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Olympic Dam expansion on fast track

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The Olympic Dam expansion is being fast-tracked as part of a Federal Government plan to boost employment and reduce the length and severity of the coronavirus-induced recession.

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison is expected to today announce $1.5 billion to immediately start work on priority projects identified by the states and territories.

As well as the Olympic Dam expansion, these “shovel-ready” projects include the inland rail project from Melbourne to Brisbane; the Marinus undersea electricity link between Tasmania and Victoria; emergency town water projects in NSW; and road, rail and iron ore projects in Western Australia.

BHP is proposing for a staged increase in copper production at Olympic Dam from 200,000 to up to 350,000 tonnes per annum.

The expansion has been granted Major Development status by the state government and is expected to support up to 1800 jobs during construction and an additional 600 ongoing operational roles thereafter.

The federal funding is designed to speed up approval processes to fast-track the projects.

The state government released the assessment guidelines for the Olympic Dam expansion last month.

In an address to CEDA’s State of the Nation conference in Canberra today, Morrison will again push his JobMaker scheme, urging a modernisation of how Australia approaches the economy.

“Our number one priority is getting people back into jobs, and they need to be real, productive jobs. Jobs that produce goods and services that people want,” he will tell the conference.

Morrison says joint assessment teams will work on accelerating the projects worth more than $72 billion in public and private investment, and supporting more than 66,000 direct and indirect jobs.

Further announcements on specific projects will be made soon.

But he will also urge a rethink of deregulation issues.

“All levels of government, business and the community must rethink how these systems can better contribute to our recovery from the pandemic,” he will say.

“We need to bring the same common sense and cooperation we showed fighting COVID-19 to unlocking infrastructure investment in the recovery.”

He said many states had already cut approval times.

“I’ve asked them all to lift their ambition further, and work with us through the national cabinet to make deregulation a focus of Australia’s economic recovery.”

Cities and Urban Infrastructure Minister Alan Tudge said the aim was to get big projects moving quickly, which would include putting more resources upfront in the assessment process and making the process parallel rather than sequential.

He said the states were “100 per cent on board wanting to get these projects done fast.”

“So many of those larger scale projects can take three to four years before they actually get going, so we want to reduce that timeframe in half,” he told Seven’s Sunrise program this morning.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg earlier in June confirmed Australia was in a recession, after the economy shrank 0.3 per cent in the March quarter ahead of a much larger fall expected in the current June quarter.

The pandemic could see government debt blow out by $620 billion by the end of the decade, the PBO has found.

Frydenberg will provide a budget update on July 23.

-with AAP

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