Who’s who on Assembly Committees

The ACT Legislative Assembly is interesting and often significant. And we are Assembly ‘geeks’ because an important part of our work in looking out for the environment is to be aware of what is happening in the Assembly and on the business and regulations and reports and enquiries and questions and issues. So, it’s important to know about the Assembly Committees and who is on them.

Just a quick plug for committees: if you ever get disillusioned with parliaments go and have a look at the work of committees. You might still be disillusioned but there is usually thought and work done at committees without (all) the grandstanding of question time or speeches. Committees can and do explore new areas of policy and improve legislation. Committees can also get information on the record, provide a focus on matters which need attention (which might include alerting the Government to issues) and uncovering or highlighting issues within the Government.

And now to the really geeky part here is a colour-coded table of the MLAs on the ACT Legislative Assembly committees. The ones in red are Labor, the blues are Liberal and we chose green for the Greens.

One Committee is established under standing orders – the Administration and Procedure Committee – and it has the Speaker and a Minister (Rattenbury) on it. It deals with how to make the Assembly work with rules, allocation of time to debates and speakers and other matters.

The other Standing Committees are established for the term of the Assembly (four years) by resolution of the Assembly and generally do not have Ministers or the Speaker as members. So the Liberals, with eleven MLAs, can share their membership of the Committees so that they only have one or two memberships each. Labor uses six of its twelve MLAs as Ministers and a Speaker so the others have to be on several committees. One of the two Greens MLAs is a Minister so their is only one available for committees, Caroline Le Couteur. She is on two Committees, the only two Committees with five members. Otherwise all committees have two Labor and two Liberal members and it is sometimes difficult to get agreed recommendations under these circumstances.

There are also Select Committees which are set up for a specific purpose and with a limited lifespan. Two of these were established in the first sitting week of the current (ninth) Assembly:

But not everything gets a Select Committee. The Conservation Council had written to all parties requesting they consider establishing a Select Committee on “Canberra – Our Pathway to Zero Net Emissions”. We thought it was good to follow up on the policy that all the current parties had taken to the election of support for zero net greenhouse gas emissions from the ACT by 2050 at the latest.

This policy matched the Community Shared Statement for ACT 2016 election so there was a letter of support from a range of peak community organisations in Canberra.

The Conservation Council also provided draft terms of reference as a starting point for developing a Select Committee.

So, even though all of the political parties in the Legislative Assembly have said they support zero net greenhouse gas emissions from the ACT by 2050 at the latest, none has so far indicated how they will go about building a pathway to get there. Perhaps they are thinking about it…

Peak community groups write to parties on climate change



9 December 2016

Andrew Barr, MLA, Chief Minister
Alistair Coe, MLA, Leader of the Opposition
Shane Rattenbury, MLA, Minister for Climate Change and Sustainability

Dear Chief Minister, Leader of the Opposition and Minister for Climate Change and Sustainability

Select Committee “Canberra – Our Pathway to Zero Net Emissions”

One of the highlights of the ACT election was the major party – ACT Labor, Canberra Liberals and ACT Greens – support for 100% electricity from renewable energy target by 2020 and for Canberra to become zero net emissions by 2050. We note the 2020 target is not ‘aspirational’ as contracts have been put in place and hence it will be delivered. This is a great achievement.

It is also worth reiterating the ACT is a national and international leader on local climate change action and delivery and we are proud of this. We are leaders because:

  • we have a 100% renewable energy target by 2020
  • we have a plan and contracts in place to deliver this
  • we have a target of being zero net emissions by 2050
  • we have tri-partisan support for the above.

We congratulate you all on your role in achieving this.

However we do note post-2020 there is no plan to achieve the zero net emissions target by 2050 and there are no interim targets.

In order to keep up with the science and to maintain our leadership role we should look at whether we can achieve an earlier zero net emissions target than 2050.

We also need to make sure our pathway to zero net emissions is fair, equitable, socially just, economically viable and does not displace our emissions into other jurisdictions.

We are hoping that the impetus on tri-partisan support for our local action and leadership on climate change can be maintained and we suggest one mechanism to do this would be to have an ACT Legislative Assembly Select Committee established on “Canberra – Our Pathway to Zero Net Emissions”. The outcomes of this process could feed into the development of a post 2020 plan by the ACT Government to be finalised in 2018 for how we can achieve our zero net emissions goal.

This is a good way for the Assembly and the community to work together to develop agreed pathways on climate change that work for all sectors of society.

The signatories to this letter believe that the ACT should address climate change and reduce energy poverty through targeted expansion of household energy efficiency measures, and ensure a just transition to adapt to climate change by developing further responses in consultation with climate affected communities and workers.

If we are to develop and implement a zero net emission plan it must be embraced by the ACT community, by a wide range of organisations across sectors and by our major political parties. This must mean a more inclusive process than has occurred with previous consultation on climate change policy and action plans.

Some observations are:

  • according to current Action Plan#2 (AP2) the next Action Plan#3 is not due to be finalised till 2021
  • we have been advised the Directorate intends to bring this forward to 2018
  • there was no public consultation on the review of our Climate Change Act targets in 2015-16
  • there was no public consultation on the 2015 review of Action Plan#2

Effective community ownership will be an essential part of delivery of our zero net emissions goal.

We encourage you to support a Select Committee on “Canberra – Our Pathway to Zero Net Emissions” and additional ways of community engagement to ensure our local community is engaged and committed to a shared vision of achieving zero net emissions in a fair, sustainable and equitable way as soon as possible.


Yours sincerely

Larry O’Loughlin, Executive Director, Conservation Council ACT Region

Susan Helyar, Director, ACT Council of Social Service Inc.

Darlene Cox, Health Care Consumers’ Association

Simon Viereck, Executive Officer, Mental Health Community Coalition ACT

Travis Gilbert, Executive Officer, ACT Shelter Inc

Dalane Drexler, Executive Officer, ACT Mental Health Consumer Network

Liam Lilly, SEE-Change Executive Officer

Ryan Lungu, Director, Canberra Environment Centre

Eleanor Lawless, Convenor, 350.org Canberra

Submission to ICRC on proposed new water tariff structure

molonglo-river-2The recent report from the Independent Competition and Regulatory Commission (ICRC) on a new structure for water charges would have a significant negative impact on the ACT if it was implemented.

The current structure has a low basic supply charge, and then two levels of quantity charge. The lower charges apply to the basic quantity of water an average household consumes, then additional water above this volume costs a higher rate. This structure was proposed by ACTCOSS and the Conservation Council to the ICRC at the earlier revision, and was adopted.

The benefits of the current structure are that less well-off families pay less for their water, while large users, whether gardeners or commercial users pay proportionally more. The ICRC’s proposed charge structure progressively increases the fixed charge by 4 to 6 times, irrespective of the volume of water used, maintains the low volume use charge and progressively reduces the cost per volume to large users. This transfers the main costs of the utility to domestic occupiers of units and householders on a fixed basis, and saves substantial costs for big consumers, encouraging high volume drinking water use for non-drinking purposes.

For the last 15 years Canberra has successfully economised in its use of drinking water by dual-flush toilets, low flow taps and showers and installation of rainwater tanks. To now encourage greater use by large users through reducing the price of bulk water is entirely counter-productive. Canberra has a fixed allocation of drinking water through the Basin Plan, which does not increase with rising population. The longer we avoid this problem, the better and cheaper for Canberra, as we will have to buy the extra water.

The current water charges work well and assist the less well-off, while making the cost of large volumes of water a brake on use, and they should be retained.

Ian Falconer, on behalf of the Conservation Council ACT and Region



Yellow Box Dispatch — December 2016

Yellow Box Dispatch December 2016

A big year for the local environment

Let’s face it – every year is a big year for the environment because every win means a lot for future generations. Those future generations are not just us humans (and other animals who might be reading this) but also future generations of the biodiversity of the region.

A big advance in 2016 was that the three political parties in the local Legislative Assembly came together on climate change and renewable energy. ACT Labor, Canberra Liberals and ACT Greens all supported 100% renewable energy for electricity by 2020. The contracts are in place and it’s going to happen.

Now for zero net emissions by 2050 – at the latest. We have written to all parties to get support for creative engagement of the Assembly and the community to develop a pathway to reducing emissions to zero. What do we need to do, what are the options, how will Government do its part and how do we include all the community?

Please look at the events in this newsletter which show only some of the many activities of our member groups. We also try to advertise member group activity on our Facebook page.

We close the office Friday 16 December 2016 and reopen Monday 16 January 2017. The office is available for member groups who book before 9 December. Our next Yellow Box Dispatch will be February 2017 (so take two months to read this one).

We look forward to working with you in 2017 to advance our mission: Nature is respected, protected and embraced by an ecologically sustainable, socially just and economically viable society which lives lightly on the planet.

Have a break and have a good break.

Larry O’Loughlin
Executive Director

Planning for 2017

Conservation Council Board members spent most of Saturday 19 November at a strategic planning day thinking and planning for 2017. The Board looked at our Strategic Plan and also discussed our election asks document and the priorities we had already identified. We decided to:

We have more work to do to flesh out practical campaigns and we have to keep an eye on how we provide resources to do the required work.

Board members have taken on various roles with Board committees and there will be further discussion of how our committees can better help the work of the organisation.

The Fundraising Committee will look at how to keep finding resources for the Conservation Council. Our funding from ACT Government has gone backwards against inflation since they stopped indexation in the 2012-13 Budget. We used reserves to maintain staff positions in 2015-16 to help organise the People’s Climate March and develop policies for the 2016 ACT election and have since tightened our belts. The Bank Australia partnership (see below) has provided some assistance and we would welcome more people signing up.

There was good energy at the Planning Day and it set a base for our 2017 work.

Help us out by transferring your loan

The Conservation Council has a partnership arrangement with Bank Australia whereby people can nominate us as they take out or transfer a loan and the Conservation Council ACT receives a one-off payment of 0.40% of the loan value.

We can recommend Bank Australia because they do not invest in fossil fuels and are a good way to go if you want to move away from institutions that continue to support fossil fuels. Bank Australia began in 1957 as the CSIRO Co-operative Credit Society then through mergers and changes became the Members and Education Credit Union (mecu) then bankmecu then Bank Australia.

Bank Australia gets your ongoing business for the purpose of the loan, and their contribution to the Conservation Council doesn’t affect your interest rate, fees or loan structure in any way.

“Bank Australia has not made any loan to the fossil fuel industry” and “Bank Australia has not and will not make any loans to finance coal and coal seam gas projects”.

Given that it is a member-owned bank you get a cheaper home loan, and Bank Australia will make a donation to the Council.

It is a reasonably easy loan conversion and the bank does most of the work. There is no money cost to you to move your home loan, just some of your time.

Contact the Executive Director, Larry O’Loughlin, if you want more details and for us to put you in touch with the bank. He has made the switch and lives to tell the tale.

ACT Container Deposit Scheme

Like it or not a Container Deposit Scheme (CDS) is on its way to the ACT by dint of an ALP election commitment and inclusion in the Parliamentary Agreement between ACT Labor and ACT Greens.

NSW has announced a scheme due to start July 2017 and the ACT scheme starting January 2018 is based on NSW arrangements with the ACT being treated as a region of NSW.

South Australia has had a scheme in place for nearly 40 years established when containers were mostly glass and were refilled (reused) rather than reprocessed as happens to almost all returned containers these days.

The deposit on containers will be 10 cents in NSW and the same in the ACT. South Australia would like to go to 20 cents to keep return rates high but will hold back in line with other states.

CDS will require a centralised counting facility and a number of depots – NSW expects they will need a depot for every 20,000 people. Given ACT is metropolitan not regional we will probably have one depot per 25,000-30,000 people with 12-18 depots. The ACT depots are expected to also take other materials such as batteries and metal.

In SA the industry handles over half a billion containers a year. The Scouts have about 15% of the industry and the remainder is mostly family businesses. Industry receives an income of between 2 and 5 cents per container.

Reverse vending machines might be used but they are limited in what they can process and would only be in secure places to reduce likelihood of vandalism and theft.

The ACT has long resisted calls for CDS because the comingled yellow-top recycling bins have done a good job and container litter has been a relatively small problem. Litter rates might actually increase with CDS given that some people might go through the recycling bins and discard the other materials. It will be interesting to watch the NSW experience to see how they manage the issues just like they did with greyhounds.

Now climate change gets (more) interesting

Climate change has not stopped because all the parties elected in the 2016 ACT Legislaticve Assembly election agreed on 100% renewable energy for electricity by 2020 and zero net emissions by 2050 at the latest.

It does mean that in our part of the world we have moved from fighting about the need for action on climate change and our targets.

Now we need to work together to build ways to reach those targets. We need to maintain the shared tri-partisan approach of Labor, Liberal and the Greens so that the people those parties represent – the community – can be part of the work ahead.

The Conservation Council has suggested to party leaders that the Assembly has a Select Committee to look at how we get to zero net emissions (reduce our emissions as far and as fast as possible then look at what we need to do to absorb unavoidable emissions).

The next steps might be hard so we need to engage with the people affected – all of us – to get the best outcomes. Elected representatives should be the ones to engage with us and help lead the way. We need to hear all views and consider many solutions and the Assembly should use creative and inclusive engagement methods to get the best outcomes.

The Assembly sits 13 December and it will be worth watching to see the processes they propose to fulfil the policies they took to the election.

We get ACT Smart Business recycling cred

Conservation Council has been reaccredited for ACT Smart Business recycling. It’s easy(ish) for us because part of our core business is to think about and advocate for better waste management across the whole community.

Basically we have separate containers for waste to landfill (aim for zero!); comingled recyclables; compostable materials (which go to domestic compost or to the Food Co-op’s system around the corner or up to one of the rooftop garden’s compost bins); batteries (mostly for visitors (we get batteries of visitors) which we take to accredited recyclers), and photocopier toner cartridges. We even put some of our ‘waste’ water on the tree at the front (it’s taller than its neighbours – that’s Plane to see).

We need more businesses to engage in waste reduction and we will be saying more on this in 2017 based on the work of our intern Zhiyan from the College of Business and Economics.

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Eco elves night market 2 December

What: Eco Elves Night Market is a chance to pick up Christmas gifts in a stress-free, family-friendly, kelpie-friendly atmosphere. Come along and celebrate things local, handmade, eco-friendly and fairtrade with live music and plenty of good food and drink.

When: Friday 2 December, 5pm-9pm

Where: next to Canberra Environment Centre, Corner Lawson Crescent and Lennox Crossing, Acton, Act 2601 (where the elves go)

Who: Canberra Environment Centre

WABA members exhibition until 4 December

Canberra Indian Myna Action Group AGM

What: CIMAG AGM with talk by Dr Richard Major from Sydney-based Australian Museum Research Institute who is working with scientists from Newcastle & Queensland Universities on analysis of DNA from Common Myna populations, sampled from throughout the species’ range in Australia. Questions being investigated are: The number of separate introductions; Origins of populations; Are some populations more invasive than others? Is native vegetation a barrier to dispersal? Are populations evolving to become more invasive?

Where: Southern Cross Club, Catchpole Street, Macquarie

When: 7.30pm Monday 5 December. Light refreshments provided

Frogwatch ACT AGM and celebrations

What: Annual Christmas party and AGM. Aim is to share some stories, praise everyone’s efforts and patience with our webpage and share a few drinks and scrumptious food (our shout).

When: 5 December 2016. AGM at 5.30pm ending with 20 min talk on achievements then celebrations from 7pm

Where: Kippax Tennis Club

Census news: 2016 Census has proven to be another smash hit and is shaping up nicely, with surveys still trickling in. So far 597 received surveys over whole year, with 267 done in October of which 196 done during Census week. We might come close to the 2013 number of annual surveys. Pobblebonk.

A story about Frogwatch

Jerrabomberra Wetland

Who: Friends of Jerrabomberra Wetland

What: Friends’ monthly first Tuesday activity will start at 9.00am. Please wear sun protection, long pants and enclosed shoes, and bring water. We’ll finish with a coffee or lunch at the nearby cafe if anyone is keen (and we usually are).

Where: Wetlands Office, 2 Dairy Road, Fyshwick. It is a small group of low buildings on the left. You need to go past the 2 big Wetlands Foreshore vertical signs with Entrance 1 and Entrance 2 on them (an industrial estate) and continue down Dairy Rd 300m or so to a gate and green mailbox on the left. If you get to the end of the road by the public carpark you’ve gone too far. We’re up the ramp of the building on the right.

When: 9am, Tuesday 5 December

‘Demain’ — community film screening

What: When in 2012 the journal Nature announced the possible extinction of a part of humanity before end of 21st century a small film crew carried out an investigation across ten countries to figure out what may lead to this disaster and above all how to avoid it. They met pioneers re-inventing agriculture, energy models, economies, democracy and education. Joining concrete and positive actions already working, they began to figure out what could be tomorrow’s world… a bright new future.

All welcome, but seats are limited. Organised by SEE-Change and A Chorus of Women, with the support of ANU Film Group.

Where: Building 8a, Fellows Rd, ANU

When: Thursday, 8 December, 6.30 for 7pm

Bookings: https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/demain-film-screening-tickets-29469815010

More details: https://www.facebook.com/events/1781635802102257/

Before the Flood

What: Join 350 Canberra for our end of year party – enjoy some FREE FOOD and watch Before the Flood. Before the Flood captures a three-year personal journey alongside Academy Award-winning actor and U.N. Messenger of Peace Leonardo DiCaprio as he interviews individuals from every facet of society in both developing and developed nations who provide unique, impassioned and pragmatic views on what must be done today and in the future to prevent catastrophic disruption of life on our planet.

Where: Manning Clark Lecture Theatre, ANU

Who: 350 Canberra is ACT chapter of 350.org, the global grassroots climate movement working to preserve a liveable climate and bring CO2 in the atmosphere back to 350 parts per million.

When: Come along Wednesday 14 December and learn how you can join us in driving action on climate change. 5:30-6:30pm: Pre-film Red Carpet end of year party. Get dressed up in your best Red Carpet digs (or come as you are), and enjoy some free food and drinks. 6:30pm: Free screening of Leonardo DiCaprio’s Before the Flood.

Bookings: RSVP now before spaces fill up! And don’t forget to invite your friends!

Canberra Ornithologists Group field trips

What: COG field trips visit various places with a Field Trip Leader. Visitors welcome but COG has a policy to give preference to members when numbers are limited. Each participant must sign a COG Field Trip Registration Form, which acknowledges the participant’s responsibilities.

When and where: 8am, Sunday 11 December Australian National Botanic Gardens; 8am, Sunday 18 December Aranda Bushland NR; 8.30am, Wednesday 21 December Wednesday Walk to Urriara East and Stoney Creek Nature Reserve

Twitter: No, COG doesn’t tweet (cheep joke) so go to the Canberra Birds website.

Weekly Cycle Jam

What: Cycle Jam is a free weekly bicycle workshop that runs out of the Recyclery, next to the Environment Centre. Jams are open to anyone who wants to learn how look after your bike, whether that’s changing tyres or stopping leaks. All that is needed is your bike and a willingness to learn in a hands-on session. Look for the bike on top of the roof to find the Recyclery.

Where: Recyclery, next to Canberra Environment Centre, Corner Lawson Crescent and Lennox Crossing, Acton, Act 2601

When: Every Wednesday 4-7pm

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