26 March, 2011

the sustainable business weekly QLD Edition [Environment Protection Penalties, Enviro Politics]

It has been a huge week in Queensland Environmental politics.

The Queensland Parliament has passed a bill overhauling the penalties in the Environment Protection Laws.

One of the drivers of this change was to ensure that the cost of the fines exceeded the costs of proper disposal.

The Environmental Protection and Other Legislation Amendment Act allows courts to issue a range of new sanctions, including "monetary benefit orders" that require polluters to pay fines equivalent to any financial gain they obtained as a result of their illegal activity.

NortonRose will help ASBG unpack & examine the implications of these changes for businesses in the Environmental Management Workshop in May. We shall also examine the best ways to “stay out of trouble” with the environmental regulator.

The Campaign

As New South Wales goes to the polls this weekend, Queensland has suddenly found itself in an election campaign.

The Queensland State Elections are not actually due until mid/late 2012. The Queensland Government has been assuring us that the reconstruction of Queensland is a priority and there will not be an early election.

Brisbane’s current Lord Mayor, Campbell Newman, stood on a soap box outside Suncorp Stadium and announced that he was standing for pre-selection for the State seat of Ashgrove.

If Campbell Newman wins pre-selection for Ashgrove (in a one horse race), he will resign as Brisbane City Council Lord Mayor and the Brisbane City Council will be forced to appoint a new Lord Mayor from among the current batch of Councillors. Councillor Graham Quirk is the nominee for replacement Lord Mayor.

Mr Newman is not moving from Ann Street to George Street for the wood chop. He wants the top job. However, while there are still a few hurdles in his way, the Liberal National Party has already started an election campaign based on the premise that Campbell Newman will be Premier.

The likelihood of Campbell Newman NOT winning the Seat of Ashgrove is not only possible, it is probable.

The incumbent member for Ashgrove is the Honourable Kate Jones, a Government Minister for Environment and Resource Management. The margin of the seat of Ashgrove is 7.1%.

So until the next election Environment and Resource Management policy are going to be front & centre in the election campaign we have (even without a election announcement).

Landfill Levy

The first shot fired by the Campbell Newman at Kate Jones has been about the State Government’s proposed Landfill Levy.

The irony is that Council of Mayors in South East Queensland (led by Campbell Newman) have been intrinsically involved in the design of the Levy and fought tooth and nail to have Municipal Authorities exempt from the levy.

The levy will be cumbersome to manage, trying to determine the difference between Municipal & Commercial Waste.

Campbell Newman has attacked Ashgrove MP Kate Jones over her proposed landfill levy and said he had aspirations to “go down and sort out George Street”.

Water Wars

There is no doubt that Campbell Newman will escalate the blame game for the price of water.

Coal Seam Gas

Some believe the next point of differentiation between Campbell Newman & Kate Jones will be over the Coal Seam Gas Industry.

There is a lot of political mileage to be made if Campbell is seen to be advocating on behalf of landholders.

To date the Queensland Government has been opening doors for the Coals Seam Gas Industry, adopting an adaptive management regime. This means that approvals can be modified to ensure the environment is protected if strict monitoring requirements detect any unexpected or unacceptable impacts.

There is speculation that Campbell Newman will take a more prescriptive approach with managing the industry. Up until now, there has been very little opposition from the Queensland State Opposition to Coal Seam Gas.
The breakaway conservative QLD party and the Queensland Greens are pushing for a moratorium on any more Coal Sean Gas Development.

Stradbroke Island

For better or for worse, the Queensland State Government has brought forward the timetable for the cessation of sand mining on Stradbroke Island.

The Carbon Price Debate

In Canberra this week, there has been very little progress towards gaining any details of the proposed Carbon Price.

Question time in Parliament & the Senate was more like a “Rock & Roll” wrestling match, with mixed messages about the Government & the Opposition’s actual positions on pricing carbon.

Bryan Dawe and John Clarke have provided an elegant summary of the current state of play.

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