Environment Minister Tony Burke
Environment Minister Tony Burke Karleila Thomsen

Burke wants to bridge rift with govt

FEDERAL Environment Minister Tony Burke wants to continue working with the Queensland Government to streamline environmental approvals despite their very public spat over the Alpha Coal Mine project this week.

Mr Burke and senior department officials met with Queensland Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney, Environment Minister Andrew Powell and Queensland coordinator-general Barry Broe in Sydney on Thursday in a bid to bridge the widening rift between the Commonwealth and the state.

In separate statements both parties described the meeting as "productive".

The feuding sides agreed the Federal Government should take over the approval process for the $6.4 billion Alpha project in Central Queensland, although Mr Seeney said in his statement he had "full confidence" in the conditional approval granted by Mr Broe.

Mr Burke's department on Tuesday began working with the project's developers, GVK and Hancock Coal, to address 28 issues identified by Mr Broe.

Earlier that day Mr Burke had launched an extraordinary attack on the Queensland Government over what he described as its "shambolic" approach to the approval of the Alpha project.

He wrote to the Queensland Government setting a deadline of 10 days for the parties to agree on ways of streamlining future approvals within the bilateral agreement.

In his statement Mr Burke said it remained his intention to remove the impasse within that timeframe.

Mr Burke said despite their differences both parties were eager to cut green tape.

But this must not come at the expense of "environmental standards", he said.

"There will be discussion in the coming days between jurisdictions to determine how the current bilateral agreement would need to be amended to create greater certainty for the environment and business," Mr Burke's statement read.

"A fully streamlined process occurs when reports from Queensland deal with all matters of national environmental significance that are required for a Commonwealth decision to be made.

"If they do not, we are left with a duplicated process."

 "For whatever reasons the current bilateral has not delivered the twin aims of high environmental standards and a streamlined process for business. The work in coming days aims to resolve this."

Mr Seeney said the Queensland delegation provided Mr Burke with a detailed response to concerns he had raised over the Alpha approval.

"There is a joint commitment to the future of the bilateral agreement and Queensland will respond within the next 10 days to the commonwealth's notice that it may suspend the bilateral approvals process," Mr Seeney's statement read.

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