Joint Select Committee: dissenting submissions excluded because they were not "relevant"

Submissions ignored (image from Andrew Bolt)

The Dissenting Report of the Joint Select Committee into the Clean Energy Bills makes very interesting reading, and shows evidence of a concerted attempt to suppress or exclude dissent from the debate, based on a subjective test of “relevance”.

It appears that many submissions were intentionally classified as “mere correspondence” in order to avoid their publication, and obviate the need for the Committee to have regard to their content.

In this report of Coalition Members and Senators we have included the comments of hundreds of Australians – not just those few who appeared before the committee in its select few days of hearings in south-eastern Australia, or those professional organisations who made detailed submissions, but also many comments from the more than 4,500 people who made submissions to this inquiry, which the Labor-Greens-Independent majority refused to have published.

To the thousands of people who feel like Noel Bowman, who stated in his submission that ‘I suppose no one will ever read this submission and in consequence I am wasting my time’, the Coalition members say we have tried to give you a voice. We could not quote or reference everybody, but in contrast to Labor’s determination to shut people out of this process we were even more determined to ensure that as many voices as possible from across Australia were heard. (page 129)

This Joint Select Committee – dominated by the Labor and Greens proponents of the legislation into which it is inquiring – allowed just a week for the committee to receive submissions, determining at its first meeting on Thursday 15 September that it would advertise for the first time on Saturday 17 September 2011 but with a closing date for submissions of Thursday 22 September 2011.

Hearings for this inquiry were scheduled in the week following the closing date of submissions, which did not allow the committee to properly consider the more than 4,500 submissions it received. In fact, the Labor-Greens dominated committee opted not to accept the vast majority of submissions and merely received them as ‘correspondence’, despite unsuccessful Coalition attempts to extend both the deadline for making submissions and the time allowed for the committee to report.

This volume of correspondence demonstrates the level of engagement and the depth of feeling Australians have in relation to the Government’s policy approach on this issue, but which Labor and the Greens have effectively sought to silence as far as this inquiry is concerned. (page 253)

On what grounds, therefore, did the committee exclude such a vast amount of correspondence? Let’s look at the requirements for submissions, from the Committees web site:

  • There is no prescribed form for a submission to a parliamentary committee. Submissions may be in the form of a letter, a short document or a substantial paper. They may include appendices and other supporting documents.
  • Submissions should be prepared solely for the inquiry and should be relevant to the terms of reference. They may address all or a selection of the points outlined in the terms of reference. Submissions may contain facts, opinions, arguments and recommendations for action.
  • It is helpful if submissions are prefaced by a brief summary of the main points.
  • Supplementary submissions may be lodged during the course of an inquiry to provide additional information or comments on other evidence.

Nothing particularly challenging there. The Clean Energy Committee had no specific terms of reference (see here), so that removes one hurdle. Let’s have a look at the checklist:

Before lodging your submission you may find it helpful to consider the following checklist:

  •  Have I commented on some or all of the terms of reference? [There were none for this inquiry – Ed]
  • Have I provided a summary of the submission at the front (for lengthy submissions)?
  • Have I provided my return address and contact details with the submission?
  • If the submission contains confidential information, have I made this clear at the front?
  • Have I provided an electronic version of the submission (if possible)?

There is nothing there which would permit the Committee to exclude 4,500 submissions as mere correspondence. An email with a return address should be sufficient for it to be accepted as a submission.

But here is the Committee’s explanation – and it is based on the wholly subjective test of “relevance”:

A large amount of correspondence was received by the committee. These items were not received as submissions to the inquiry because they did not address the actual legislation being considered. The correspondence was read and noted. The majority of the correspondence questioned the following issues:

  • The legitimacy of the science behind climate change and whether it is due to human action;
  • The legitimacy of the government to introduce the legislation;
  • The impact of the carbon ‘tax’ on individuals and the economy; and
  • Why should Australia go it alone on introducing measures to reduce carbon pollution putting us at a claimed competitive disadvantage? (Introduction, p12, here – PDF)

The next paragraph quotes the Chief Scientist, Ian Chubb, at the Inquiry hearings (see here for more of Chubb’s nonsense at that hearing) as if this somehow justifies their relevance test:

The latest information I have seen shows that the CO2 levels are high and that the rate of accumulation is accelerating. The scientists who study this would argue that it is getting to the point where something has to be done quickly in order to cap them at least and start to have them decrease over a sensible period of time. You could easily argue that it is urgent and that something needs to be done because of the high level presently and the accelerating accumulation presently (sic). We do need to do something.

Well that clinches it for me…!

It is almost beyond comprehension that the Committee felt that those four issues “did not address the actual legislation being considered.” They may not be relevant for considering individual sections of the Bills, but those four key issues go straight to the heart of whether the legislation is prudent, or even necessary at all! Is the Committee expecting us to believe that questions of prudence or necessity are outside its scope? Laughable.

Remember, there were NO terms of reference for this Inquiry, so the Committee should not have been able to exclude correspondence on the grounds of relevance. Even if there were terms of reference, issues raised in correspondence are clearly relevant to the matter being considered.

I have to keep reminding myself that this is Australia and not the former Soviet Union. Is this where we are at, in 2011, where the genuine concerns of the public, in a formal parliamentary committee, are simply ignored?

The Dissenting Report is here (PDF).


  1. not relevent………. like people under hitlarian eco-nazi legislation i suppose!

  2. Lojac Corry via Facebook says:

    yeah well that is where we are headed

  3. Jeremy Hodes via Facebook says:

    This is a total and utter disgrace

  4. Tracy Drane via Facebook says:

    Why does the article have a picture of Chaz Bono on it?

  5. Talk about feeling utterly helpless. I mean, we can’t even voice/submit our concerns, let alone having them considered.

  6. A societies level of freedom isn’t determined by how it treats its normal citizens … it’s determined by how it treats those who dissent; and in this case the majority of submissions have become irrelevant to those who lead this supposedly ‘free’ democracy.

  7. Rick Bradford says:

    And what about the short boilerplate: “I support this government and its carbon tax” submissions? They were all deemed to be relevant? To what? Sycophancy?

    This has gone beyond spin and into Stalinist-style revisionism. Well, Comrade Gillard would know all about that, wouldn’t she…

  8. Socialism…the enemy of freedom and free speech…

  9. Yet people laugh at me every time I state we should all be carrying “Little Red Books” under this Government. This is not the Nation I signed up to serve in the Navy in 1997 and thank *&^% I’m out now and no longer an instrument of this Govt’s crap.

  10. We as voters aren’t relevant. Reugees are more relevent .. FAILURE.

  11. “..they did not address the actual legislation being considered..”

    ie: the legislation supports the notion of AGW, so if your submission doesn’t, it’ll be ignored.

  12. Of course the people and science aren’t relevant. Government of the people, by the Greens for the scam.

  13. The Loaded Dog says:

    Just another routine day in communist Australia.

  14. Mervyn Sullivan says:

    There is no doubt about it… what we have just seen, in relation to the carbon tax, is the corruption of the democratic process of the highest order.

    If they could get this carbon tax through, it seems they will be capable of passing the mining super profits tax.

    Come the next election, the political coffin makers better start stocking up. Voters will be shooting dead the political careers of most of the Labor politicians… the greens… and the independents…

  15. gyptis444 says:

    In view of this government’s Lysenkoism I strongly support the establishment of a Royal Commission (after adults return to the Government benches) to inquire into all aspects of the current government’s climate change policy including, but not necessarily limited to the following
    bias in representing the details of climate science (the cover-up of ignorance about clouds and aerosols, the many uncertainties documented by Professor Judith Curry, the use of unvalidated computer models, uncertainties in the data, lack of due diligence by the IPCC as documented in the report of the InterAcademy Review of IPCC’s processes and procedures)
    the roles of agencies such as CSIRO, DCCEE, the Australian Climate Institute
    the behaviour of the Climate Commission
    the role of Treasury
    misrepresentation of the economic impact of the carbon tax
    the suppression of dissenting views in the context of the Joint Select Committee

    • Jim Simpson says:

      Spot on gyptis444 – Though methinks easier said than done to get that Royal Commission underway. Otherwise, it’s 2 years until the next Election by which time Gillard & Co will be relying upon waning public interest stimulated by the Robin Hood CO2 wealth redistribution ‘buy back’ plan to win back their disillusioned masses! It will be a challange maintaining the rage…

  16. Geoff Cass says:

    It is quite clear that of any submission did not support the requirements of the “We have to have a CO2 Tax” group, they would not be allowed to be included in the end numbers of “pro” and “con”. This current government knows but will not admit tat they are out of touch with the vast majority of Australians. The sooner we can have anbither election, the better !!!

  17. We do not have a government — we have a regime.

  18. According to the imbecile, Anthony Albanese, they were “Submissions of no consequence.”

  19. Ray Anderson via Facebook says:

    Welcome to the “Animal Farm”… we are all equal, some are more equal than others.

  20. Col of Blackburn says:

    Who said our Public Servants and Parliamentary Employees don’t share the wry ironic Australian sense of humour? Got a reply back from the Clerk of the Senate stating that the committee declined to table the submissions, that any MP or Senator could attempt to have them tabled, but given the Greens/Labour majority this would not succeed, but that ‘it was up to the electorate to pass judgement’ on this action! You’ve got it 100% right there Rosemary! 😉

  21. More lies. Every submission was relevant. Every one of them made a point that this tax is going to be ruinous for our country.

    This is pure Tyranny with a capital ‘T’. I fully expect our Stalinist PM to come up with some proclamation that we should not have an election when the government’s term is up in 2013.

    Judging by the anger already demonstrated and so widespread, there may well be an uprising before then.

  22. bevan pidgeon says:

    it is imperative that we have a massive push to establish citizens initiated referendum in this country ,this is only one of many new laws that will be passed to rob us of our rights and freedoms

  23. nano pope says:

    The day isn’t that dark, we have the toppling of Labor for the next decade at least to look forward to, not that the blasted opposition is much better but at least it might mean a little sanity compared to none.


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