Abbott Government's first actions: trash climate change education, carbon pricing

Tony Abbott's New Ministry

On September 7 Australia elected the Liberal National parties - the Coalition - to Federal Government, with Tony Abbott as our new Prime Minister. It is a Government firmly in climate denial, intent on winding back carbon pricing; undermining renewables; and closing down the Climate Commission setup to communicate and engage the public on climate science and its impacts.


Going into the election campaign there was bipartisan commitment by both the Labor and Liberal Parties to meeting a minimum commitment of 5 per cent reduction in Australia's emissions by 2020. But the Liberal Party party strategy for meeting this commitment, the Climate Direct Action Plan, was widely criticised as being reliant on soil carbon methodologies largely unproven and unable to achieve its target within its $3.2 billion budget.

On the Monday after the election there was an early start to the bushfire season with large fires in Western Sydney and bushfire alerts for much of Queensland. The Bureau of Meteorology also issued a special climate statement saying the last 12 months has been the hottest 12 month period on record with the winter period being the 2nd warmest on record.


Tony Abbott backtracks on meeting bipartisan emission reduction targets


Five days before the election Tony Abbott stated that they wouldn't even commit to keeping this small target, just to the limit of the $3.2 billion they had budgeted in their climate policy. This is despite the Coalition repeatedly affirming it's commitment to emission reduction targets range of 5 to 25 per cent by 2020, according to the Climate Institute.


Climate scientists say developed countries like Australia need emissions reduction of 25% to 40% by 2020 as our equitable share for a reasonable chance to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius. Both major political parties have refused to lift the necessary ambition to reach targets in accord with what climate scientists say we need to do.


"The bottom line is we will spend as much as we have budgeted, no more and no less,” Mr Abbott said. "We will get as much environmental improvement, as much emissions reduction as we can for the spending that we've budgeted." he said on September 2, five days before the election, at the National Press Club, according to the Sydney Morning Herald report.


In his address Tony Abbott mentioned the 'Carbon tax' 37 times but did not mention the process of climate change or its impacts even once, which highlights his main priority.


Exit Polling on climate change and carbon pricing

National exit polling (Results PDF) done on behalf of the Climate Institute showed that voters primary concern was for the economy and jobs (31 per cent) with Climate Change (5 per cent) and carbon tax (3 per cent) significantly lower. Even among Coalition voters only 3 per cent listed the carbon tax as a top issue.


“After a campaign which saw a return to 2012’s focus on the costs of carbon pricing, surprisingly from the ALP as well, there was no majority support for repeal with voters split 47 per cent for repeal and 47 per cent for maintaining some form of carbon pricing when asked to choose between the two,” said John Connor from the Climate Institute. "A bigger challenge looms for the Coalition regarding the effectiveness of their climate policies.”


"Despite commentary to the contrary, the Coalition maintained support for its 2020 pollution reduction target range of 5 to 25 per cent and have supported this commitment being made to other nations." Connor said in a media statement.


It was stressed by John Connor that the Coalition needs to effectively show how their policies can achieve the agreed targets before attempting to repeal the current policies presently in place.


“Climate change is complex and the solutions aren’t easy but the Coalition rushes into repeal of the carbon laws at their peril because climate change and its impacts aren’t washed away by this election result,” concluded Connor.


takver @takvera

Exitpoll reveals economy main voter issue, not #carbontax. Most want #climate action: 

5:54 PM - 8 Sep 2013


takver @takvera

 Exit poll also showed voters split evenly on keeping #carbonprice for #climate action #Auspol:  

6:00 PM - 8 Sep 2013

takver @takvera
Dear @JulieBishopMP I dispute you have a mandate on the #carbonprice Voter Exitpoll:

Respected Canadian environmental scientist and broadcaster David Suzuki was scathing in his criticism of Tony Abbott's Government decision to close down the Climate Commission

"I accuse this newly elected Government of wilful blindness, a policy of wilful blindness. They not only don't want the public to be informed on climate change, they themselves are not properly informed and that is willful blindness. In my country you can be thrown in to jail for wilfull blindness. And this is criminal negligence, another chargeable offence. There should be a category of intergenerational crime. I think what is going on in the industrialised world is criminal, because we are leaving a worsening situation for future generations who have no say in what we are doing at all."


Read PhD student and sessional lecturer in Media studies Jenni Metcalf on Axing the Climate Commission splits Australians from science at The Conversation website.


Science ministry abolished, Climate Commission axed

The new ministry was sworn in this week, some eleven days after the election. There were substantial changes with the abolition of the Department of Climate Change being notable but expected by many. There was strong criticism generally, and including within the Liberal Party, about the inclusion of only one woman in cabinet, making this Government a real boys club. The absence of Aged Care and Disability portfolios also surprised many. The abolition of the Science Ministry was a shock, including to Labor Senator Kim Carr:


Except 4 6wks in WWII last time there was no Ministry for Science or Research was 1929. & I thought we were heading back to the 50s! #auspol


One of the first policy actions of the newly sworn in Tony Abbott Government was the announced closure of the Climate Commission, which was setup in February 2011 to advise the public on climate science and climate change impacts.


The Climate Commission and it's lead commissioner Professor Tim Flannery have been in Tony Abbott's sights for some time. In April 2013 he foreshadowed the sacking of Tim Flannery and the axing of the Climate Commission which was established under executive authority in February 2011 as part of an election commitment by the Labor Government.


It had a budget of $5.6 million over four years as an independent, politically neutral body with a focus on educating the public on climate change science, the impacts of climate change, and mitigation and adaptation strategies.


The new Environment Minister Greg Hunt rang Climate Commissioner Professor Tim Flannery yesterday to close the Climate Commission. Tim Flannery told the ABC:


"We've stayed out of the politics and stuck to the facts. As a result we've developed a reputation as a reliable apolitical source of facts on all aspects of climate change. I believe that Australians have a right to know - a right to authoritative, independent and accurate information on climate change. We've just seen one of the earliest ever starts to the bushfire season in Sydney following the hottest twelve months on record." he said.


Read PhD student and sessional lecturer in Media studies Jenni Metcalf on Axing the Climate Commission splits Australians from science at The Conversation website.


Clean Energy Financing Corporation has legislative responsibility to continue

The Abbott Government have also commenced work to start dismantling the carbon pricing and clean energy infrastructure negotiated by the Independents, Greens and Labor in the last Parliament. The Climate Change Authority and Clean Energy Finance Corporation were both established by Acts of parliament. Unlike the Climate Commission they cannot be wound up through executive authority, they require repeal or amendment of their governing legislation.


The Institute of Chartered Accountants Australia in their paper - The first 100 days: priorities for a stronger economy (media release) - published on 12 September, recommended the new Government concentrate on economic issues. They argue strongly that reversing the carbon pricing mechanism is a backwards step:


"Australia will be taking a step backwards if the carbon price is repealed. Driving businesses to become more carbon efficient is critical for our future. Similarly, if the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) is disbanded there will be a gap in our ability to encourage investment in clean energy technology."


The statement also attacks Tony Abbott's backtracking on set emission targets:


"The government must also provide a clear and unambiguous commitment to reaching the 2020 emissions target to reduce carbon emissions by five per cent on 2000 levels – without a caveat on costs. Businesses need this certainty so they can invest in low carbon business practices in the knowledge that they are taking steps in the right direction."


The Clean Energy Finance Corporation was established with full administrative and financial independence, while including accountable and transparent processes for ministerial oversight and guidance of its actions, use of funds and investment policy. The CEFC is actually returning a profit for each tonne of carbon it's investments help to reduce.


Why scrap a program that is going to deliver a $2.40 profit for the government for every tonne of pollution it cuts? #CEFC #ideologygonemad


For example, the CEFC has issued very recently a $70 million loan to Pacific Hydro to complete the final stage of the Portland wind farm as part of a finance package along with commercial banks. This investment will generate about 400 jobs in construction in a regional area and help reduce emissions from Victoria's brown coal.


The Australian Conservation Foundation through the Environment Defenders Office (victoria) sought legal advice (PDF) from Senior Counsel Stephen Keim who identified that the Federal Government does not have the legal power to stop the activities of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation without repealing the CEFC Act.


“A direction to cease activities or cease investments, or to cease payments, would frustrate the legislative purpose of the CEFC Act, would be inconsistent with the CEFC Act and would not be authorised by s 64(1) of the CEFC Act." advised Stephen Keim SC.


Australian Conservation Foundation climate change program manager Tony Mohr said it was the clear responsibility of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to continue investing in clean energy solutions as per its legal charter unless or until the Act of Parliament is amended.


“We call on the Federal Government to respect the law and not attempt to stop the CEFC from continuing its good work. The CEFC is helping emerging technologies such as solar thermal, geothermal and wave power graduate from universities and research centres into a clean, national electricity market,” Mr Mohr said in a media statement.


Christine Milne also released a statement critical against the Abbott Government early moves, "In one swoop, he has demonstrated his contempt for climate science and for the health and wellbeing of future generations. Prime Minister Abbott has distinguished himself as one of the only leaders of a western democracy to deny the severity of global warming and to actively undermine infrastructure which is bringing down emissions. Future generations will look back on this day and remember it as the day Tony Abbott condemned them and their peers to climate chaos."


She also highlighted that the 5% emission reduction target is woefully inadequate.


"Shutting down the Climate Change Authority, ahead of its first report on fair and science based emission reduction targets for Australia, is cowardly and an attack on current and future generations." said Senator Milne, "Tony Abbott is a climate criminal. Shooting the messenger does not alter the fact that Australia has to do a lot better than 5% in order to contribute fairly to the global challenge of constraining global warming to two degrees."

20 Sep

@takvera @GreensBen Decision to destroy Climate Change Authority terrible as it stops higher level of ghg reduction ambition being debated.

@senatormilne @GreensBen and that point is crucial. We are still stuck on the efficacy of 5% reduction when we need to be aiming 25-40%

One Labor politician, Nick Champion from South Australia, has floated the idea that Labor should allow the Abbott Government's legislative changes to carbon pricing to pass to expose them as a fraud. But this has been firmly argued against in a blogpost by influential Labor backbencher Kelvin Thomson.


The onus of keeping carbon pricing as part of a strong strategy of climate mitigation will fall to Labor and Greens Senators to block any substantive changes up to June 2014.


With new crossbench Senators taking their seats from July 2014, they will need to fully assess closely whether Government climate action proposals can meet the targets required, and particularly targets Australia has already committed to internationally. The composition of the new Senate from July 2014 may make negotiation of legislative changes complex and difficult.




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Tony Abbott has shown his hand – and where he plans to take Australia. There were a few things missing from his Cabinet, including:

  • Women Ministers – there's now only 1 in a 19 person Cabinet.
  • Ministers for Science, Climate Change, Energy, Youth, Disability, Status of Women, Aged Care, Mental Health, Early Childhood and more.

Even if science, climate change, the elderly and women have been de-prioritised (it's the second time in 82 years we haven't had a minister with 'science' or 'scientific' in the title), at least we have a Minister for Sport in Cabinet and a "Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on women."

Our new Prime Minister has made his priorities pretty clear. But if he expects us to just throw up our hands and give up, he doesn't know us very well. GetUp members have faced down a conservative government before. We know exactly what it takes to campaign strategically and harness the concerns of everyday people into real political power and impact. We also know the last thing right-wing conservatives want right now is for GetUp to grow stronger – so let's do exactly that.

There is some serious work to be done.

There is no other group like GetUp in the country: people-powered, independent, coordinated and skilled in both national campaigning and local organising. And we've got big plans: from going hard to protect climate action and the Great Barrier Reef to a new 'GetUp in your electorate' initiative that will see MPs across the country meeting with their local GetUp member community to have important conversations before it's too late.

We've already achieved huge things when the odds were pretty tough. Thankfully, we know that progress isn't won or lost in a day – it comes from lasting commitment, led by good people who put their money, time and voices where their values are.

Do something positive, lasting and real as we empower our movement to protect and champion all we hold dear: become a Core GetUp Member today.

Thank you for all that you do,
Sam – for the GetUp team

PS - Tony Abbott even managed to alarm his own party members. Liberal Senator Sue Boyce calling his exclusion of women "shocking and I think it's embarrassing, and it's not just embarrassing nationally but I think it's embarrassing internationally."[1] The election may be over, but we still need people of all political persuasions to stand up for our values and the issues that matter. Are you ready to contribute to powering the biggest progressive movement in Australia?

1 Sue Boyce and Judith Troeth express dismay over Tony Abbott's male-dominated Cabinet, ABC.

Just a few days in and the Abbott government has announced plans to make green boycotts illegal.

Parliamentary secretary for agriculture Richard Colbeck says he wants to “prevent green groups from holding companies to ransom”

This means environmental groups and community organisations will be gagged if they ask consumers to boycott unethical companies.

Less than a week in Government and Abbott is already showing his true colours – Free speech is under attack.

See the response from The Wilderness Society below.

Read more about Abbotts plan here.


Gagging free information will hurt business

The Federal Government’s proposal to silence non-government organisations from briefing consumers about environmental credentials of companies and products will be counterproductive, the Wilderness Society said today.

Liberal Senator Richard Colbeck announced moves yesterday to try to stop groups from being active in the market place.

“It’s an odd move by a pro-free market government to try to protect businesses from consumers receiving credible information about their products,” said Wilderness Society National Director Lyndon Schneiders.

“Companies should not be operating in a free market if they need government protection from credible information.

“Government can’t protect companies who don’t have a social licence as was witnessed with the spectacular collapse of one-time logging giant Gunns Limited in Tasmania.

“Markets for a whole host of products have wised up to unethical and unsustainable production practices and make their own decisions in relation to purchases and the preferences of consumers.

“Discerning markets care about their purchases and often rely on third-party assessment and commentary to make their decisions ‑ whether its demands are sweat-shop free, cruelty free, fair trade, non-genetically modified or environmentally sustainable.

“This is a wrong-headed action by the new government and will not benefit the private sector.

Instead it will make martyrs out of advocates and pariahs out of companies seeking to cover up the true environmental footprint of their products.

“Environment groups play an important role in informing markets and in some cases, such as with the Tasmanian Forest Agreement, have an explicit obligation to keep customers of Tasmanian forest products updated with information.

“Markets expect high environmental standards and free and fair flows of information and will be increasingly sceptical of governments that impose new laws that constrain communications.”

More info:

The worst show and tell ever


"The move, which could severely hamper market-based campaigns by groups such as Markets for Change and GetUp!, is to be pursued by the Abbott government." - The Australian, 23 September 2013

The Abbott Government is making aggressive moves to silence our voices and go after the places we cherish.

Headline news in The Australianclearly spells out the fight ahead of us:


  1. First, the Coalition announces it will "fast-track" plans for future development of major coal, iron ore and gas regions surrounding the Great Barrier Reef, cutting what they term "green tape".[1]


  2. And then, yesterday's shocking story that the government is already pre-empting our future campaigning. They are considering legislation to remove our right to speak up against companies with poor environmental records.


In other words, the Government knows just how powerful our movement can be when we work together – and they want to put a stop to it. Let's show them we're not going anywhere.

How? We have to start by explaining what's at stake. Let's get this important message across the country:

Why is this bad?

Prime Minister Abbott has already expressed the Coalition's intent to overhaul Australia's most important environmental protection law, the EPBC Act. The legislation was actually introduced by the Howard Government. It's what gives the Federal Government power to approve or block developments that threaten our national environmental assets, and has protected our Great Barrier Reef, the Tarkine forest, protects our water tables from coal seam gas, and far more.

If they succeed, there will be no backstop for major environmental decisions. State governments often have less power to intervene against environmental damage – and, because they often receive royalties from mining and logging projects, state governments have vested interests.

We conducted exit polling of voters on election day. The results show a majority of Australians don't want to scrap environmental protections.

Our strategy is clear: we have to start by ringing the alarm bell.

The more Australians know about this unpopular plan, the greater incentive for the Abbott Government to leave these important laws in place. That's why this TV ad is a great place to start. If we can raise $150,000 together, we can buy huge ad spots over the coming weeks and ensure environmental protection is back on the national agenda.

With thanks,

[1] Coalition bid to fix project paralysis, The Australian, 23 September 2013