EPBC Powers – COAG passing the ball?

A seemingly disjointed argument: Commonwealth devolving EPBC powers to States and Territories and the Founder-CEO of GIST Advisory, a specialist consulting firm which helps governments and corporations discover, measure, value and manage their impacts on natural and human capital held a seminar at the Australian National University (ANU), 5 December 2012. In essence, both argue over the move from federalism models of influence to enterprise models.

As an analogy, and as we in all likelihood, need the technology to research effectively, our IT systems giants can be brought into the highlights: Apple is a Federalism model and Microsoft an Enterprise model.  Co2Land org puts forward the difference is the application of standards and accreditation. One is a moderator and influencer, and he other is a executive lobbyist and controller. Another way of putting it – Apple makes devices that influence the development of things that make it work and manage the introductions of the applications that can be framed fro the devices. Microsoft makes thing work for the information flows that fit the enterprise and its vested interests, and strictly controls the infrastructure platforms they will work to within the select enterprise. If you translate that to Federal and State and Territory government workings, you might see the possibility of a run away train through select enterprise if the influence is replaced by vested interest other than the good of society, or our long term future.

If we go back to the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act of 1999 (EPBC) concerns:

  • We notice that Andrew Campbell, Director, Research Institute for Environment and Livelihoods, Charles Darwin University, headlines ‘Commonwealth handballs environmental protection to States and Territories’, and talks of the COAG proposal to devolve EPBC powers to States and Territories, “even for matters of national significance, may be OK in principle but seems sure to end in tears. States & Territories are dis-investing in environmental capacity and are often proponents or at least key stakeholders in big development projects. Existing S/T legal frameworks are patchy. Hard to imagine that the Commonwealth will invest sufficiently in monitoring or compliance to ensure that other jurisdictions adhere rigorously to the COAG agreement”. He then said “when inevitable controversy occurs, the Commonwealth Minister will be blamed anyway”.
  •  Preceding Campbell, 0n 5 December 2012, http://theconversation.edu.au ,the Conversation printed, ‘Commonwealth should keep final say on environment protection’. This creditable account even offered what interests the authors may have to declare including:  Lee Godden has received funding from the Australian Research Council for a project on environmental governance and climate change. Jacqueline Peel receives funding from the Australian Research Council under grants relating to climate change regulation and litigation. Lisa Caripis has volunteered with a number of climate change advocacy groups including the Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC).
  •  The ‘Conversation’ story is compelling and to quote “Almost 30 years ago, the  Australian High Court gave the Commonwealth Government constitutional authority to make laws protecting the national environment. Now, a Council of Australian Governments (CoAG) agreement will severely limit the practical scope of that Commonwealth power. CoAG has initiated a fast-tracked process to effectively devolve Commonwealth development approval powers under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act 1999 (EPBC Act) to the states. This could see a return to a highly decentralised system of environmental management in Australia, which means nationally significant areas and problems could receive inadequate attention”.

At the ANU scheduled seminar for GIST – Pavan Sukhdev, he defines an economy as one that improves human well-being and social equity while also reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities. While focused on an economy: It is an urgent need to build a green economy as was the primary theme of the ‘Rio+20’ conference in June this year. Mr Sukhdev suggests that micro-level rather than macro-level changes are required to bring about a green economy, and that corporations have an important role to play in this regard.

Co2Land org asks what can be achieved by short term solutions being put to long term problems? An economy – is it an accounting function or a heritage action?  Why write about this? We must address this and other issues, and posts like this might help tackle, and influence us to avoid looming catastrophic damage to the environment, and at the very least mitigate trends in climate change. The word here is ‘responsible’ as in held accountable for bad actions, and praise for good ones. Ball passing, as described by Campbell, then becomes irresponsible!

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