining projects, adopted to make approvals more efficient.
Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke this week said he could not possibly sign off on the Queensland government’s conditional approval, calling it shambolic and dangerously deficient.
Mr Burke said the Queensland government had cut corners in the process.
“It’s not a game of pin the tail on the donkey where you blindfold yourself, put conditions there, and take the blind fold off in several years time to see whether or not it worked,” he told ABC TV on Sunday.
“I can’t put conditions on unless the work has been down to assess what those conditions should be.”
He not prepared to “guess the conditions” because the approval could be overturned by court action down the track.
“That would be the worst outcome for investment and a ridiculous outcome for the environment,” he said.
Mr Burke said the mine and rail link to the port could impact on the Great Barrier Reef.
“The biggest impact we have on the Barrier Reef is run off from the land,” he said.
“These rail works go all the way to the coast, you need to do significant earth works because you’re completely levelling it.”
His preference is for the Queensland government to finish the job and in the future give the federal government more notice if it’s only going to do half the job.
Mr Burke is confident the environmental approval process will be finalised by the end of the year when the companies will make their final investment decisions.
Queensland has until June 20 to prove it is capable of working on a streamlined process.