Significantly, the decisions in Keating's economic statement which affect most the environment come in the section titled "Facilitating Major Projects".
Keating has promised big business that he will not let environmental considerations stand in the way of major projects like mines, smelters and pulp mills.
A small but powerful unit will be set up within the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet to guide major development projects through the federal approval process. This unit will report directly to Keating and work closely with state governments.
Keating promised to ensure a "once and for all" approval process to work towards an integrated federal and state assessment process of environment and heritage considerations. To this end, the government will organise a joint review of all federal and state requirements for approval of major projects, aiming to limit the time taken for approval and to develop a streamlined, single environmental impact assessment.
Other decisions affecting the environment include:
- The establishment of new national parks and marine parks will be subject to "more fully integrating economic and environment considerations".
- All controls on the export of iron ore will be lifted, and annual export controls on mineral sands will be replaced by "life-of-mine" controls.
- The government will proceed with resource security legislation and in the meantime give "non-legislative" security for hardwood sawmilling.
Keating promoted the reduction of wholesale tax on new non-luxury cars as an environmental measure because it would take more polluting old cars off the road. But without a major improvement in public transport, it is just as likely to increase overall car use. $600 million of the $1 billion to be spent on transport goes to road improvements, while the amount allocated to rail will not be sufficient to complete even the upgrading and standardisation of the freight network, let alone begin to improve public transport in the cities, according to the Public Transport Users Association.