The announcement by the Prime Minister of a Royal Commission into Northern Territory juvenile detention has rightly garnered widespread media attention. However, a Royal Commission is just one example of a wide variety of inquiries that are available in within Australia’s political system, all with different powers and membership types ranging from former judges to politicians. While the motivations for establishing inquiries can sometimes be political (perhaps the more cynical will say the motivations are always cynical), they also serve as an important way for the public to be heard on a particular issue.
Not all inquiry topics are considered news worthy by the media, but that doesn’t negate their importance and potential impact on Australians. Therefore, we think it timely to have a look at some of the inquiries around Australia that have either recently handed down reports or are in their early stages.
New South Wales
Inquiry into regional planning processes in NSW
This inquiry was referred on 13 August 2015. Currently public hearings are occurring across NSW and a report is expected late 2016. Areas the inquiry is looking at include:
-opportunities to stimulate regional development
-suitability of a stand-alone regional planning Act
-constraints to regional development imposed by the planning framework, and how it can better respond to regional planning issues
Inquiry into Crown Land
This inquiry was established on 23 June 2016 to consider:
-the extent of Crown land and the benefits of active use and management of that land
-the adequacy of community input and consultation regarding the commercial use and disposal of Crown land
– the most appropriate and effective measures for protecting Crown land so that it is preserved and enhanced for future generations
– the extent of Aboriginal Land Claims over Crown land and opportunities to increase Aboriginal involvement in the management of Crown land.
The report is expected to be handed down 13 October 2016.
Reparations for the Stolen Generations in New South Wales
The report was handed down 23 June 2016 and the NSW Government response is due 23 December 2016. Key recommendations were:
-NSW Government establish a reparations scheme for Stolen Generation survivors
-A Stolen Generations Advisory Committee be established, made up of a majority of Aboriginal representatives
-NSW Government provide funding for collective healing initiatives with contributions from those organisations that were involved in the forcible removal programs.
Inquiry into community energy projects
On 23 Jun 2016, the inquiry into community energy projects was formed to look into the role of communities in the Victorian energy economy. This includes:
-looking at the potential role of co-operatives, mutuals, social enterprises and community ownership in the energy sector
-investigate the benefits of community owned energy programs
-investigate the best ways to encourage the uptake of community energy projects.
Inquiry into barrier fences in Queensland
Starting 5 November 2015, a parliamentary committee examined the role of Queensland wild dog fence and rabbit fence in protecting farming communities. The final report is due in July 2016. During the inquiry the committee has considered amongst other things:
-the costs to maintain the existing barrier fences
-the effectiveness of barrier fences at protecting stock and corps from attacks by wild dogs, rabbits and other introduced species
-their unintended impacts on native species.
Inquiry into the financial position and performance of Government owned energy entities
On 17 March 2016 the Public Accounts Committee resolved to undertake an inquiry into the financial position and performance of Government owned energy entities. Utilities in Tasmania are an interesting area at the moment as concerns continue to be raised about the water quality in a number of areas throughout the state. The terms of reference includes:
-the financial positions of the Government owned energy entities (Aurora Energy, Tasmanian Networks and Hydro Tasmania) and their interrelationships, considering their recent financial reporting, including their half yearly financial statements and Corporate Plans
-factors currently impacting on the financial performance of the energy entities
-any strategies being implemented by the energy entities to address their current and future financial performance
This is just a snapshot of some of the inquiries currently happening across Australia, we will be providing updates on these and others as they progress.
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