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Democracy trashed: Govt to ram through new development laws, committee inquiry a farce.\n

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Senator Kim Carr

Labor Senator for Victoria Shadow Minister for Housing; Urban Development; Local Government and Territories



Democracy trashed

Govt to ram through new development laws, committee inquiry a farce

The Government's new environment and heritage regime is regressive, draconian, shoddily prepared and weakens environment and heritage protections - and it is being rammed though in a farcical committee process today.

The Senate inquiry into the Government's Environment and Heritage Legislation Amendment Bill (No 1) 2006 descended into farce today, with witness after witness saying they had barely had enough time to provide even superficial analysis of very complex legislation. Many did not make a submission.

Potential witnesses had less than 8 days to file a submission and around a week's notice they would be required to appear in Canberra. The legislation is very complex and 410 pages long, but fails to mention climate change!

The new laws: 1. Centralise power in the hands of politicians, removing legal appeal rights; 2. Cut out public, community participation; 3. Impose draconian penalties (up to 7 years jail for unspecified offences)

and impose other very serious infringements of civil rights.

Despite these very serous concerns the Department of Environment and Heritage did not bother to make a submission.

Even Government Senators are alarmed.

Senator David Johnston told the Senate on October 18 that:

"This explanatory memorandum is probably one of the most appalling I have ever seen in the short time I have been in the Senate. It discloses no motivation, no reasoning and no justification for some of the most draconian powers that this parliament can conceivably and possibly enact: rights of search and seizure without warrant, rights of personal frisking without warrant. We have some 31 strict liability offences carrying penalties of up

to seven years imprisonment … I think this legislation should go back to the drawing board"

This is a very serious piece of legislation, and the Government is doing everything it can to block public scrutiny. This is a perversion of the democratic process, and an insult to the Australians in whose name we carry out these inquiries.

This is yet another example of an arrogant Government out of control, trying to shove dangerous new laws through under the cover of the stem cell bill debate.

Further information: Kim Carr 0419 563 922,

Catriona Jackson 0417 142 238.