Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

NT Emergency Response: Quick review of submissions

Posted by Dave Bath on 2007-08-13

No invitation to make submissions to the NT Emergency Response Bill, wanting to get Water Bill submissions the same day the inquiry was announced, yet Shareholder Participation gets months for the public to make comment.  It’s easy to see which issues the Howard regime thinks are important and worthy of long debate and public consultation.

Many people were outraged by the Inquiry into the Northern Territory National Emergency Response Bill 2007 & Related Bills, but the Inquiry into the Water Bill 2007 and Water (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2007 also was open for submissions for a very short time: within a working day.

What stunned me was that the NT National Emergency Response Bill did not include the standard formula of inviting submissions and indicating a closing date.

Despite the lack of the invitation, 152 inviduals or groups got off their backsides, said "to hell with pretty formatting and worrying about typos, to hell with tweaking an existing report before sending it in" and sent a submission to the committee or via a senator anyway.

I must ask: how many others had strong opinions on the issue, and time to write or comment in blogs or the mainstream media?  How many wrote or commented about the short time available before the hearing finished, or worse, on the day the inquiry was announced (assuming the normal practice of submissions being required before hearings the next day).

I’ve had a quick look through a fair sample of the submissions, and made a few about the common themes:

  • The timeline for the inquiry was ridiculously short.
  • The "Little Children Are Sacred" report should have been used as a basis for action.
  • Many (with appropriate qualifications or experience) thought the bill would actually make things worse.
  • Many (with appropriate qualifications or experience) thought the bill had significant legal flaws (e.g. Racial Discrimination).
  • Most (if not all) asked why the recommendations of the Anderson/Wild "Little Children Are Sacred" report were ignored, and in fact the response by the Howard regime directly went against many of the recommendations.

Some made a couple of points that were supportive of one or two particulars within the bill, while not necessarily supporting the legislation as a whole:

  • Chris Tangey gave a poignant account of his work with aboriginal communities, and saw a problem with the need to seek permits to enter aboriginal land because it did not allow workers to intervene in time:

    Another time I woke up in a community to find that one of my teenage BRACS trainees, who was a petrol sniffer, had hung himself overnight from a tankstand… Traditional owners can issue permits but – wait for it – they can be revoked by the land councils, no matter how senior that traditional owner may be

    He has a point: authorities can march in to take action with the rest of the population, but not with aboriginal communities.

  • The Australian Christian Lobby expressed its support (with suggested amendments) for tightening up on pornography and also wanted wider availability of OPAL (unsniffable petrol).

But the submission that made my jaw drop was the one from Woolworths, which detailed the practical difficulties of staff in their 10 NT liquor outlets calculating the amount of alcohol in a purchase, and seeking guidance on how they can manage to work within the legislation and help cut down alcoholism.  It’s a perfectly valid remark, despite being limited: but it shows how on-the-ball they were to put in a submission within the ridiculous timeframe, with a bucketload of calculations!

But, there is some cause for hope…

  • In around 24 hours, 152 submissions were received to a senate inquiry.  That’s an extraordinary rate given that many inquiries, seeking submissions for a couple of weeks or more, might only receive a dozen or two submissions!
    • Some are no doubt first-time submitters, and having lost their virginity, will make more submissions in the future.
    • Maybe the senate (or one of the major parties) will note the huge response to an inquiry, and put some decent recommendations on the table (which will be ignored by the government and the ALP, but still…).
    • Maybe because of the extraordinary number of submissions, the ALP, if it gets into office, will review the (likely) harmful effects of the legislation sooner rather than wait twelve months.
  • Maybe the mainstream media will report on the extraordinary response as an excellent metric of community concern, and highlight the absurdly compress timeframes this government gives for on-the-record public consultation.
  • Maybe, the point made by some submissions, that "child" or "children" are not mentioned in the legislation will be checked for veracity, and if found true,
    • Cause the public to think about the political nature of the bill, especially as the motherhood statements usually found in the preamble or title are not there
    • Make people wonder why a fairly complex piece of legislations, with lots of specific administrative details, can be drafted in such a short time.  I suspect the Howard regime had already had it to hand for other purposes before the "Little Children Are Sacred" report came out and gave the regime a pretext.
    • Make people look at the highly-specific geocentric data in the bill as an example of what the government can apparently do overnight when drafting legislation, and wonder why other bills are so loose.

Yeah, I’m not getting my hopes up.

More likely, the government will say "If 152 submissions can be made overnight, perhaps we should compress the times for inquiries about everything else?" and use this as a pretext to further abuse democratic process.

We all know that Victoria has a major interest in the Water Bill, yet even Victoria was unable to get in a response to the Water Bill inquiry within the ridiculous window open for submissions.  It’s worth giggling at the statement on the inquiry page that they sought short submissions, as if anyone would be able to put a long, considered opinion containing supporting evidence in just a few hours.  It’s a sad giggle, I know.


2 Responses to “NT Emergency Response: Quick review of submissions”

  1. […] Posts Rudd’s dangerous dynamicsWhat rights would bogans defend?NT Emergency Response: Quick review of submissionsOMG! I agree with Roskam!Oz Uranium sales: India, Russia and IranCan Popeye rescue the health […]

  2. Balneus said

    […] Howard’s opportunism with Ampe Akelyernemane Meke Mekarle
    "NT Emergency Response – Quick review of submissions" (2007-08-13) […]

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