15 May 2008
Crikey published this piece from me today, in the lead up to my Budget Reply speech tonight, which I will post to the blog as soon as the Hansard is available.
Tuesday night’s Budget was a slap in the face for all those Australians who voted for the Labor Party at the last election in the belief that a new government would be willing and able to make Australia a true global climate leader.
From the day he took leadership of the Labor Party, Kevin Rudd worked hard to present himself in contradistinction to John Howard on climate change. Climate was, more than anything else, supposed to be symbolic of the generational change from Howard to Rudd. My warnings at the time, that the Rudd Opposition had not fully digested the science, did not understand what was required, and was not offering well-thought out policy alternatives, did not fit into that narrative and were largely ignored. Hate to say it, but ...
The first Rudd-Swan Budget was qualitatively barely different on climate change from the last Howard-Costello Budget. Investment was not substantially increased, nor was it reprioritised. If anything, it was shifted further into the future and skewed more towards coal and away from renewables. We still have tokenistic, ad hoc gestures dressed up for press releases and photo opportunities rather than a comprehensive, prioritised effort at rebuilding Australia for the post-carbon economy.
Had Howard and Costello scraped through last November, we would have had an emissions trading scheme, a significantly higher renewable energy target and continued minimal and piecemeal Budget investment in renewables, efficiency and mass transit. Spot the difference.
The Government is already scrambling to fix up one mistake: the allocation of absolutely no funds to the renewable energy commercialisation program until 2009-10. When so many renewables technologies are ready for that funding, the proposed patch-up job of funding geothermal drilling is a band-aid when a complete rethink is needed. What’s more, the proposed solution is robbing Peter to pay Paul, taking funds from R&D for solar energy storage rather than from the coal corporations’ overflowing coffers.
A second clanger is gaining momentum: the ludicrous decision to means test the rooftop solar panel rebate. While means testing is generally policy that we Greens support and advocate, applying it to a policy geared at bringing down the price of what is currently the Rolls Royce of renewables is either an utter failure to think or a deliberate move to undermine the industry. What family on less than $100,000 will spend $20,000 on solar panels? The move has already sent shockwaves across the country, with speculation that the installation and manufacturing industries could collapse, along with the Solar Cities program and other so-called government priorities.
Kevin Rudd has called climate change the greatest moral, economic and environmental challenge of our time and a top priority for his government. This is reflected in his first Budget by giving it one fortieth of the funding allocated to Defence. Defence’s $100 billion over the next four years stands in stark contrast to the $2.3 billion for climate change over that time.
In the next decade, Defence will get over a quarter of a trillion taxpayer dollars. Let’s just imagine for a moment where that kind of prioritising could take Australia’s climate change effort.
Within the decade, we could retrofit the whole nation for energy efficiency, replace all existing generation capacity with renewables, with solar thermal and bioenergy providing baseload, compensate existing generators, stop all logging of our native forest carbon stores, set up Just Transitions retraining programs for all workers affected by those transitions, move towards an electrified vehicle fleet and begin the re-design of our cities for sustainability with mass transit and cycleways.
My office has already taken calls and emails from Labor voters angry that the government they voted in to tackle climate change has so betrayed them. The coming years will be telling indeed. It is worth remembering that revolutions occur not when people are most ground down, as they were during the Howard years, but when they have an expectation that something might have been done.
15 May 2008
Australian Greens Senator Christine Milne delivers her budget reply speech in the Australian Senate.
15 May 2008
The arctic ice and the Saudi Arabian oilfields seem a long way from Australia and Prime Minister Rudd's 2008 budget. But they should be at the forefront of our minds as we consider what a real leader, a leader contemplating the state of the world and the wellbeing of all people, would have delivered for our nation in his first budget.
14 May 2008
Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan's first Budget looks even worse for climate change in the cold light of day, Australian Greens climate change spokesperson, Senator Christine Milne, said today.
13 May 2008
There is an old political adage that the Budget is the clearest possible view of a government's soul - laying bare its priorities for all to see. So, now that the day of the Rudd Government's first Budget has arrived, what can we expect?
From all that we've seen and heard thus far, and from regular interaction with the Government and Ministers, I fear that we can expect a Budget that is messy and confused, a Budget that isn't brave enough to take the hard decisions that need to be taken, a Budget that gives with one hand and takes with the other by undermining its own actions.
We'll be heading in to the lock-up this afternoon and responding with what we see as the top issues tonight, and I will be delivering the Budget reply speech for the Greens on Thursday night. Obviously, I will be prioritising climate change and oil depletion, and looking at how dealing effectively with those fundamental challenges will also help our economy across issues as diverse as inflation, public health and rural and regional development. And I will not hold the punches on irresponsible spending such as the tax cuts, private health rebate and, of course, fossil fuel subsidies.
Any ideas and feedback, of course, are most welcome in the meantime. I apologise in advance if I do not have the time to respond to them as they come, but rest assured that we will look and consider them all as we construct our response.
UPDATE (from Tim H): Christine put out this Pre-Budget statement yesterday that you might like to read, to see some of her priorities.
13 May 2008
Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan have delivered a Budget that does little more on climate change than those delivered by John Howard and Peter Costello - and they weren't even pretending - Australian Greens climate change spokesperson, Senator Christine Milne, said tonight.
12 May 2008
Australian Greens climate change spokesperson, Senator Christine Milne, today said that a government serious about reducing the impact on Australians of petrol prices, climate change and inflation would tackle the three issues together with a major infrastructure investment in the tens of billions.
11 Apr 2008
Australian Greens climate change spokesperson, Senator Christine Milne, today called on the Rudd Government to focus its Budget priorities on existing climate solutions such as energy efficiency and renewable energy, not offer up even greater subsidies to the hugely profitable coal sector.
Senator Milne said "Prime Minister Rudd's visit to a coal fired power plant in China instead of one of their world-leading solar or wind sites is yet another ominous indicator that his Government intends to protect the coal sector from real, competitive climate solutions.
"The coal sector's hype of 'clean' coal has been badly tarnished in recent years and months, with little or no progress in research and development, while renewable energy technologies have been moving in leaps and bounds, increasing their efficiency, reducing costs and developing improved energy storage technologies.
"Even John Boshier, head of the National Generators Forum and one of Australian coal's loudest advocates, has said that early confidence in the techno-fix is fading amid growing concerns over cost and timeline blowouts, and the realisation of the mammoth scale of the problem burying some 300 million tonnes of CO2 every year in Australia alone.
"Coal is simply being out-competed, and its desperation is evident in the increasingly strident calls for government hand-outs to one of the world's most profitable sectors.
"The Rudd Government's first Budget must deliver a level playing field for energy technologies that puts a price on climate pollution. When that happens, those technologies that are ready to deliver substantial emissions reductions now, like energy efficiency, solar thermal power and wind energy, will out-compete 'clean' coal.
"Instead of delivering a level playing field, Rudd looks set to continue the Howard Government policies of 'picking losers' with increased support for the coal sector.
"The coal sector is old, polluting and well entrenched. Even if climate change were not an issue, it would be outrageous that our governments add billions every year to the coffers of the rich multinational corporations that run the sector. When you add climate change considerations to the mix, ongoing fossil fuel subsidies become one of the most perverse and destructive government decisions imaginable. The polluter pays principle tells us that the companies that have profited from polluting for so long should be the ones to shoulder the burden of cleaning up their act, not the taxpayer.
"The Greens have proposed that a portion of the billions that would be saved by cutting fossil fuel subsidies should be channelled towards further research, development and commercialisation of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies through a Sun Fund, and to pay for the early stages of a systematic and systemic retrofit of Australia's housing stock for energy efficiency set out in our EASI policy.
"I will be watching the Government's first Budget carefully to see if its priorities follow Martin Ferguson's industry-fuelled hype, or a sensible, realistic path to clean energy."
20 Feb 2008
Australian Greens climate change spokesperson, Senator Christine Milne, today called on Prime Minister Rudd to follow expert advice and abandon tax cuts in favour of an ambitious project to retrofit Australia's 7.4 million homes with energy efficiency measures.
Senator Milne said "Taking a proportion of the billions allocated to tax cuts and investing them instead in the Greens' energy efficiency strategy would bring together the advice of leading economists, including Bernie Fraser today, and McKinsey and Co and the host of others who have advocated investing in energy efficiency.
"It would massively reduce greenhouse emissions, deliver Australian families savings on their energy bills, boost jobs and the manufacturing sector, and would be a non-inflationary investment in Australia's infrastructure.
"Australian families do need to have the pressure taken off household fixed costs, but they understand that tax cuts and wage increases are inflationary, and they don't want their Government to take that path."
The Energy Efficiency Access and Savings Initiative, or EASI, announced before the last election, would:
organise a free energy audit by an accredited auditor;
advise householders of all efficiency opportunities with a payback period of ten years or less;
organise and pay the upfront costs of implementing cost-effective opportunities such as ceiling, wall and floor insulation, solar hot water systems, efficient lights and shading of windows;
collect repayments as a proportion of savings on the home's energy bills over a ten year period. Repayments will be less than the savings on energy bills so that no householders will ever be "out of pocket".
If fully implemented, EASI would reduce greenhouse emissions by close to 30 million tonnes each year, achieving almost 10% of the emissions reductions required by the Greens' target to reduce emissions to 30% below 1990 levels by 2020. The total cumulative cost of the program is projected to be $22 billion over 10 years, which will be recouped by the Government in a HECS-style repayments scheme through energy bills.
"Ask any householder whether they would rather have a small amount of cash in hand or whether they would like to permanently keep their household energy bills down, saving increasing amounts of money as energy prices rise on the back of a carbon price. From my conversations around Australia, I am sure families would warmly welcome the Government investing in household energy efficiency, addressing their needs without fuelling inflation.
"This is a classic case of the old adage: Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and he has food for life."