THE Federal Government has asked the Productivity Commission to hold a 12-month review into the regulation of the resources sector, Resources Minister Matt Canavan announced on Monday.
Speaking at a NSW Minerals Council conference at Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley, Mr Canavan drew a strong round of applause when he announced the review, saying there had been "far too many delays" in the approval of mining projects.
Mr Canavan named Adani's Carmichael mine in the Galilee Basin as an obvious high-profile example but said there were plenty more low-key projects, such as the Narrabri basin gas project in NSW, that had been hit by what he called "the hidden costs of delays".
"The hidden opportunities that are lost to great states like NSW when we allow activists to hijack our judicial system to pursue their narrow political ends, not to generate rapid environmental outcomes," Mr Canavan said.
He said it was possible to come to "quicker and more sensible decisions" on resources projects and still maintain what he called Australia's "robust" environmental regulations.
He said the speed with which the Queensland government approved the Adani mine after the Coalition's election win showed that politics, not environmental concerns, were behind the Adani go-slow.
Referring to the big election swing against Hunter MP Joel Fitzgibbon, Mr Canavan said he welcomed Mr Fitzgibbon's "renewed support for coal" in becoming a joint chair of the new Parliamentary Friends of Coal Exports Group.
He said Mr Fitzgibbon's job wasn't helped by comments from Labor politicians "saying rubbish about the sector", including Newcastle MP Sharon Claydon, who described the group as "childish" before renewing calls for a "just transition authority".
"Whenever you hear the words "'just transition' from a politician don't believe the B.S. What they're really saying is they want you out of a job," Mr Canavan said.
He said the "just transition" calls were "the white flag approach to the industry".
"I'm not going to put up the white flag, I'm going to keep fighting for this industry, keep fighting for these jobs," Mr Canavan said.
He also criticised the idea that said the Galilee Basin would compromise the Hunter market, calling it "particularly narrow world view" when the idea was to grow the market to access international customers who wanted to "pay a lot of money to access reliable resources" .
He said that while the main focus was on the export revenues from mining, hundreds of thousands of Australians had jobs that relied on the mining of coal and gas and other resources.
Acknowledging the go-slow that Hunter thermal coal exports were meeting at Chinese ports, Mr Canavan said the best response was to diversify our markets so that "we are less exposed to disruption".
"The obvious next, big hope for our coal is India," Mr Canavan said.
"India is already the biggest market for our coking coal, and its steel making ambitions promise to see that market continue to grow strongly."
But while India's thermal coal imports had risen by 30 per cent in four years, Australia had less than 5 per cent of the market.
"If we were to close off some parts of our country, our customers and our investors would rightly get worried about our entire country," Mr Canavan said. "I follow the adage the customer is always right and if we want to maintain our strong coal industry across the country we must serve our customer first."
Mr Canavan said he had no doubt that the pro-mining vote helped the Coalition to victory and it showed what everyday Australians were saying, and not just what the ABC was broadcasting.
He said the coal industry was here to say, regardless of what its critics said.
"I think it will get bigger and better in the years to come, and the way the everyday coal workers responded at the election has helped secure that," Mr Canavan said.
"The election result was a hi-vis revolution. The mining industry stood up and said they were sick of being ignored or worse misrepresented by people who have no idea of the industry."
The contrary view:The end of coal in the Hunter is coming, by Phillip O'Neill