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On 16 February 2024, the Commonwealth Government announced they would add nickel to the critical minerals list. This is a welcomed measure from industry and something AMEC has been calling on for some time. Having nickel added opens access to funding opportunities for companies via the Critical Minerals Facility, created to finance Australian critical minerals mining and processing projects.

Nature Positive Reforms

The latest phase of industry consultation occurred on 22 February. AMEC travelled to Canberra and met with DCCEEW. The following documents were available for viewing:

  • Draft legislation on the core elements of the new laws, likely to include regional planning, assessment accreditation, protected matters, the Ministerial call-in power and definitions for December and February exposure drafts.
  • Draft policy papers, likely to include compliance and enforcement, restoration actions and contributions, objects/principles of the new Act, statutory committees, wildlife trade and sustainable fisheries, protected matters, threat abatement, conservation planning and National Parks.
  • Updated draft policy papers to inform National Environmental Standards:
    • Matters of National Environmental Significance
    • Restoration Actions and Restoration Contributions
    • Regional Planning
    • Data and Information
    • Community Engagement and Consultation

AMEC has formed a National Working Group to collate our response to the Nature Positive reform and supply feedback.

Pilbara BioRegion

The Commonwealth Government is consulting on a Pilbara Bioregion: EPBC Act Policy Statement. This discusses the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water expectations and avoidance requirements for referral and assessment of proposed projects in the Pilbara bioregion. AMEC formed a subcommittee of members to compose a detailed submission, as well as writing to Minister Plibersek. A key concern is that the timing of the release overlaps with the DCCEEW Nature Positive Reform process.  The document has generated a number of questions as there appears to be application of ideas under discussion in the Nature Positive reforms that are yet to be legislated and provides an interpretation of how they could be implemented.

Climate Related Financial Disclosures

The Commonwealth Treasury has consulted on Exposure Draft legislation that amends the Australian Securities and Investment Commission Act 2001 and the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) to introduce mandatory requirements for large businesses and financial institutions to disclose their climate-related risks and opportunities. This is the final step before introducing this legislation to parliament.

The proposed reforms relate to large entities that are required to prepare and lodge annual reports under Chapter 2M of the Corporations Act, requiring them to disclose information about climate-related risks and opportunities. However, where entities are subject to both the annual reporting requirements under the Corporations Act and emissions reporting obligations under the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Act 2007 (Cth) (NGER Act), they will be required to disclose regardless of size.

AMEC has provided a submission to the Government detailing concerns with the proposed framework.

National Water Agreement

The Commonwealth Government has reignited the National Water Initiative, now as a National Water Agreement, with a consultation of State. AMEC has ensured the voice of industry is heard through Stakeholder reference groups in WA, Northern Territory and Queensland and by attending workshops and providing submissions. The Productivity Commission has coincidentally undertaken a consultation on the effectiveness of the NWI.

Mining, Prospecting Quarrying Rights

Commonwealth Treasury recently concluded consultation on the exposure draft amendments to the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997, outlining the tax treatment of ‘exploration’ and MPQRs. The amendments will ensure the income tax legislation operates according to the Australian Tax Office’s interpretation of the Full Federal Court’s decision in Commissioner of Taxation v Shell Energy Holdings Australia Limited (Shell Decision).

AMEC continues to voice concerns with the ATO’s interpretation of the Shell Decision, considering the interpretation too narrow. As the interpretation of the ordinary meaning of ‘exploration’ is so central to its application under the Income Tax Act and PRRT Act, this decision will guide income tax and broader Petroleum Resource Rent Tax outcomes.