Climate Tasmania wants the Tasmanian Parliament to pass an ambitious, comprehensive, and detailed Climate Change Act.
We want the Act to provide: # strong action to minimise climate disruption and # a stable policy framework – both of which are based on climate science and evidence.
In pursuing this project, over the past 12 months we have:
- Written to every member of both Houses several times.
- Met with members of both Houses and from each of the three parties as well as with independent members.
- Developed a set of innovative proposals for how a Just Transition from fossil fuels could be brought about in Tasmania.
- Incorporated those proposals and many others into a set of drafting instructions for a new Climate Change Act.
- Developed a detailed presentation about the climate policy churn which has occurred in Tasmania and how the Parliament could improve the situation.
- Arranged public meetings in Launceston and Hobart where we have given our presentation.
Despite all the above activity, the increasing amounts of climate disruption the Earth is already experiencing, and a high level of interest from some Members of both Houses, it is not certain that the parliament will rise to this challenge.
Why is this so?
Because only a minority of the Members who we have discussed this with thinks that the Tasmanian Parliament is capable of putting partisan politics aside for the long-term benefit of our State.
We hope that those who do see the potential for non-partisan action are correct.
Internationally, climate change is not always a partisan issue: for example, the New Zealand Parliament has just passed a multi-party Climate Change Act with a final vote of 119 for and 1 against. Another example is that all major parties in the UK House of Commons recently agreed on a climate emergency declaration.
The Role of the Tasmanian Government.
Even though this year the Parliament has imposed legislation on the government that the government did not want, if a new, ambitious, comprehensive and detailed Climate Change Act were to be imposed on the Tasmanian Government, it would be unlikely to work. The problem is that once legislation has been enacted, it needs to be administered. This is work that only the government of the day can do, such as:
- appointing staff to new and expanded government agencies (such as the Energy Transition Authority we recommend be established); and
- providing the funds needed to allow the new agencies to get on with their work.
The simple fact is that without the Tasmanian Government’s administrative support, even the best legislation in the world will be ineffective.
A compromise proposal.
It is likely that the Tasmanian Parliament contains a wide range of views on climate change, which may make it hard for the Government on its own to make sufficient progress.
The following compromise proposal suggests a way in which both the Government and the Parliament may be able to enact legislation on climate change that is consistent with the science.
Our proposal is as follows:
- A Joint Committee of both Houses be established which contains members of all three parties and independent members so that no single party has a majority on the committee. The Committee should be chaired by an independent member or by the Speaker.
- The primary role of the Joint Committee is to prepare a Bill for a new Climate Change Act.
- The Government agrees to support the work of the Committee administratively, such as by making staff of the Tasmanian Climate Change Office available as the secretariat of the Committee, making a Parliamentary Draftsman available to the Committee and allowing the Committee to interact with and seek evidence from officers of all other departments and agencies.
- The Government agrees to give its members in both Houses a free vote on the Bill, and to ensure that the Bill is debated promptly and thoroughly.
- The Committee holds public hearings around the State and seeks public input to and involvement in its work.
- The Terms of Reference of the Committee specifically require the Committee to obtain the advice of expert climate scientists in all its work, where “expert” has the same meaning as applied by the Courts.
For the Government, the advantage of our proposal is that it can be seen to provide leadership on the issue by enabling a genuinely democratic process which places the Parliament at the centre of policy making while not inflaming any internal tensions.