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Politicians may come and go, but the public service is always there

By Malcolm Colless - posted Friday, 20 August 2010

Regardless of the views of a citizens’ assembly Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s campaign commitment to set up an emissions trading scheme if Labor is reelected on Saturday is good news for bureaucracy and the consulting industry.

Consultants have been doing very nicely since Labor came to power in 2007 under its then leader, Kevin Rudd.

One of the first things that Rudd did after announcing, in April last year, his knee jerk $43 billion alternative plan for a high speed national broadband network across Australia, was to allocate $25 million in consultancy fees for a study into how this policy could be implemented.


More recently, we find that the inquiry which Gillard set up to examine the financial mess surrounding her schools building program has already chewed up more than $1 million of its allocated $14 million in consultancy fees.

Gillard, and Rudd before her, would have the electorate believe that Labor’s emissions trading scheme died as a result of conservative obstructionism in the Senate. Wrong. It died on the cross of the failed Copenhagen “save the planet” conference to which Rudd committed an obscene level of Australian resources.

Rudd’s decision to relegate his failed policy for a carbon pollution reduction scheme (CPRS) in the form of an ETS to the too hard bin left a carbon tax administration and collection agency inside the Climate Change Department, with a staff of hundreds, swinging in the breeze.

This bureaucratic army was not disbanded. It was simply transferred to other duties namely helping to clean up the disastrous mess left in the wake of the government’s multi-billion dollar home insulation program - until further notice.

Gillard made it clear in her campaign speech headed “Moving forward together on climate change” that as far as she is concerned the scientific and economic consensus shows that emissions trading is “essential to limiting and reducing pollution”.

And should it find a way to implement its CPRS we know that the government will also set up a regulatory watchdog to administer this policy.


It is not clear what the ultimate size of bureaucratic support for this climate change regulatory authority will be but we do know that its role will be to oversee the implementation of the CPRS, including operating its registry, issuing emissions units, assessing entitlements and carrying out general administrative and enforcement functions under this legislation.

We also know that the authority will have a full time chairman and a board of at least two and no more than four members. It will have the power “to do all things necessary or convenient to be done for or in connection with the performance of its functions”.

And the CPRS legislation also permits the regulatory authority to engage “suitably qualified consultants” who will be employed on terms and conditions determined by the authority.

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About the Author

Malcolm Colless is a freelance journalist and political commentator. He was a journalist on The Times in London from 1969-71 and Australian correspondent for the Wall Street Journal from 1972-76. He was political editor of The Australian, based in Canberra, from 1977-81 and a director of News Ltd from 1991-2007.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Malcolm Colless

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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