Budget 2017: No mention, no policy, no idea on climate

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(Cartoon courtesy cartoonmick.wordpress.com)

Not a single mention. Climate change is the biggest social, moral and political issue of our time and yet Treasurer Scott Morrison didn’t utter those words once in his entire Federal Budget speech.

Alarm bells are ringing because the Turnbull Government seems determined to continue Tony Abbott’s environmental negligence.

This is a budget that puts big polluters ahead of the community and the air, water, forest and land that sustain us. It will be every day Australians that pay the price.

In a nutshell, the Budget continues with a 14% cut in environment expenditure since the Coalition formed government in 2013; this is projected to be a 27% cut by 2020. Meanwhile, $7.6 billion have been allocated for polluting subsidies — more than six times the environment budget.

There is no climate change policy, no plan for the environment and no plan to transition the energy economy to prepare for the next century.

Astonishingly, Malcolm Turnbull still wants to give Adani a "cheap" billion dollar loan from his coal slush fund. This one loan is almost the same amount of money that our prime minister is willing to provide our nation’s rivers, reefs and forests this year. He has lost his moral compass.  

The prioritisation of gas in this budget further demonstrates the Coalition's failure to recognise the need for a long-term transition plan for Australia’s energy system. Budget measures that foreshadow investment in gas infrastructure and new gas exploration mean Australia will remain shackled to fossil fuels instead of accelerating the transition to renewables.

Australians want their elected representatives to take seriously their responsibility to Australia’s reefs, rivers, people, forests and wildlife seriously. But, unsurprisingly, there is a crisis of confidence in the Turnbull Government’s ability to protect nature.

New ReachTEL polling released this week and commissioned by the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) shows only 40% of voters think the Government has a plan. Contrary to the Turnbull Government’s actions, Australians also support increased investment to protect nature (60%), want big business (67%) or polluters (76%) to foot the bill and are more likely to support parties who have a comprehensive national plan (74%).

Here are a few results from the ReachTEL poll, published here for the first time:

'Do you agree with the following statement? 'The current Federal government has a plan to protect the reefs, rivers, forests and wildlife for the current and future generations.'

Source: Australian Conservation Foundation

'Currently out of a budget of $445 billion the Federal Government spends just over $1 billion on protecting reefs, rivers, forests and wildlife. In the upcoming Federal Budget would you like to see the Government spend (much more, more, the same, less, much less) on protecting nature?'

Source: Source: Australian Conservation Foundation

'Would you support a proportion of company tax being spent directly on protecting Australian wildlife in danger of extinction and protecting Australia’s reefs, rivers and forests?'

Source: Australian Conservation Foundation

'Would you support a levy on polluting companies if funds were directly spent on protecting Australian wildlife in danger of extinction and protecting reefs, rivers and forests?'

Source: Australian Conservation Foundation

'Thinking about big picture solutions to the problems we have with our reefs, rivers, forests and wildlife, would you support a political party with a policy for a national plan where nature thrives?'

Source: Australian Conservation Foundation

That’s because the Government spends more time barracking for a dangerous, polluting coal mine than it does for protecting our environment. Their credibility is in tatters. They’re completely out of touch with what Australians expect their elected representatives to do.

Our message to Prime Minister Turnbull is pretty simple:

'The only way for you to restore your credibility on environment and climate change is to reverse environment sector cuts and develop a comprehensive national plan to protect nature and move to clean energy. There is no other solution for your leadership, or for our environment.'

By choosing to prop up big polluting companies with loans and subsidies, our government is choosing not to invest in clean energy, education and creating a better future for our children and grandchildren. The Government’s own State of the Environment report called for more spending on our reefs, rivers, forests and lands — not less.

Australians care about our rivers, reefs, wildlife and forests, and expect governments to protect them for our children and grandchildren. They understand the value of nature in a way that the Turnbull Government doesn’t appear to do.

Polluters and big business should be made to pay for the damage they cause to the environment, not everyday Australians. It is the Government’s responsibility to ensure this.

Budget 2017 and the environment

  • No active climate change policy; no further funding for the Emissions Reduction Fund.
  • No energy transition plan.
  • No national environment protection plan.
  • No reform of the Fuel Tax Credit subsidy, which will cost Australians $6.3 billion next year and $27.1 billion to 2020.
  • No change to the aviation fuel excise concessions which subsidise the fuel of the aviation sector — will cost Australians $1.3 billion next year, $5.8 billion over the next four years.
  • The government has announced an energy package which focuses on gas and the Snowy Hydro Scheme. 
  • The government affirms its election commitment to provide a $110m of equity for a solar thermal plant in Port Augusta.
  • No further research funding for the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility — it has been given $600,000 next year to work with CSIRO to maintain an online database of specific parts of its research. It has no funding after that.
  • The Government has committed to funding Landcare till 2022-23 with total funding of $1 billion over the seven years. However, there is no new funding over the forward estimates above what has already been foreshadowed.
  • Nothing new in the budget on Indigenous Ranger programmes.
  • $15 million for new Indigenous Protected Areas from existing environment funding.

Despite the Finkel Review, the Government’s Climate Policy Review, the Vehicle Emissions Review and the completed National Energy Productivity Plan, there is no funding to address Australia’s growing climate pollution. instead, the Environment and Energy Minister, Josh Frydenberg, is planning for failure, saying it is uncertain Australia can achieve net zero climate pollution by 2050. 

Kelly O'Shanassy is CEO of the Australian Conservation Foundation. You can follow Kelly on Twitter @kellyoshanassy.

Cartoon courtesy of cartoonmick.wordpress.com.

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