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Climate change is the elephant in the budget room

  • 11 May 2017


When Scott Morrison announced the 2017-18 Budget this week there was one phrase he didn't dare to utter in his meticulously written and rehearsed speech. It's just two short words, climate change, but when used together they conjure a public debate even our minister for the environment gets tongued tied over.

Morrison's omission of climate change in the federal budget has set a tone of ignorance to improving energy policy in a meaningful way. Dr Paul Burke, a fellow at the Crawford School of Public Policy at the Australian National University, thinks 'It shows that climate change isn't a number one priority if it's not mentioned at all in a budget speech.'

The only mention of energy security was in the wider context of pressures on the cost of living for Australians. Morrison said the Prime Minister's energy security plan will provide 'reliable and affordable energy for all Australians' and that $3 billion was already being invested in new emissions technologies.

When it comes to new funding to assist in reducing emissions — nothing to see here. Funding for the environment budget was cut 14 per cent since the Coalition formed government in 2014. Under this budget, it is predicted the cut could be up to 27 per cent by 2020.

New energy related measures in this budget include a focus on increasing gas production, taking out the most funding with $86.3 million. This sum will cover $19.6 million to increase gas market transparency and over $30 million for discovery of new potential gas stores.

On the renewable energy front, $6.2 million is going to support the Solar Communities program which supports food rescue charities and other community groups to install solar to reduce their emissions and save on energy costs. There's also $110 million being set aside for Turnbull's Snowy Hydro 2.0 and a hefty investment into a solar thermal project in Port Augusta.

In addition, the National Landcare Program will receive $5 million to support a community led project into threatened species. The Great Barrier Reef will also receive $1 billion after the worst coral bleaching season in history was reported late last year.

Despite this, it's clear an overwhelming focus in environmental funding is on exploration and harvesting of gas for Australia's future in energy. It is short sighted to place money into environmental conservation projects, such as the reef fund, without first actively attempting to treat the cause of the coral bleaching —