Water Week

EWN Publishing

Greenhouse reporting bill process botched: no consultation, no time, no proper consideration says Labor

Posted by waterweek on 28 September 2007

The National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Bill 2007 had several shortcomings, said Labor MP Peter Garrett in the Commonwealth House of Representatives on 12 September 2007.

Commonwealth reporting power unnecessary: “A major concern is the provision for the all-powerful Commonwealth reporting power to potentially usurp or marginalize state laws and programs,” Garrett said. In the absence of federal government leadership on climate change, state governments had led the way and their efforts should be supported rather than handicapped, he said. This power was clearly unnecessary.

Rushed job: Additionally, the thresholds and time lines were loose and flow so as to prevent an ‘as soon as practical’ introduction of emissions trading. Perhaps this was to be expected given the government’s plan for a slow and modest start to emissions trading by 2011 or 2012, Garrett said. Labor had referred the bill, which was introduced with almost no notice, to the Senate Standing Committee on Environment, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts for review. That Senate inquiry heard that the bill was put together without due consultation over a few weeks between July and August. “That is not nearly substantial enough time to produce legislation as important as this. We note on our side of the House the hasty and ill-prepared way in which this legislation was brought in for consideration,” said Garrett.

Government “arrogant”: Extraordinarily, the department admitted that they had not consulted specifically with any of the stakeholders during the drafting of the bill, Garrett said. referring to the Water Bill, Garrett said: “Frankly, the government’s arrogance in basically dumping proposed legislation into the House with very little opportunity for due and proper consideration is a matter of some concern and reflects very poorly both on the government’s approach to general issues of introducing and having us consider legislation and, more particularly, on the minister himself and his approach to his portfolio.”

Unintended consequences: “All the stakeholders who gave evidence to the inquiry identified significant problems with this bill,” Garrett said. “The inquiry heard amongst other things that the bill could deliver unintended consequences, such as significantly raising compliance costs, producing a fractured system which may not include all major emitters, obliging companies to seek judicial review, undermining current and future state laws and programs on climate change which are working, and potentially cutting across other state laws and programs which are not at all connected to greenhouse issues.”

Rushed legislation: A number of representations to the Senate inquiry, including from environment organisations, made the point that the reporting thresholds had all the appearance of being too loose and that it was critical that more information be publicly disclosed about the reporting under the proposed legislation, Garrett observed. “I guess a sloppy bill like this really tells us pretty clearly that, at the time it was introduced, perhaps it was the case that the environment minister did not even have a chance to have a look at it. As a consequence, we have eleventh-hour efforts to draft and rush this bill through parliament,” said Garrett. “I note that the government circulated amendments yesterday. It is good that the environment minister finally found some time — in what I know has been a fairly busy last couple of days — to give some attention to his portfolio responsibilities. But, true to the arrogant form that we consistently see from the Howard government, the House has been given less than 24 hours to review the amendments, to undertake appropriate consultation and to seek the necessary advice. This is completely unacceptable.”

Bill rammed through Parliament: It was completely unacceptable that Parliament should have less than a day to consider and review the amendments and to seek the necessary advice, said Garrett. “The approach of the government and the minister is to ram it through, get it into the House and never mind the details,” he said.

Reference: Peter Garrett, Labor Member for Kingsford Smith, House of Representative, Commonwealth of Australia, 12 September 2007.

Erisk Net, 22/9/2007

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