NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell
NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell Trevor Veale

NSW to join any carbon tax challenge

NEW SOUTH WALES Premier Barry O'Farrell says the state stands ready with Queensland to challenge the Federal Government's carbon tax in the High Court.

Mr O'Farrell made the pledge this morning as he arrived to attend the Council of Australian Governments meeting in Canberra.

"Absolutely. We've said to Campbell Newman that if he gets advice that suggests that there is a legal possibility to strike out the carbon tax then NSW will consider joining that challenge," Mr O'Farrell said.

Mr Newman said earlier this week he had sought legal advice from his Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie regarding a potential challenge of the carbon pricing legislation, which comes into effect on July 1.

The country's premiers are also in receipt of a legal opinion that argues the carbon legislation is unconstitutional.
In the legal opinion commissioned by conservative think-tank the Institute of Public Affairs, former academic and constitutional law expert Bryan Pape suggests the states could successfully challenge the tax in the High Court.

He cites several reasons, including the proposition that carbon dioxide emissions are state property and therefore cannot be taxed by the Commonwealth.

The carbon tax is not on the packed COAG agenda, although it's likely to factor in discussions on other issues.
Meanwhile, Mr O'Farrell told media this morning securing the future of TAFE colleges in regional and rural areas was high on his list of priorities.

"We'll wait to see what's put on the table today. We are committed to reform of our TAFE system to make sure that it meets the needs of our region economy," Mr O'Farrell said.

"We are also committed to ensuring that TAFE in regional and rural areas continues to be viable because ... it's often the only alternative for people that want to train in those areas."

Today's meeting will be the first time Prime Minister Julia Gillard has faced a majority of conservative leaders at the COAG table.

Other key issues on the agenda include the National Disability Insurance Scheme and reducing environmental "green" tape.

Mr Newman, who is attending his first COAG meeting, said Queensland would be lobbying the Federal Government to delegate its powers under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act to the states.

"I am quite happy to be scrutinised, I'm quite happy to make sure the Commonwealth are confident that international obligations are being satisfied, but that is the true way to rationalise some of this environmental green tape," he said.

"We are passionate in Queensland about our Great Barrier Reef. The Queensland Government under my leadership will not do anything that would hurt the Great Barrier Reef.

"Frankly we find it slightly offensive that the suggestion is that the Federal Government are the only smart people who can look after the Great Barrier Reef."

Mr Newman referred to the communiqué arising from the inaugural COAG Business Advisory Forum on Thursday, which indicated the Commonwealth would "maintain its capacity for a final approvals responsibility for World Heritage and high risk projects".

"The problem for Queensland is the entire Queensland coast, pretty much, is impacted by those World Heritage issues," Mr Newman said.

"The Queensland Government, under my leadership, will protect ... those vital, iconic environmental areas.

"We should be given the authority ... to evaluate those projects so that large projects are not going through multiple hoops."

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