NSW councils caught in carbon crossfire

By Paul Hemsley

The head of NSW Shires Association, Ray Donald, has warned that state and federal governments need keep partisan bickering out of local government participation in the carbon tax.

His warning follows a fresh policy brawl that erupted after federal Climate Change Parliamentary Secretary, Mark Dreyfus, accused state Liberal Party members of incorrectly telling councils that they are prohibited from paying the carbon tax.

Mr Dreyfus has publicly disputed the claims and branded the Liberals’ suggestions as “just another attempt to deceive the community and local councils”.

The federal government maintains that the state’s Local Government Act 1993 does not prevent or preclude the federal government from issuing carbon credits to councils under the Clean Energy Act 2011.

A key issue is separating political rhetoric from actual policy.

Mr Dreyfus has claimed that the NSW Government released a renewable energy plan to assist businesses in accessing the federal Renewable Energy Target – while at the same time opposing the target.

But Mr Donald said both state and federal ministers need to quickly work out their issues on local government participation on the carbon tax.

“We don’t like being in the middle of it,” he said.

Mr Donald told Government News that the NSW local government minister has indicated that many councils don’t want to participate in the carbon tax.

However around 13 larger councils do want to join carbon trading because of the price of penalties on their larger landfills.

“When there’s contention between state and federal governments over issues like this, they should be worked-out behind the door before they reach the outside,” Mr Donald said.

“[Local government] shouldn’t be involved in it initially until that’s sorted out now that they’re knocking heads over whether state legislation allows it.”

“It’s an issue where the politics of it are unfortunately predominating over the issue at the moment, which is not the best way to do it,” Mr Donald said.

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