NSW Government on Climate Change Bill: Low on ambition, high on pessimism, and unwilling to take responsibility

Greens MP Jan Barham has said the NSW Government’s opposition to legislation that would lock in sensible climate action shows their rhetoric fails to match their

“The Climate Change Bill I introduced to the NSW Parliament would hold the current and future NSW Governments accountable for delivering action to reduce emissions and prepare for climate change across the whole of government.

“The Baird Government’s alarmist claims in opposing the Bill show that despite all their talk about wanting to be a leader in renewable energy, they’re not serious about doing what’s necessary to ensure the future wellbeing and success of this state,” Ms Barham said.

The Greens’ legislation would mandate a target of net-zero emissions by 2040, with every Government required to produce four-year plans for emissions reductions and climate change adaptation. Governments would be accountable for following through on their plans through annual reporting and the possibility of legal proceedings against decisions that would decrease the state’s ability to meet its targets.

“In defending its record on climate change, the Government pointed to its Energy Savings Scheme, which they say will deliver emissions reductions of 1.9 million tonnes by 2020. That’s less than 1.5% of the state’s annual emissions. They’re tinkering around the edges when we need dedicated action across the whole of government to drive the transition to a clean society and economy,” Ms Barham said.

Ms Barham accused the Government of failing to adequately consider the risks and costs facing the state without significant emissions reductions starting immediately.

“On the same day that a new Climate Council report told us that the fire season has extended by almost 19% since 1979 and that the number of professional firefighters would need to double by 2030 to meet demand, the Government tried to claim that it was the Greens’ legislation that would create problems for emergency services.

“We’re capable of making the changes needed to limit global warming and prepare for the impacts of climate change, and by acting now New South Wales would be seizing the opportunity to establish new jobs and industries while reducing the future costs and risks. The Greens’ RenewAustralia plan shows how Australia can reach 90% renewables by 2030, and we could take the lead in this state.

“It’s unfortunate that Mike Baird’s Government shows the same lack of political will as his federal counterparts. Instead of seizing the opportunity and leading with ambition, he has fallen back on the same scare tactics and wants to avoid responsibility for addressing climate change,” Ms Barham concluded.

Background

Greens’ Climate Change Bill is a chance for Baird to show leadership ahead of Paris

Climate change legislation introduced into NSW Parliament today challenges the NSW Premier to show the climate leadership that is lacking in Australian politics, says the Greens’ Jan Barham MLC.

“I’ve introduced legislation that would commit current and future governments in New South Wales to strong action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prepare for the impacts of climate change,” Ms Barham said.

The Greens’ Climate Change Bill 2015 sets an emissions reduction target of net zero emissions by 2040, consistent with the level of action needed to limit global warming and avoid the most dangerous impacts.

The legislation requires governments to develop four-year plans for emissions reductions and climate change adaptation, and ensures that every department and council takes action consistent with addressing climate change, with legal action possible to prevent decisions and actions that would undermine the state’s action on climate change.

“This legislation is about the fundamental issue of getting all parties to agree that every government – current and future; federal, state and local – has a responsibility to their citizens and to future generations to address climate change,” Ms Barham said.

“Mike Baird can change the conversation by acknowledging that our state can make the transition away from fossil fuels and toward a zero emissions future, consistent with international agreements and the scientific evidence.”

Ms Barham also noted that a NSW Government submission to the federal consultation on post-2020 emissions targets, obtained under freedom of information laws, showed the importance of addressing climate change for the future of the state.

“The NSW Government’s own analysis recognised that without significant emissions cuts, climate change will have very significant impacts on farming, tourism, on communities across the state and on human health and emergency services.

“Despite knowing about the growing risks of climate change for more than 25 years, too many governments have squandered their opportunities to act. Continuing with weak national targets will increase the threat to future generations unless the states take responsibility to act now.

“Malcolm Turnbull has committed to maintain the weak and ineffective policies of his predecessor. As it stands, Australia will be seen as a developed country that does not have the courage to make decisions in the best interests of its citizens.

“Around the world, sub-national governments are stepping up to make a significant contribution on climate change and a Compact of States and Regions has been established. This Bill presents the opportunity for innovation, and to ensure the health and wellbeing of the environment and the people as we prepare for an uncertain future.

“It is the fundamental responsibility of Government to prepare for threats to the welfare of their citizens. I’m calling on all parties to support this legislation that will lock in a plan for meeting that responsibility,” Ms Barham concluded.

For Further Comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891

BACKGROUND:

Labor’s Lot 490 proposal shows outrageous disregard for Aboriginal land claim

The Labor Party has undermined Aboriginal Land Rights in the Tweed by introducing legislation that would affect a land claim, says North Coast Greens MP and spokesperson for Aboriginal Affairs and Crown Lands, Jan Barham MLC.

Ms Barham’s comments follow the introduction into NSW Parliament by Labor’s Walt Secord MLC of a Bill that would reserve Lot 490 as a regional park.

“This significant and environmentally sensitive area is currently protected from development by Tweed Byron Local Aboriginal Land Council’s land claim, which is one of thousands across the state waiting to be finalised. The legislation introduced by NSW Labor shows no regard for the importance of that claim,” Ms Barham said.

“Any announcement on the end use of the land is premature, and it undermines the intent of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act to provide self-determination and compensation for the traditional owners and custodians of the land.

“A recent public land forum I hosted in the Tweed heard from Tweed Byron Land Council’s Leweena Williams and local conservationists about the ecological significance of Lot 490.

“It’s important to note that Aboriginal land claims can include conditions such as easements for public access to areas such as the beach. Once a land claim is granted, the Government can also negotiate for the reservation or dedication of lands for the purpose of nature conservation.

“Labor has disregarded the fundamental importance of Aboriginal land rights and the need for self-determination and negotiation with the Aboriginal community. This Bill mustn’t proceed until the land claim has been determined, and I call on the Government to ensure the claim is resolved as quickly as possible.

“I have continued to press the Government to clear the backlog of unresolved Aboriginal land claims. The Greens strongly support Aboriginal land rights and the need to prioritise Aboriginal communities’ ownership and custodianship of land.”

Ms Barham noted that Lot 490 had a long history of being earmarked for development by both local and state governments and called for the importance of both the Aboriginal land claim and the environmental and cultural values of the site to be respected.

“The Greens recognise the strong community support for ensuring the land is protected from inappropriate private development and we know how important it is that the area’s threatened species and biodiversity are protected.

“It was Labor’s Tony Kelly who removed Tweed Shire Council as trustees of the Crown reserve in 2004 and then proposed leasing the site for a major development by Leighton Holdings, which thankfully fell through.

“For Labor to claim that they are the environmental protectors of the Tweed defies belief, and for them to undermine Aboriginal land rights in the process is disgraceful,” Ms Barham concluded.

For Further Comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891

Auditor-General’s report gives Government another reminder that they need to deliver on social housing

The NSW Government has again been called on to deliver policies and programs to ensure the social housing system delivers better outcomes for people in need of housing assistance, says Jan Barham, Greens MP and Housing spokesperson.

“Today’s report by the Auditor-General on community housing recommends that the Government deliver a comprehensive social housing policy and make public its plan for managing public housing assets. After delaying for far too long, it’s time for the Government to act and fix our social housing system,” Ms Barham said.

“This is the third major report to give clear directions about what the Government needs to deliver, following the Parliamentary Inquiry we established in 2014 and a previous Auditor-General’s report in 2013. The Government has failed to meet every deadline it has been given, and it’s time for them to deliver.”

Ms Barham noted that the Auditor-General had also identified that Government needed to improve its handling of transfers to community housing by developing clear performance measures and contracts that ensure the future growth of the sector.

“The Auditor-General notes that there has been strong growth in the community housing sector, which is welcome. Community housing providers across the state are an important part of our housing system, providing not just shelter but connecting disadvantage and vulnerable people with support services that help to improve the quality and stability of their living arrangements,” Ms Barham said.

“Our Parliamentary inquiry had identified the importance of long term leases when public housing is transferred to community housing providers, along with the need for improved tenant outcomes, and the Auditor-General has reinforced these recommendations.

“Community housing providers need to be able to leverage the assets to deliver new social housing. The Government must ensure that their relationships and contracts with community housing providers will secure quality housing and support services for as many people as possible,” Ms Barham concluded.

For Further Comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891

BACKGROUND:

Auditor General’s Performance Audit Report on Community Housing

Inquiry into Social, Public and Affordable Housing Recommendations and Final Report

Making the Best Use of Public Housing

Holiday letting comes under NSW Parliament scrutiny

The Greens’ Tourism and North Coast spokesperson, Jan Barham MLC, has welcomed a NSW Parliamentary inquiry into holiday letting and is encouraging local residents to make submissions.

“It’s an important move that the State Parliament will be conducting an inquiry into the use of properties for short term tourism use, including the short term holiday letting of residential premises,” Ms Barham said.

“The contentious issue of holiday letting has had many impacts on North Coast communities, and despite the lack of planning approval it has continued to flourish. Without approval and regulation, the short term holiday letting of residential premises doesn’t pay its way but adds to the impacts and costs to council, as well as depriving approved tourism accommodation providers of business.

“Other issues that may come to light through this inquiry into holiday letting are the possibilities for tax evasion, and that property owners may be claiming negative gearing and a capital gains tax discount while effectively running commercial businesses,” said Ms Barham.

“The inquiry will also examine the situation with online accommodation platforms such as Airbnb, and regulatory issues around the ‘sharing economy’ model of accommodation for travellers. While these platforms offer some great benefits for home-owners to be able to earn income when their property is under-occupied and for travellers to experience a local connection to the community they’re visiting, it has become clear that the use has extended to the permanent rental of whole premises for tourism in some areas. This aspect of online accommodation services may lead to impacts for neighbours as well as the regulated tourism industry providers. The lack of approval creates an uneven playing field within the industry and also a lack of compliance with industry standards relating to safety, insurance and other regulatory issues.

Ms Barham noted that in Byron and Tweed Shires it is estimated that there are nearly 2000 residential properties being used for short term tourism, which equates to up to 5000 residents who aren’t able to be housed in the local area.

“For more than a decade the unregulated use of residential properties has caused negative impacts in Byron Shire for residents, including noise and antisocial behaviour. It has also had a major effect on the availability and affordability of housing. It makes a mockery of strategic planning that defines residential and commercial zones and the impacts on infrastructure. The use of holiday let brings additional visitors to the shire, and particularly in Byron Bay it adds to the traffic issues. Residents have suffered for too long, missing out on neighbours and a sense of community. For those seeking rental properties in the area, it has reduced the available stock, contributing to this being one of the most unavailable and unaffordable regional areas in NSW. Importantly for those who stay in these properties, there could also be serious issues if there was an accident or injury as insurance doesn’t cover unapproved uses,” Ms Barham said.

“In the Tweed Shire, the council staff report identified that the use of 900 residential dwellings for short term premises is a prohibited use in residential zones, but the council resolved to allow the use. The NSW Law Society and court decisions have also defined that the unregulated use of dwellings is a prohibited use.”

The Legislative Assembly inquiry into the adequacy of the regulation of short-term holiday letting in NSW will receive submissions until the 9th November.

For Further Comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891

BACKGROUND:

LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON ENVIRONMENT AND PLANNING

Terms of reference for an inquiry into the adequacy of the regulation of short-term holiday letting in NSW

That the Committee inquire into and report on the adequacy of the regulation of short-term holiday letting in NSW, with particular reference to:
a) The current situation in NSW and comparison with other jurisdictions
b) The differences between traditional accommodation providers and online platforms
c) The growth of short-term and online letting, and the changing character of the market
d) The economic impacts of short-term letting on local and the state economies
e) Regulatory issues posed by short-term letting including customer safety, land use
planning and neighbourhood amenity, and licensing and taxation
f) Any other related matters.

Welcome progress on Out-of-Home Care transition but effort needed on Aboriginal services and early intervention

The release of an Auditor-General’s report on the transfer of out-of-home care services to the non-government sector is welcome but some key areas of concern must be addressed by the NSW Government, says Greens spokesperson on Family and Community Services, Jan Barham.

“The transition of out-of-home care from Community Services to non-government organisations (NGOs) was a key recommendation of the 2008 Wood Special Commission of Inquiry into Child Protection, and the overall indication is that this process remains on track,” Ms Barham said.

“More than half of care placements are now managed by NGOs and the sector’s capacity has continued to develop. It’s essential that all vulnerable children who are unable to live with their family receive quality care that is as stable, enriching and culturally appropriate as possible.”

But Ms Barham noted that the Auditor-General had highlighted several key areas that must be addressed to ensure the wellbeing of children in out-of-home care.

“The declining trend in children being returned to their families is a troubling sign, and one that requires more focus from Government. As the number of children in out-of-home care continues to grow, it highlights that a significant boost to services for early intervention, prevention and family restoration is vital to keeping families together in the first place, reducing risk of harm and breaking the intergenerational cycle of abuse and neglect.

“The Auditor-General’s warning about the need for a clear strategy to develop Aboriginal NGOs to provide services for Aboriginal children and young people must be addressed urgently. Given the drastic overrepresentation of Aboriginal children in care, we have to do everything we can to ensure Aboriginal communities are supported by Aboriginal services,” Ms Barham said.

“In 2011-12 the Government had committed to supporting the development of new Aboriginal services, but this new report makes clear that there is a lack of strategy and a shortage of appropriate service providers. This puts at risk the capacity to ensure Aboriginal children in care grow up with a connection to their family, community and culture, and there are questions to be asked about why that Government commitment hasn’t been followed through.

“The Government must also act on the Auditor-General’s recommendation to develop wellbeing outcomes for children in care. Without a clear set of outcomes that reflect the quality of children’s lives, we remain uncertain about what is working and what isn’t in terms of ensuring services and care placements are helping children to have the best opportunities and quality of life possible.

Ms Barham also warned against using financial incentives for adoption within the out-of-home care system.

“Adoption is never going to be an appropriate or effective solution for the vast majority of children placed in care. The focus must be on ensuring the wellbeing and safety of all children by preventing the need for children to come into care in the first place, and by ensuring the out-of-home care system delivers quality care for all of those children who need it,” Ms Barham concluded.

For Further Comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891

BACKGROUND: Auditor-General’s report on Transferring out-of-home care to non-government organisations

Brunswick Heads forum hears Public Lands are at risk

A community forum held in Brunswick Heads last week heard from a range of community representatives who highlighted how the mismanagement of public lands is at a desperate point that hasn’t been experienced for over 20 years, says Jan Barham, the North Coast Greens MP who hosted the event. Ballina MP Tamara Smith and Byron Shire Mayor Simon Richardson also took part in the meeting.

“It was shocking to hear from the representatives about the lack of community consultation and protection of our social, natural and economic environment. The meeting unanimously supported a call for a Parliamentary inquiry to review the current mismanagement of public lands,” Ms Barham said.

The forum heard presentations about coastal management, biodiversity, forests, Brunswick caravan parks and foreshores and Aboriginal land claims.

John Corkill, a former Coastal Council member outlined the state of play in relation to coastal protection and identified the lack of community input to the Byron Shire Councils move to build a rockwall at Belongil and called for the Government to intervene to prevent the works.

“Coastal crown lands are a priceless public recreational resource and they play host to many ecologically and economically important species, but the wrong policy settings for managing them in the face of climate change, by Government and local councils, can reduce their chances of survival, and adversely affect community use of these vital public open spaces,” said Mr Corkill.

Respected local ecologist, David Milledge, informed the meeting of the biodiversity value of the north coast and how current forestry practices are putting the survival of some species at risk, including devastating images of poor logging practices. Mr Milledge outlined the role of State Forests to protect biodiversity conservation under the Comprehensive Regional Agreements that were established 10 years ago designed to regulate the logging practices to protect soil, water and threatened species but are failing. State Forests provide crucial refugia for biodiversity, supporting core populations and in many cases linking to the protected National Parks and Nature Reserves on the north coast.

“The State Government’s rules designed to manage the unique values of our public forests are not being applied and have been virtually abandoned. Poor logging practices have meant a loss of biodiversity that includes, loss of habitat for hollow-dependent threatened species and prey species of apex predators and a loss of riparian species requiring stream buffers. It’s essential that a landscape approach to forestry management must incorporate independent pre-logging assessments and exclusion zones based on Threatened species models and post logging burning must be abandoned” said David Milledge.

North East Forest Alliance member Dailan Pugh acknowledged a major concern that the contracts issued 10 years ago overestimated wood supply and that the failure to enforce the regulations for environmental management has been a desperate attempt to deliver wood supply. He also showed dramatic images of poor logging practices that have resulted in the landscape devastation of Bell Miner Associated Dieback (BMAD) which is impacting not only on the State Forests but also on the protected reserve system.

“As sawlogs are being cut out due to intentional overlogging, our public forests are coming under increasing threat by those wanting to open up national parks for logging, grazing and shooting, and those wanting to clearfell State forests to feed them into furnaces to generate electricity under the pretense it is renewable energy” said Dailan Pugh.

“The State Government has not acted as a responsible land manager in responding to the breaches of forestry practices that have been brought to their attention by NEFA and their independent audits. The EPA has done little to protect the public lands even when evidence was provided. It is devastating that the loss of biodiversity is not regarded as a high priority and that the Forestry Commission operates as a rogue element due to the government’s negligence” said Jan Barham MLC.

The presentations regarding the mismanagement of Brunswick caravan parks and foreshores is a long running issue and now the dredging of the harbour has outraged the community. The meeting called for the return of the management of Brunswick Heads public lands to Byron Shire Council so it can comply with the adopted Brunwick Estuary and Tourism Management Plans and ensure the character of the low key seaside village is retained.

Brunswick Head Progress Association president, Leonie Bolt, outlined that the community did not support the current harbour and foreshore works.

“A Brunswick community meeting adopted a resolution that calls on the NSW Government to suspend the Plans of Management pending a review and investigation into the process of their preparation. The lack of regard for the community views puts at risk the character and future enjoyment of the Brunswick Heads village for residents and visitors. The dredging of the harbour has proceeded without the appropriate consultation with Aboriginal representative and has not clarified the long term management issues” said Ms Bolt.

“The lack of respect for Aboriginal people by not consulting about the Brunswick Heads river works is a disgrace. Additional disturbing issues about the impact of the dredging of the Brunswick harbour and river relating to the disturbance and disposal of contaminated sands on our beaches and the risks for the natural environment add to the litany of concerns about the mismanagement of public lands and justify the call for an inquiry” said Ms Barham.

Next week a forum in the Tweed will hear from representatives concerned about the transfer of a public reserve to Gold Coast airport and the potential destruction of key habitat that will impact on the fisheries of the Cobaki with the proposed airport extension. The resolution of outstanding Aboriginal land claims on the coast and the lack of care for Tweed biodiversity will also be presented.

South Tweed Community Centre – 10am, Saturday 29th August

For Further Comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891

Perrottet welfare attitudes defy reality

NSW Finance Minister Dominic Perrottet’s attack on welfare support lacks an understanding of the reality of struggle of low and no income families, according to Greens NSW MPs Jan Barham and John Kaye.

Greens NSW Family and Community Services spokesperson Jan Barham said: “Minister Perrottet’s comments linking welfare to family breakdown and declining fertility aren’t supported by the evidence and only serve to stigmatise people the Government should be supporting.

“It’s disappointing that the Minister has allowed ideology to trump evidence in his remarks, especially in a speech that he claimed was about delivering better social policy.

“The attitudes Mr Perrottet expressed show an ignorance of the causes of family breakdown and the importance of supporting people in difficult times.

“The Government needs to look to the wellbeing of all people in our society. Investing in supports for people and families is vital, but just as important is having a safety net in place for when people’s circumstances leave them vulnerable.

“Minister Perrottet should work with his colleagues in Government to ensure that early intervention is available to address the real causes and consequences of disadvantage and dysfunction, rather than falsely laying the blame on the welfare system itself,” Ms Barham said.

Greens NSW Finance spokesperson John Kaye said: “The Minister’s ill-informed views are not compatible with his task of running the state’s finances.

“Despite OECD-published evidence to the contrary, Mr Perrottet asserts that welfare support for the elderly and single-supporting mothers contribute to declining fertility and rising divorce rates.

“Apart from a frightening absence of empathy for the plight of children in single parent homes and the elderly who are struggling to make ends meet, the most alarming aspect of the Minister’s speech was his failure to respond to evidence.

“Managing agencies with multi-billion dollar turnovers and exerting substantial influence over the state’s public finances require a far greater commitment to evidence and empathy than Minister Perrottet displayed last night,” Dr Kaye said.

For more information: John Kaye 0407 195 455; Jan Barham 0447 853 891

Stolen Generations inquiry established to examine reparations in NSW

Jan Barham, Greens MP and spokesperson on Aboriginal Affairs, has welcomed the NSW Upper House’s support for an inquiry into reparation for the Stolen Generations.

“I’m very pleased that the NSW Legislative Council unanimously supported my motion to establish an inquiry into reparations for the Stolen Generations in NSW. This inquiry is an opportunity for us to examine what we have achieved in addressing the intergenerational harm caused to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and to take a thorough look at what still must be done,” Ms Barham said.

“It’s eighteen years since the Bringing Them Home report into the separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families was released, and seven years since the national apology to the Stolen Generations.

“Bringing Them Home made it very clear that an apology is only one step of making amends for the injustices of the past. It’s time to see what progress federal and state governments have made in fulfilling the obligation to make reparations. This includes examining where we stand in terms of delivering guarantees against repetition of past harms, measures of restitution and rehabilitation, and the question of monetary compensation.”

Ms Barham, who serves as Chair of the General Purpose Standing Committee No. 3 that will conduct the inquiry, noted that the terms of reference include consideration of the NSW Government’s response to the Bringing Them Home recommendations, along with considering options for new policy and legislation.

“In recent years we’ve seen other states take up some of the issues raised in the national inquiry that haven’t addressed by the Federal Government, with Tasmania implementing a compensation scheme and South Australia conducting its own inquiry and having a Bill that passed through their upper house.

“The disadvantage still experienced by many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities needs to be addressed, and that includes the intergenerational trauma inflicted by the separation of children from their families and their culture.

“This inquiry has the opportunity to engage directly with Aboriginal people, communities and organisations to learn about what we should do to deliver genuine reparations. I’m pleased that the Parliament has given its support to this important work,” Ms Barham concluded.

For Further Comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891

Terms of reference:

1. That General Purpose Standing Committee No. 3 inquire into and report on reparations for the Stolen Generations in New South Wales, and in particular:

(a) the New South Wales Government’s response to the report of the 1996 National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children and Their Families entitled ‘Bringing them Home’ and the recommendations made in the report regarding reparations,
(b) potential legislation and policies to make reparations to members of the Stolen Generations and their descendants, including approaches in other jurisdictions, and
(c) any other related matter.

2. That for the purposes of paragraph 1, the committee adopt the definition of ‘reparations’ contained in recommendation no. 3 of the ‘Bringing them Home’ report, which states that reparation should consist of:

(a) acknowledgment and apology,
(b) guarantees against repetition,
(c) measures of restitution,
(d) measures of rehabilitation, and
(e) monetary compensation.

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