Public service told to work harder, faster, ask less questions

TROOPS on the front-line of ensuring major projects do not destroy the environment lost more than 200 staff as part of public service cuts, while those remaining were told to work harder, faster and ask fewer questions.

Budget papers for the Department of Environment show the state paid $12.3 million in redundancies - at an average of $60,300 to 204 workers - in the past year.

The department's environment management team is responsible for combing through gigantic tomes supplied by major development or mining companies, ensuring they have ticked the right boxes.

In 2012, Co-ordinator-General Barry Broe approved more projects than any of his predecessors.

A government spokeswoman said any change in staff levels had no impact on the department's assessment of major projects but came from streamlining.

The latest budget papers show the department has found new ways to smooth the edges that might slow the go-ahead for potentially multi-billion dollar projects.

In a new initiative, the department will start tracking how often staff go to those developers to ask for more information.

This was understood to be a type of performance measure designed to not only show how many questions were being asked, but staffers could be judged on how often they needed more information from these companies.

The department was asked to elaborate on the scheme but was unable to respond before deadline on Wednesday.

Opposition environment spokeswoman Jackie Trad described the plan as trying to gag those with concerns.

"This measure explicitly encourages public servants to approve applications without investigating the need for further information," Ms Trad said.

"Or, in other words, it encourages silence - silence on issues of concerns, silence on questions of clarification, silence on ensuring that basic and important environmental standards are met."

Concerns were raised earlier this year after media reports suggested that sprawling gas projects in Central Queensland were rushed through by the former Labor government. In the budget, the department describes its top priority for the coming year is to have "faster approval processes" through cutting environmental regulations or "green tape".

The papers also suggest the department is to focus on ensuring projects meet environmental standards when considered for approval, then keep them once developed.

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