May 12, 2008

Select Committee Process Flawed

Sorry we missed this yesterday. In a highly unusual move a very senior MP has come out with a public criticism of the Select Committee process around the emissions trading legislation. We too have questioned the point of the current process and believe that a new process needs to be started since, quite irregularly, Government has already announced major changes to the bill.

Anyway this from Dr Lockwood Smith quoted from NZPA

"This select committee process is one of the worst I have seen," Dr Smith said.
"I have argued that we should be extending the hearings and submissions period for what is probably the most important legislation, economically and socially, for the last 20 years."
The bill sets up a scheme intended to reduce polluting emissions by penalising polluters and rewarding those who reduce emissions or plant trees.
The bill lays out a 20-year plan touching every part of New Zealand life in an attempt to tackle global warming.
The Government wants the committee to report back by June 11 and the committee has been having some long sessions to meet the deadline.
Last week, it met in Auckland and Wellington to consider submissions with many major organisations complaining to the committee's chairman Charles Chauvel that the time being given to hear submissions was far too short.
In Auckland the committee allocated an average of 12½ minutes to those making submissions, this included major interest groups and companies.
Dr Smith said National had argued that there was insufficient time to hear the evidence properly.
"I have been trying to do something about the process and I can't because the Government is just hell bent on rushing this through."
On less important legislation it is possible National would have just opposed the bill on principle, but not in this case.
"The issue is too serious for us to say because we don't like the process that will alter the way we vote on this, it is too important for that," Dr Smith said.
"We actually offered extra days to hear the submissions properly, but they were during recess and they didn't want to do that."
What is complicating the process is that the Government is also consulting with others and changing the legislation before the committee.
Last week, the Government announced it no longer intended transport fuel to be included until 2011 and some major polluters would get extended holidays from facing the consequences of their actions.
Dr Smith said this came as news to the select committee and the changes had flow on effects to those who had already made submissions.
"We accepted that there would be ongoing policy work by the Government, but given that you would think the select committee would get more time to look at it and people would be able to make submissions on the changes," Dr Smith said.
In theory under Parliament's rules, the select committee is the master of its own destiny, but Dr Smith said it was clear the process was being set by the Beehive.
"The Government is hell bent on getting this through before the election, so they can wave their green credentials around."