Upper House Committees target the City

Two reports from NSW Upper House Parliamentary Committees were released last week both disappointingly focused on politicking.

The first report, from a special Committee made up of by Liberal, National and Shooters Party MPs, looked at the participation of non-resident voters in the 2012 City of Sydney election. It recommended that all businesses within the City of Sydney should be forced to vote. At the moment, businesses paying rates in the City can vote, but they are not forced to do so.

Their recommendations take us back to the bad old days of the 1990s. In 1995 concerns about the City's electoral roll being so inaccurate and out of date led to NSW Crown Solicitor warning that it would be 'unsafe to hold an election for the City of Sydney'.

The Liberal Party desperately wants people to believe that the work we are doing at the City is bad for business. The truth is very different.

Our recently released Floor Space and Employment Survey which showed jobs in the City of Sydney area are growing at twice the rate of the rest of metropolitan Sydney. Over the past five years, 40 per cent of all jobs growth across metropolitan Sydney took place in the City of Sydney area. The survey showed that despite the impact of the global financial crisis, the workforce in the city area grew by 13.6 per cent - an extra 52,306 workers. The number of businesses grew by 2,065 or 10.5 per cent.

Attracting new businesses and jobs doesn't happen by accident, it takes careful planning and investment. Five years ago, less than 50 per cent of our residents lived and worked in our local area - the survey shows that figure has now increased to 65 per cent. By creating a city where people come first, we've seen that jobs and new businesses also follow.

The City has worked to develop strong, positive relationships with businesses and business organisations, and they have made clear that they appreciate and support the work we are doing.

I believe we should encourage businesses to vote but the elections and the enrolment process should be run by the independent NSW Electoral Commission, not politicians. The City gave the Electoral Commission $215,000 to run an awareness campaign - including print advertising, letters and a website - encouraging businesses to vote in the last election.

The second report, from the Public Accounts Committee dominated by Liberal and National Party MPs, looked into out-dated electricity regulations that are preventing the installation of low-carbon trigeneration electricity plants.

The IPCC report released this week has again underlined the extreme urgency of action on climate change. We are already living in the era of climate change, and we are on track for 4 degrees of warming. As Rajendra Pachauri, the Chair of the IPCC, said this week: "Nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change."

Addressing climate change will require action at all levels; yet recent changes to the regulatory environment and the Federal Government's decision to scrap the carbon price have reduced the commercial case for city-wide low carbon trigeneration precincts in Australia.

City-wide trigeneration networks already provide low carbon electricity and zero carbon heating and cooling to buildings in cities including London, New York, Paris, Berlin, Copenhagen and Seoul, but in Australia regulatory changes to the National Australian Built Environment Rating System (NABERS) reduced the appeal of precinct-based trigeneration. The changes stopped property owners claiming the energy-rating benefits of buying low carbon electricity produced in large trigeneration precincts.

These things happened years after the City first started investigating trigeneration, and after the Liberal Government came into power and started slashing environmental programs.

At the Committee's hearing last year, the City called for regulatory reform to make trigeneration more economically viable.

Rather than work with the City on sensible reforms that would speed up the investment in trigeneration, the Inquiry decided to use the opportunity to attack our work to reduce emissions and combat climate change.

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