The Liberals and the Greens have dismissed Labor’s plan for a citizens’ assembly to examine the evidence on climate change as ‘a lot of hot air’.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said the plan is nothing more than camouflage ahead of introducing a carbon tax, while the Greens said the plan only added hot air to the problem of global warming.
Ms Gillard announced Labor’s plan to create both the citizens assembly and a panel of scientists to study the international progress on climate action.
Camouflage for carbon tax: Abbott
“There is a hell of a lot to worry about because sooner or later even a government as decision-challenged as this one will actually get something done,” Mr Abbott says.
This 150-person deliberative assembly, don’t know why they need that,” Mr Abbott said.
“We’ve got 150 people elected by the people in the parliament.
This is a camouflage for the coming carbon tax.”
Mr Abbott reasserted his opposition to a carbon tax, pointing out the leadership of the coalition had changed because of the issue.
“We’ve got a policy.
“It basically involves going to the market and buying better soil, more trees, more solar panels on people’s roofs.”
Parliament already represents people: Greens
Climate change spokeswoman Christine Milne described the assembly as a “gabfest” and “ideally suited to the Hollowmen”, the ABC’s hit comedy series.
“The real community representative assembly is actually up for election right now,” she told reporters in Canberra.
Labor will try to “hide behind” the assembly’s mandate to reach community consensus, when the Greens insist on a carbon price, Senator Milne warned.
“The prime minister is not going to be able to get away with (that).” Senator Milne welcomed the $1 billion investment but said it wouldn’t “take the grid very far at all”.
Business-and climate-conscious voters would have “nowhere to go” but the Greens if they wanted to see action, she said.
“Vote Green and give us the power in the Senate to … embarrass whichever party is in government into (action) on a carbon price.”
Assembly a smokescreen: Greenpeace
Greenpeace campaigns manager Stephen Campbell said the citizens’ assembly was nothing more than a smokescreen.
“The creation of a climate jury is just code for ‘I need more time to talk to my friends in the mining industry’,” Mr Campbell said in a statement.
“If the prime minister wants to have any credibility in her attempts to deal with global warming she needs to take some very simple steps.
“She must introduce a pollution reduction standard for all new power, introduce a price on pollution, and move subsidies from the high-polluting power sector to the renewable energy sector.”
Assembly ‘school-yard politics’
The Australia Institute described the idea of a citizens’ assembly as “school-yard politics”.
It was “bizarre” a government would randomly select 150 people to advise it on policy, the think tank’s executive director Richard Denniss said.
“We’ll be doing it (climate policy) on Facebook next,” he told ABC Radio.
Assemby ‘a valuable idea’
Professor Lyn Carson, of the Centre for Citizenship and Public Policy at the University of Western Sydney, said it was a worthy idea.
“A randomly selected group of people, who become extremely well informed, can be a valuable asset,” Prof Carson said.
She said Ms Gillard’s plan demonstrated a willingness to “bring people” back into politics and would offer an insight into the judgment of ordinary Australians.
“It’s a worthy idea, as long as the government is prepared to act on the peoples’ recommendations, otherwise more distrust will emerge,” she added.
Prof Carson co-convened Australia’s first citizens’ assembly, the Australian Citizens’ Parliament, in February 2009.
That assembly was formed to consider how Australia’s policy system could be reformed.