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Tony Abbott sworn in, turns against climate programs

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New prime minister Tony Abbott wasted little time after the swearing-in of his conservative Liberal National Party coalition, delivering immediately on his promise to repeal or dismantle all institutions and policy measures involving climate change and clean energy.

There has also been a purge of department heads, and a cleaning-out of staff from the now defunct climate change department is also expected.

Abbott’s government has already instructed public servants to begin drawing up new legislation to repeal the carbon price, new treasurer Joe Hockey sent a letter to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation instructing it to cease making loans, and preparations are also being made for the dismantling of the Climate Commission and the Climate Change Authority.

These acts were taken as new energy minister Ian Macfarlane told The Australian newspaper that the new government wanted to make sure that “every molecule of gas that can come out of the ground does so.” He has told mining groups that permits will be rescinded if developments are delayed.

Macfarlane also told The Australian Financial Review that he has assured anti-wind Coalition MPs that he will go ahead with a review of health impacts of wind farms, and put in place a proposal for “live” monitoring of wind farm noise.

Among the first moves by the government has been a shuffling of department heads. Blair Comley, formerly the head of climate change and more recently the head of energy, resources and tourism, has lost his job. Glenys Beauchamp is the new secretary for Industry development, which includes energy, and Dr Gordon de Brouwer is the new secretary of the environment, replacing Paul Grimes, who moves to agriculture. Martin Parkinson, a former head of the climate change department, remains as head of Treasury, although will step down in 2014.

Among the administrative orders released today, Greg Hunt’s environment ministry will be responsible for the renewable energy target, some energy efficiency programs, the Climate Change Authority, and emission reduction programs, as well as climate adaptation, the carbon farming initiative and the Clean Energy Regulator.

Macfarlane’s Industry department will be responsible for the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, and some energy efficiency measures, as well as the National Electricity Market. He also gets responsibility for science, atomic energy programs and export of uranium and thorium.

Australia’s chief scientist, Professor Ian Chubb, told ABC’s Lateline program the likely axing of the climate bodies will be a loss.

“These sorts of issues are not going away just because we ignore them,” he said. “They are things we are going to have to deal with and grapple with and understand better and then make informed choices rather than go out there and guess at what we might do.”

He also took issue with comments by Maurice Newman, the man chosen by Abbott to chair his business advisory council, who said that man-made climate change was a “myth.” Chubb described it as a “silly comment”.

Meanwhile, environmentalist David Suzuki has written a column for the Sydney Morning Herald, describing Abbott’s commitment to repeal the carbon price as “suicide.”

“His promise to scrap the carbon tax, a tax which had been a timid step in the right direction, to close down your green energy bank and to reduce the rebates for buying solar panels, all send a terrible signal to your entrepreneurs and to the community,” Suzuki wrote.

“And all of it is being done in the name of saving the economy. But for more than 20 years the insurance industry has been telling us we have all been paying more for changes in the climate. Why aren’t we listening to the insurers, the hardest business heads of all?

“I would have thought Australia would be leading the world in developing a new economy because climate change is going to devastate Australia.

“Instead, mining magnates are manipulating the debate in Australia just like they are doing elsewhere. Like the tobacco industry before them, they have known for years that climate change is happening and that burning fossil fuels is at the heart of it. But to maximise their profits they have continued to sow misunderstanding and confusion, funding the sceptics to perpetrate the myth that global warming is junk science.

“They should be ignored because there is no confusion in the scientific community about what’s happening to our planet and what the future holds unless we change the way we live.

“A carbon tax is just one small step to encourage companies and individuals to reduce dumping rubbish into the atmosphere.”  

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  • Terry J Wall

    South Australia leads the way I suspect in proving that cleaner greener cheaper is happening and going to happen even more , in spite of fossilized leaders, new or old.

  • Linda Eggington

    I suspect that the rest of the world will eventually bludgeon us into submission. Sad thing is, we’ll be at the tail end of a very profitable green industry when it finally does.

    • Jason Page

      True. So now how do we market that idea?

      • Linda Eggington

        I think it will happen naturally if we’re not on the same playing field as our trading partners. Especially if a market mechanism becomes widely adopted. And if not, other countries will most likely have some carbon cap in place and penalise us in terms of trade if we’re seen as doing anything.

        • Linda Eggington

          Errr, ‘not doing anything’ that should be.

  • Simon McClusky

    Unless you know something we don’t, Prof. Ian Chubb is the current, not former Chief Scientist of Australia?

  • Albert Sjoberg

    I believe this is a knee jerk reaction to the very heavy handed approach adopted By Julia Gillard in instituting the reforms.

    Julia said there would be no carbon tax, then had to institute a tax because of the Greens alliance. This made her a liar.
    Tony said he would scrap it, and is now living up to his promise. Anything less and he too would have been revealed as a liar.

    It is very sad that this purely political manoeuvring will likely halt or reverse any gains already achieved and stall further progress on renewables and climate reform.

    This serves to emphasise the immensity of the battle ahead. In many ways this may be a blessing in disguise. This could be the catalyst that converts the concerned people to more aggressive and decisive action rather than relying on ‘the government’ to bring about change.
    A strong opposition is an essential element of a healthy democracy. There is hope if Greens, Labour and the plethora of other parties and advocacy groups can unify to guide government on the correct path.

  • Name

    The night of the long knives returns with a new Liberal Government as Department heads such as Blair Comley who have been excellent public servants have now been dumped for doing their job in an apolitical manner.
    The policy of politicising the public service introduced by John Howard is being continued by the new Abbott Government.
    Blair Comely did what the Government of the day wished and was possibly one of the most capable public servants this country has seen. His removal from his former role as Department head means yet again Abbott is not using the best capability available to him and our country.
    His new Ministry containing only one female Cabinet Minister showed yesterday that mediocrity is the new standard being set by Abbott. This mediocrity is demonstrated by many of the new male Ministers and exemplified by Peter Dutton the new Minister for Health who in three years as opposition spokesman on health did not ask a single question of his Government counterpart in question time.
    Dave

  • Harrison

    A protest will be held tomorrow (Tuesday) all day with a majority of people arriving at 1pm. This will be held at the State Library in Melbourne and moving to City Square when we are kicked out.
    This protest is simply bringing awareness to the Australian Public on many issues that are not covered in the news. Take your pick and enjoy working towards what the majority of the Australian population really want.

    Big Issues:
    – Dredging of the Great Barrier Reef to create the worlds 2 largest coal ports.
    – Removal of Tasmania’s Old Growth Forrest Heritage Listing
    – Tony Abbott’s Sexism, and the way he parades this with only one woman in cabinet.
    – The loss of our Minister for Science and our minister for Innovation.
    – Firing of the Climate Commission and Climate Change Authority
    – Tony Abbott’s Racism against Aboriginals and Refugees
    – Massive cuts to Foreign Aid, this will result in more refugees worldwide.
    – The globally illegal process of sending refugees, wherever they come from, to Indonesia and the worrying lack of information provided to the Australian People.
    – Cuts to the National Broadband Network

    Be proud of Australia and stand up for it. We are becoming an embarrassment to the rest of the world.
    More information at the Facebook page, “Melbourne Protest – Australian Awareness Campaign”