Zero Carbon Bill is Economic Stabilisation Act in drag

Wed, 23 Oct, 2019

“ACT will continue to oppose the Zero Carbon Bill after the Environment Select Committee failed to remove unfettered ministerial decision-making powers,” says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“ACT voted against the whole Parliament, 119-1, on the the Zero Carbon Bill because, as I said at the time, the Bill outsourced the climate debate to a bureaucracy.

“The Bill continues to do that, but it also gives excessive power to what it calls the Duty Minister. It gives so much power to the Minister it would introduce a level of political control over commercial decisions not seen since Muldoon abused the Economic Stabilsation Act 1948.

“The Bill says:

5ZD Requirement for emissions reduction plan

(1) The Minister must prepare and make publicly available a plan setting out the policies and strategies for meeting the next emissions budget, and may include policies and strategies for meeting emissions budgets that have been notified under section 5ZA in accordance with the dates set out in section 5U(3).

(3) The plan must include—

(a) sector-specific policies to reduce emissions and increase removals; and

(b) a multi-sector strategy to meet emissions budgets and improve the ability of those sectors to adapt to the effects of climate change...

“It then goes on to say in a later section:

5ZF Minister to prepare and make emissions reduction plan publicly available

(3) The Minister may, at any time, amend the plan and supporting policies and strategies to maintain their currency,—

(a) using the same process as required for preparing the plan; or

(b) in the case of a minor or technical change, without repeating the process used for preparing the plan.

“Changes at Select Committee now make this section ambiguous. New subsection 4 says the Minister must present an emissions reductions plan 12 months before the commencement of a budget period, but if the Minister can change the plan at any time, they cannot be constrained by this time bound requirement.

“The Economic Stabilisation Act consolidated wartime planning powers into one piece of legislation. It allowed the government to have almost total control over the economy if it wanted, and Muldoon did want it.

“So, here’s a scenario under the Zero Carbon Act. Let’s say some Minister wants to reduce the amount of electricity consumed to help reach targets for renewable energy.

“Under this Bill, the Minister could make a plan that effectively shuts down Tiwai Point. What happens next? Well, there’s billions of dollars and thousands of jobs at stake. People will lobby, then people will counter-lobby. Instead of producing a product consumers want at a price they can afford while giving investors a competitive return, the most important skill in business becomes seeking political favour.

“Imagine every sector’s ability to survive and expand depending on getting an allocation from the Minister in the carbon budget. Then imagine the Minister can change the budget at any time.

“It’s extraordinary that the National Party has backed this level of economic central planning. Or, given their history with Muldoonism, perhaps not so surprising after all.”