Kennedy Graham

Undemocratic climate change underway: listening to whom you wish to – only

by Kennedy Graham

The National Government has decided to kneecap the ETS and it doesn’t really want to hear the views of people who disagree.

Were it otherwise, it would have given more than two weeks for people to make a submission – the way you’re expected to, with New Zealand draft legislation.

Last week, the Government introduced its Climate Change Response (Emissions Trading and Other Matters) Amendment Bill.  It has major implications for New Zealand.

That happened on Monday evening.  On Tuesday it was tabled, Wednesday was a members’ day, and on Thursday it had its first reading.  That is fast!  In fact, it’s the earliest it could have been debated within the rules of Parliament.

With the Bill scraping through by six votes, the Government is now keeping a lid on dissent by truncating the period in which people can get their submissions ready.

Submissions opened last Friday and will close in two weeks (10 September). The select committee must then finish its consideration and report back by 17 October – an extraordinarily short time-period for a bill of this magnitude.  In short-circuiting the process, the Government knows no shame.

It’s not the first time this has happened.  Just since the last election, it has rammed through welfare ‘reforms’ in the Social Security (Youth Support and Work Focus) Amendment Bill, major and complex changes in the Dairy Industry Restructuring Amendment Bill,  and another bill that needed proper consideration; Prisoners’ and Victims’ Claims (2012 Expiry and Application Dates) Amendment Bill.

Rather than taking proper care and consideration on bills that are complex and on which views are divided the National Government wants to rush them through to avoid having a proper debate. It’s clear it has no intention of actually listening to views – and heaven forbid – actually making any changes.

The Minister, Tim Groser, defended the short time-period on the grounds that the Government had listened to stakeholders during an extensive pre-drafting period. He knows very well, yet it required me to point it out in the House, speaking to a point of order, that submissions pre-drafting  and submissions in select committee are entirely different functions. And with the former, the Government listens to whom it wants to listen to.  In the committee, anyone can submit.  And that is the point – of course.

The Bill will weaken an already weak ETS to the point of irrelevance – deferring agriculture indefinitely, deferring a rise in the price cap, deferring a one-for-one surrender obligation, making it easier for foresters to switch to dairying, and enabling importers to increasingly use dangerous synthetic gases.

Let’s not let the Government get away with this one. Make a submission, ask to appear before the committee, have your say – it’s your democratic right.