Australia: Commonwealth and Queensland finalise a revised assessment bilateral agreement under the EPBC

HG Alert: 13 January 2014
Last Updated: 15 January 2014
Article by David Nicholls and Gemma Ayriss

On 13 December 2013, the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments entered into a revised assessment bilateral agreement (Revised Assessment Bilateral) under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth)(EPBC). The Revised Assessment Bilateral amends the original assessment agreement entered into in 2009, and follows amendments made in December 2009 and June 2012.

The Revised Assessment Bilateral is the second step towards a "one-stop-shop" for environmental approvals. It moves Queensland closer to the much anticipated approval bilateral agreement (Approval Bilateral), which will delegate final decision making powers on projects assessed under the EPBC to the relevant State or Territory.

One-Stop-Shop Overview

The "one-stop-shop" framework was announced by the Minister for the Environment, the Hon Greg Hunt MP, on 16 October 2013. The aim is to accredit State planning systems under national environmental law (the EPBC) to create a single approval process that satisfies both state and Commonwealth requirements.

Implementation consists of three stages involving the Commonwealth and Queensland:

  1. signing a Memorandum of Understanding;
  2. updating the original assessment bilateral agreement; and
  3. settling an approval bilateral agreement within 12 months.

Queensland and the Commonwealth signed a Memorandum of Understanding on 18 October 2013. The Revised Assessment Bilateral marks the completion of step two. The third and most important step, the Approval Bilateral, is anticipated to be in place by 18 September 2014.

Revised Assessment Bilateral– what's changed?

The Revised Assessment Bilateral amends the existing assessment bilateral agreement in a number of respects including:

  • expanding the actions covered by the assessment bilateral;
  • changing consultation requirements; and
  • a commitment by both Queensland and the Commonwealth to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their own administrative processes.

Expansion of the actions covered by the assessment bilateral

The Revised Assessment Bilateral broadens the scope of matters of "national environment significance" covered by the agreement to include:

  • actions that are within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park;
  • actions relating to Commonwealth marine areas; and
  • nuclear actions.

The inclusion of these actions allows Queensland assessment processes to be used under the EPBC, although the final decision on whether to approve a project remains with the Commonwealth Environmental Minister until an Approval Bilateral is executed.

Change of Consultation Requirements

The changes in consultation requirements primarily affect the terms of reference for Environmental Impact Statements and the draft assessment report.

Earlier this year, the Queensland Government released two sets of generic Terms of Reference, the first for Environmental Impact Statements for resource projects assessed under the Environmental Protection Act 1993 and the second for resource projects assessed under the State Development and Public Works Organisation Act 1971.

Both generic Terms of Reference stipulate that an EIS for a project that is a controlled action must address the "controlling provisions" under the EPBC, and contain an assessment of impacts, mitigation measures and any offsets for residual impacts for matters of national environmental significance.

The Revised Assessment Bilateral stipulates that Queensland will use standard Terms of Reference that have been agreed with the Commonwealth. While not entirely clear from the Revised Assessment Bilateral, this appears to endorse the Generic Terms of Reference as the standard Terms of Reference for the bilateral assessment process.

Previously, the assessment bilateral required Queensland to provide draft terms of reference to the Commonwealth before the terms of reference were finalised. Now, the standard Terms of Reference will apply, unless there is a need to make substantial modifications to a project, or where there are no standard terms of reference (for instance, for non resource projects). In those circumstances, there is to be consultation between the State and the Commonwealth.

The draft assessment report referred to in the Revised Assessment Bilateral means:

  • the EIS Evaluation Report prepared by the Coordinator-General under the State Development and Public Works Organisation Act 1971;
  • the EIS Assessment report prepared by the Chief Executive under the Sustainable Planning Act 2009; or
  • the EIS Assessment report prepared by the Chief Executive under the Environmental Protection Act 1994 as applicable, and is restricted to the chapter on impacts on matters of National Environmental Significance.

The Revised Assessment Bilateral stipulates that the draft assessment report will be provided once to the Commonwealth for comment, with Queensland and the Commonwealth then endeavouring (to the greatest extent possible) to agree on a proposed set of common, outcome-focussed conditions.

The consultation theme is continued for matters of national environment significance, with the Revised Assessment Bilateral now expressly providing that the State may seek advice on relevant matters from Commonwealth agencies with relevant expertise (such as the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority).

Improved efficiency and effectiveness for administrative processes

The other broad area covered by the Revised Assessment Bilateral is administrative processes. The governments have made a commitment to:

  • greater up-front guidance to industry;
  • common streamlined generic Terms of Reference;
  • standard outcome-focused conditions;
  • Commonwealth officers outposted to Queensland and vice versa;
  • increased data sharing across governments and provision of industry data from environmental impact statements to the public; and
  • project control and monitoring mechanisms.

The most significant of those commitments relates to conditions. The express objective is imposing a single set of outcome-focused conditions for actions affecting matters of national environmental significance, and avoiding (to the greatest extent possible) the need for additional conditions from the Commonwealth Environmental Minister.

Transitional Arrangements

The intent of the Revised Assessment Bilateral is to enable projects to move from a parallel Commonwealth/Queensland assessment process to a single accredited assessment process administered by Queensland, subject to the proponent's agreement, from commencement of the agreement on 13 December 2013. Eligible projects that are currently being assessed under Part 8 of the EPBC may continue to be assessed under the current Commonwealth process, if the proponent elects to do so.

Next Steps

Negotiation of the Approval Bilateral is expected over the next 12 months. The draft Approval Bilateral is slated for release for public consultation in April 2014. The final goal is to have the Approval Bilateral in place by 18 September 2014.

© HopgoodGanim Lawyers

Award-winning law firm HopgoodGanim offers commercially-focused advice, coupled with reliable and responsive service, to clients throughout Australia and across international borders.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

David Nicholls
Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Mondaq Advice Centre (MACs)
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.