Archive: Victorian Competition & Efficiency Commission [VCEC]
Last Updated 15/10/10
(29/6/10 - SG) MRRA gets a run but so does yet more de-regulation
The Victorian Competition and Efficiency Commission - Victoria's version of the Productivity Commission - has released its report into Streamlining Local Government regulation (draft, April 2010). In a nutshell, the report is about making Council regulations less tiresome for developers and business, including planning.
Seems the VCEC thinks Development Assessment Committees [DACs] are good, which tells us ordinary people who don't count that DACs definitely won't work for us. The commission also seems to think councils may be "imposing disproportionate risk management requirements" on contractors.
'Not impressed' might cover it.
to access the report and submissions.
Yep, yet another State government report that isn't about getting it right but getting it cheap and easy (for some), and turfing out regulations and standards. There are now so many reports of this ilk rolling in, it's almost boring.
MRRA were devils and said there needs to be more prescription. The VCEC dismissed this fanciful notion as not a goer. Dang, what were we thinking of, in this world of ever-sliding standards and accountability!!??
So yes, let's chuck out all the rules so some feel liberated, and richer. The rest of us don't mind being walked over, disadvantaged, damaged or exterminated, do we?
Does it always take something catastrophic like climate change, or the world financial crisis, to make people understand that the world's obsessive pursuit of the almighty dollar, of giving every advantage to business and economics and growth, of stripping out regulation, is signing our own death warrant?
PS If anybody finds something truly democratic and equitable, or socially and environmentally responsible, in the report, can you please let us know? Thanks.
All Hands On Deck! Victorian Competition and Efficiency Commission's Recommendations For Environmental "Regulation" Are The Road To Environmental and Social Ruin
(24/4/09 - SG) Some dinosaur thinking strikes again: have we learnt nothing from catastrophic deregulation in the financial sector, and the very real dangers confronting us from climate change?
The Victorian Competition and Efficiency Commission has released its draft findings on environmental regulation. Its March 2009 report is by its own admission underdone, for example, it seems the benefits of environmental regulation haven't been assessed. The Commission however does have a point when it, as have several others including the Auditor General, laments that there aren't enough monitoring and review programs to allow full evaluation. That shortfall doesn't seem to have stopped the Commission coming up with some significant recommendations to shift environmental regulation around and cut corners off environmental and social standards to better serve developer and business interests.
Incongruously titled "A Sustainable Future For Victoria - Getting Environmental Regulation Right" (the question is, right for whom?), the draft report comes up with recommendations that seem to say Victoria should slim down on regulation, starting with the big ones, because they are costing business just too, too much.
The Commission goes so far as to suggest us ordinary folks are all apparently misinterpreting sustainability if we think it means attaining "balance" between social, environmental and economic factors. The VCEC instead seems to prefer "outcomes that are a 'synthesis' of economic, environmental and social objectives." (synthesis - usually, a process which combines together two or more pre-existing elements resulting in the formation of something new.). It goes on to say 'synthesis' will be better achieved by making short-term changes to materially improve... efficiency... by reducing the burden on business...
The first of these recommended changes is to undermine the Environmental Effects Statement process, for example, allow proponents to determine the scope of an EES, and any issues outside that scope need the consent of a Departmental secretary to be able to be considered. Not a good move if the main aim is to get a sustainable as opposed to a preferred or pre-ordained outcome. Another recommendation is to let the proponent decide when to release an EES for public review. The VCEC also thinks it may be a good idea to adopt the State government's 'fast-track' approval processes for transport projects and apply them to others (appears to be somewhat redundant as that seems to already be happening, as we've seen with the gutted EES processes surrounding the bay dredging and desalination plant).
As for native vegetation, the VCEC recommends making DSE (fondly known as the Department of Sparks and Embers) the sole decision-maker for all permit applications (we are not sure whether this means all permit applications for native vegetation, or all permit applications). The VCEC's preferred option however, is to take native vegetation out of the planning system and let a body such as EPA make all the decisions. This therefore seems to be a recommendation for native vegetation to be dealt with in a non-integrated way, in isolation of all other planning issues, unravelling the work done in the last 30 - 40 years to ensure this isn't how it happens.
The worst part is that, in the early part of its report, the VCEC admits Victoria's 43 environmental Acts provide a range of benefits, but also that "it is not possible to assess confidently the benefits that may be attributed to most regulations." This tends to support a conclusion that the report is only looking at and responding to one side of the ledger: costs (even the reliability of some figures for costs used in the report are qualified). But apparently working on the principle that not knowing shouldn't get in the way of economics, the VCEC has nevertheless ploughed ahead with making recommendations that (once again) promote economics over environmental and social factors. It's that attitude, that thinking, that got the world into the financial and environmental mess it is now in.
The Draft Report Says:
Opportunity for further comment
You are invited to examine this draft report and provide comment on it within the Commissionís public inquiry process. The Commission will be accepting submissions commenting on this report and will be undertaking further consultation before delivering a final report to the Government.
The Commission should receive all submissions by 15 May 2009.
Submissions may be sent by mail, fax, audio cassette or email.
By mail: Environment Inquiry
Victorian Competition and Efficiency Commission
GPO Box 4379
MELBOURNE VICTORIA 3001
By facsimile: (03) 9092 5845
By email: email@example.com
You can download the report and get more information from:
We admit we haven't read the entire 500 page report, although the general drift didn't take long to come through in the 80 page Overview.
From this report, it seems that reducing the burden on business (once again) means removing safeguards, accountability, scrutiny, and standards, not to mention community participation. And people wonder why all those new buildings fell down in the Italian earthquake?
These VCEC recommendations, from an environmental and social perspective, are akin to recommending trucks no longer have to stop at red lights. It would certainly save on truck costs, and get the trucks to where they are going much, much faster, but what of the mayhem and carnage along the way? That's what's missing...
It's ironic that with water supplies about to run out, with Black Saturday and the worst weather on record, with sea levels rising and polar ice melting, anyone could still think those dinosaur thoughts that making money is all that matters, and the best way of making it is to tear up the 'rule' book. Given the times we live in, where more and more, choices and decisions are beginning to be about survival, there are still those who just don't 'get it'. As someone once said, there are no jobs on a dead planet. With the myriad examples we already have around us of where there hasn't been enough thought and care, where accountability, standards and responsibility have not been insisted upon, where the world has failed to sufficiently act to protect the dying planet that we all depend on for life, there is still this much dinosaur thinking not only around, but in positions of power. We can only hope the Victorian government won't accept these narrowly focussed and short-sighted recommendations.
MRRA encourages as many people as possible to submit a short message that these recommendations are not acceptable.
Inquiry Into Victorian Environmental Regulations Kicks Off - Submissions In By 15th October
(11/9/08 - SG) State government wants to know which environmental regulations are onerous for business, says removing red tape will better protect the environment
The Victorian Competition and Efficiency Commission has announced it will hold an inquiry into environmental regulation in Victoria. You can download various documents, including an Issues Paper, from the VCEC website. Click here for more details about the review and how to make a submission.
We will watch the outcome of this one with interest.
We'd love to truly believe this review is about improving and saving the environment, as the government seems to want us to believe, but on performance the Brumby government has now convinced us its first three priorities are economics, economics and... economics. Specifically, the 200 year old 'suicide' model of economics - carve up, shoot at, dig out, cut down, use up - that has brought all of us climate change and a teetering world environment.
The same theme of sustainability in terms of economics rather than in terms of environment that we detect with this review also flowed through the recent Land and Biodiversity In A Time Of Climate Change Green Paper. That paper came across as if partly written by economists who saw climate change as a ripper economic opportunity instead of a potential environmental disaster. It also heavily hinted that justification would be sought to remove existing 'impediments' to people doing what they liked in pursuit of these climate change -induced economic opportunities. This VCEC review could potentially provide that justification.
There should be no relaxation of environmental regulations - those we have should in fact be strengthened, if concern for environment is genuine and paramount. Human behaviour still has too much of the "environment is expendable" mentality to call what we do 'sustainable'. Will we never learn?
If governments keep on seeing climate change only in terms of economics, they are just going to keep on missing the environmental point. Tackling the problem effectively involves changing the economy to support the environment, not the other way around. So hands up which government wants to be seen to take the lead on looking at this crisis in more than economic terms? Any takers for that level of credibility?
Please read the Issues Paper and make a submission if you can.