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Australia needs climate institutions, whoever is in power

The new Australian government is sacking the public service heads who implemented Australia’s carbon pricing scheme, and is closing institutions for climate change information and policy advice. It risks…

Australia can ill afford to lose the Climate Change Authority, led by experienced climate policy analyst Anthea Harris. AAP Image/Alan Porritt

The new Australian government is sacking the public service heads who implemented Australia’s carbon pricing scheme, and is closing institutions for climate change information and policy advice.

It risks further politicisation of the climate change issue in the public service. Keeping at the very least the Climate Change Authority as an independent agency would send a positive signal about the government’s commitment to economically sound climate policy. Science and economics are needed to underpin policy choices, especially in a field where ideological positions now play such a big role in public debate.

Sackings

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has sacked Blair Comley, who was Secretary of the Department of Climate Change and recently moved to the resources portfolio. He was in charge of implementing Labor’s carbon pricing scheme.

Martin Parkinson, Secretary of the Treasury and Comley’s predecessor at the Climate Change Department, announced that he would depart next year (presumably he was asked to do so). He was in charge of developing the Rudd government’s proposed emissions trading scheme, and had started high level work on emissions trading in the last year of the Howard government.

Both have an impeccable reputation as economists. They have served previous conservative governments, including on big picture tax reform. Their credentials and integrity are above question.

Perhaps their downfall was due to faithfully implementing Labor’s climate policies. Perhaps it’s that they are on the public record supporting a price on carbon emissions as the economically efficient way of reducing emissions; although this is exactly what the very large majority of economists say.

Sacking public servants over issues of policy is unusual in Australia. The Westminster system of an independent public service is – or is supposed to be – in operation. Public servants are professionals who serve the government of the day. The last “night of long knives” was in 1996 when the incoming conservative Howard government sacked six Secretaries; when Labor took government in 2007, all were kept. This week three were axed, plus Parkinson and the head of AusAID.

With blood still on the carpet, a public servant in a senior position will need extra courage to provide objective and critical assessments about climate policy and other contentious issues. We should salute those who will continue to provide frank and fearless advice, and understand if some will be cautious.

If the bureaucracy is less inclined to critically examine proposals such as the Coalition’s “direct action” plan, there is a greater chance that policy design will go awry.

In a larger sense, the sackings contribute to the demise of what Ross Garnaut back in 2011 called the “strong, independent centre of our polity”. We need that “to get strong results in the national interest on a complicated policy question like [climate change]”.

Closures

The first of Australia’s independent climate change institutions to get the axe is the Climate Commission, the agency created by the Labor government to disseminate public information about climate change.

It made its mark with reports about climate change impacts and the scientific basis for prompt action. But it also explained the advantages of carbon pricing and listed mitigation policy actions that other countries are taking, and took its message to many public forums.

It is by no means revolutionary stuff. The fact the incoming government sees the Commission as a problem is an indication of just how deeply politicised the Australian climate debate has become.

Next on the block is the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, which is charged with making co-investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in the commercial sector.

The Corporation has a A$10 billion investment mandate – not a subsidy, but the mandate to invest up to that amount and earn an appropriate return on the investments. The Corporation has been told to stop lending, though whether the government can legally require it to do so before new legislation is passed appears somewhat unclear.

It is slated to be abolished if and when the government repeals the Clean Energy legislation including the carbon price.

The case for the Climate Change Authority

The most important element of the institutional structure at risk is the Climate Change Authority. This was established as a statutory agency to provide advice to the government and parliament, modelled after the UK Committee on Climate Change.

The Authority conducts reviews on Australia’s climate change policies. Its draft report on Australia’s climate change target – which has bipartisan support – is due in October. The final report, as well as a report on Australia’s emissions trends and drivers, is due early in 2014. A review of Australia’s renewable energy target is already out.

The government has said it will abolish the Authority. Doing so will require a change to legislation so cannot happen immediately.

Axing the Authority would be the most severe blow to Australia’s climate change policy institutions. Even if the carbon price was repealed, the authority has an important role. It has to advise on Australia’s national emissions target, and provide deep and critical analysis on any policy aimed at cutting emissions.

By all indications, the Authority has been taking very seriously its task to critically evaluate the evidence and form well-supported recommendations for policy. The Authority employs some of the sharpest climate policy analysts in Australia, led by Anthea Harris, one of the country’s most experienced climate policy practitioners.

For the sake of retaining Australia’s capacity for quality analysis and independent advice, it would be much preferable for the government to retain the institution. The government may not like the fact that the Authority’s board was appointed by Labor when in minority government, and could replace the board.

The Authority could serve this and any future governments by shining the torch of sound economic analysis on policies and policy proposals. For a long term issue such as climate change, we need institutions that can outlast the electoral cycle.

The Coalition supports Australia’s 5% national emissions target, and also the possibility of a stronger target if international action warrants it. America, for example, is on track to a 17% reduction by 2020.

Decisions like about the national target need well-founded independent analysis and advice that is open to scrutiny, and periodid re-evaluation. Analysis should not be left solely to the often opaque processes in government departments.

Ideology vs science

A broader question is whether the Abbott government will uphold its stated commitment to action on climate change. Both major parties have agreed on the need to act on climate change, and even on the range for Australia’s 2020 emissions target.

But some close to government are clearly attempting to overturn this. A stark example is an opinion piece this week by Maurice Newman, former chairman of the ABC and the Australian Stock Exchange, and incoming chair of the Prime Minister’s business advisory council.

Mr Newman wrote of the “climate change myth” and of “money wasted pursuing those myths”, and accuses “well-organised elements in the public service, the media, the universities, trade unions and the climate establishment” of “propaganda”.

The government’s official position meanwhile is that climate change needs to be addressed and that efforts will be made to cut emissions. Most conservative parliamentarians appear to support action on climate change, and many are vocal proponents of economically sound climate change policy.

And crucially, the environment Minister Greg Hunt is deeply knowledgeable about climate change and environmental policy instruments. His engagement with the issues dates back to his 1990 thesis on environment taxes. Simon Birmingham, now Parliamentary Secretary for Environment, has likewise shown himself as expert on the issues.

One can only hope that after the initial frenzy, there will be no “climate wars” but a measured approach to climate change policy. Scientific investigation and economic analysis should not be subjugated to political considerations.

Join the conversation

83 Comments sorted by

  1. Comment removed by moderator.

  2. James Jenkin

    EFL Teacher Trainer

    The Centre for Climate Economics and Policy at ANU aims to 'provide cutting edge research and impartial analysis, to bring insights to the policy making process, and to engage in the public debate'.

    So doesn't it perform the functions the article argues we need?

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    1. Jonathan Pickering

      PhD candidate, Centre for Moral, Social and Political Theory at Australian National University

      In reply to James Jenkin

      Universities and other research bodies can play an important role in informing decision-making and public debate, but there's no substitute for having independent bodies within government for some key functions. Think of the Reserve Bank for example - academics might say all they like about whether interest rates should be higher or lower, but there's a lot of value in having an authoritative panel of experts making these decisions at arm's length from government departments. The Climate Change Authority was supposed to function like a reserve bank for Australia's emissions targets (http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/climate-change-reserve-bank-appointed-20120621-20qm1.html). Now that function is gone, there's a lot more scope for politicking to trump sound analysis.

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  3. Philip Dowling

    IT teacher

    Organisations, departments and positions with the word "climate" in their title have been growing exponentially in recent years.
    Unless this growth is slowed there will soon be nobody left in Australia to teach students reading and writing, people to collect garbage, and nurses to staff hospitals.
    However one must question whether they will do anything more productive than to ensure that governments waste more money on desalination plants.

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    1. Michael Sheehan

      Geographer at Analyst

      In reply to Philip Dowling

      What would be really useful is if the government released a list of every single public service department; the legislative function it serves; relevant minister, employees, annual budget.

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    2. Michael Sheehan

      Geographer at Analyst

      In reply to Craig Elliott

      Wow, Craig, thanks for a lot for that. It looks exactly what I've been looking for.

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    3. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to R. Ambrose Raven

      I suppose in the first instance RAR, Michael can have plenty of reading to do to inform himself and more importantly, hopefully governments will use such information in continually reviewing where money can be more effectively spent or not spent at all.
      I suspect it could be a plank for the Commission of Audit that the new government proposed during the election, a nicer sounding term than the Razor Gang but when you get too many unruly hair growths you probably need a gang armed razors for a good trim.

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  4. Michael Marriott

    logged in via Twitter

    Welcome to a renewed phase of the culture wars, in which the science of climate change acts as a lighting rod for conservative anxieties about a changing world:

    http://watchingthedeniers.wordpress.com/2013/09/21/the-climate-culture-war-enters-a-new-phase-in-australia/

    Conservatives fear the evolution of Australia’s culture: one that embraces sustainability and equality; one that rejects the values of the past; one that places the market second to the needs of society; one that embraces a post-materialist world view.

    We may think this all about "axing the tax", but it about the broader sweep of history. The world is rapidly changing, with climate change a driver of change not merely of the weather but our politics, identity and culture.

    Those wishing to cling to the past desperately fear the science.

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    1. Gil Hardwick

      anthropologist, historian, novelist, editor and publisher at eBooks West

      In reply to Michael Marriott

      Ah, Michael, so what you mean is in a democracy when anyone critiques government, and worse presumes to analyse and discuss the very large mistakes made by a government so roundly and conspicuously ejected from office as this last one, and for good reason, rather than the dialectic synthesis we might reasonably anticipate as contributing to further progress, suddenly it's war, and worse something else called "culture wars".

      Mate, all you have to do, like the rest of us, is live more frugally…

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    2. Michael Marriott

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Gil Hardwick

      Thanks for your reply Gil,

      I will say that I actually live a fairly sustainable lifestyle ;)

      However debate by citizens within a democracy is not blather or endless hot air.

      Rather than remain silent and "let governments govern" without accountability or hearing the view of those they govern, democracy demands us to be loud, raucous and even at times strident.

      I share your view that we have a good democratic system in place - but likewise more voices adds to the health of our democracy. It may seem messy, but that is not a bad thing.

      Otherwise only the mainstream media has a voice in the period between elections: why not the average citizen?

      It is time to embrace the concept of "citizen" once more, as originally envisioned. Better to be engaged than cynical and apathetic.

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    3. Gil Hardwick

      anthropologist, historian, novelist, editor and publisher at eBooks West

      In reply to Michael Marriott

      Sure, Michael. Only to be clear that I for one have for many years and more stridently leading up to this last election than ever, actively returned to the simple fact that we are all citizens of this commonwealth.

      Do a keyword search and you will find that I was most often the only one, to the point where I began to consider myself the sole voice crying in the wilderness for a return to parliamentary process, for citizen engagement, all that stuff.

      I am however happy to be admonished. I do…

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    4. Michael Sheehan

      Geographer at Analyst

      In reply to Michael Marriott

      "Conservatives fear the evolution of Australia’s culture: one that embraces sustainability and equality; one that rejects the values of the past; one that places the market second to the needs of society; one that embraces a post-materialist world view."
      Michael, I'm afraid your wonderland has been and gone. It was called the 1960s. Even its most ardent dreamers put the bong down once the "Population Bomb" crowd started acting like Jim Jones and The People's Temple.

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    5. Michael Sheehan

      Geographer at Analyst

      In reply to Michael Marriott

      "It is time to embrace the concept of "citizen" once more, as originally envisioned."
      Which was?

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    6. R. Ambrose Raven

      none

      In reply to Gil Hardwick

      Ah, Gil, so what you mean is in a guided democracy when anyone critiques government according to the Murdoch agenda, and worse presumes to imagine very large mistakes made by a government so roundly and conspicuously ejected from office as this last one, and for equally imaginary reason, rather than the dialectic synthesis we might reasonably anticipate as contributing to further progress, suddenly it's war, and worse something else called "culture wars", as John Howard made it.

      But it is, of course, as the ruthlessness of the dennialists continues to demonstrate.

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    7. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Michael Marriott

      " Conservatives fear the evolution of Australia’s culture: one that embraces sustainability and equality; one that rejects the values of the past; one that places the market second to the needs of society; one that embraces a post-materialist world view. "
      Somehow Michael, you've got that in reverse for the LNP if you want to label them as conservatives want Australia to follow a more sustainable path, no more being led down the garden path where gardens are based on seeds for which money has to be borrowed but a future where people should expect to roll up their sleeves and do what they can for the country and not expect all the promises some politicians make as in the past and just leave descendants with Greek like problems.
      I do not think such an approach is too conservative and much more progressive than endless borrowing and living on credit.

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    8. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Michael Sheehan

      So, Michael, you're happy to resort to rather childish abuse rather than tackling the issue in a rational way?

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    1. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Well, see there you go Peter, the incoming government might be fill of surprises for you as it gets Australians and Australia facing reality a bit more.

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    2. Mark Pollock

      Analyst

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      "facts don't need government funding to exist"

      Exactly right. All the more reason to get rid of these expensive propoganda units. They'll keep on giving the governmetn all the advice it wants without costing the taxpayersw a cent.

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    3. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Greg North

      Greg, I take it that would be the 'reality' of man-made markets, rather than the actual reality of the real world?

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  5. Pat Moore

    gardener

    The 'hope that there will be no climate wars' is a false hope and an illusion. Voices of reason WILL be silenced. A cultural change, a politically correct broom will sweep out the political institutions which encourage any public resistance to the Corporatocracy's agenda. As Flannery warns & we all know, the already quasi privatised and politicised CSIRO is too "politically bound" to replace the sacked Climate Commission. Newman is a high priest of the Big Body Corp and with this strategic opening…

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  6. Gil Hardwick

    anthropologist, historian, novelist, editor and publisher at eBooks West

    Having said this over and over again it looks like I'll continue having to say it, that this issue is neither about science nor climate change, or even about Australia.

    The issue is only concerned with partisan appropriation of something some politician or lawyer or party power-broker thinks of as 'science', or worse 'experts' they think they can put in some sort of pilot's seat to pull all the right levers and everything will be honkey-dorey.

    The issue is concerned with political appropriation…

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    1. Henry Verberne

      Once in the fossil fuel industry but now free to speak up

      In reply to Gil Hardwick

      Gil, while I appreciate the thrust of your views on sustainability I consider you heap too much blame on individuals for living sustainably or abusing their body with too much junk food.

      You do not give any role to the impact of the persuaders, the advertising industry who have convinced so many to consume when the impact of such consumption I not only bad for our bodies but also our long term future as a species. While I support and practice personal responsibility there are many who succumb to the lure of consumerism and this is nowhere more apparent than in the problem gambling.

      In my view there is a role that government plays in encouraging sustainability and AGW is one such issue.

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    2. Gil Hardwick

      anthropologist, historian, novelist, editor and publisher at eBooks West

      In reply to Henry Verberne

      Henry, I do think the real issue here lies in a propensity to classify advertisers, persuaders, as some sorts of perpetrator, and consumers as some sorts of victim succumbing to their lure, when both are merely two sides of the same coin of post-industrial alienation and irresponsibility, mutually provisioning and feeding off one another.

      My view of government, or more correctly the parliament per se, is that their role in the matter is to break that vicious cycle of co-dependency, discourage detachment and with it objectification and alienation, and instead invite not political activism but civic participation; to be part of the solution not the problem.

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    3. Gil Hardwick

      anthropologist, historian, novelist, editor and publisher at eBooks West

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Of course, Suzy, that has long been recognised, for centuries in fact, being the very reason we have in place so many checks and balances, and regular elections.

      Yes, as do individuals, one party or another has interests, of course they do as do we all. That's our right, and indeed our obligation to declare.

      The system works overall, however, by a synthesis that happily enough keeps everything pretty much on track.

      Having been there, and witnessed and participated in very real progress over…

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    4. Michael Sheehan

      Geographer at Analyst

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      "That would be ideal if only governments were impartial, yet they are made up from individuals who part of the system and have an interest in perpetuation."
      What a bizarre thing to say. They are not supposed to be "impartial". They are supposed to "represent" their constituents.

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    5. Michael Sheehan

      Geographer at Analyst

      In reply to Gil Hardwick

      Gil, I have not experienced as much of the post WWII era as you. But I took a History course at uni called "The Sixties" (which basically went from 1945 to 1973), and to me it looked grim. I've had this confirmed by family members, grandparents and their friends. To those who say we do not live in a progressive world, I say BULL! I would rather stick hot needles in my eyes than be sent back in time to the 1960s!

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    6. Gil Hardwick

      anthropologist, historian, novelist, editor and publisher at eBooks West

      In reply to Michael Sheehan

      Well and good, Michael, yet I would much prefer to revisit the 1960s than the 1930s.

      The 1960s and 70s I fondly recall us sustained periods of real progress in face of the hardship. After all, those were the years of my coming-of-age, of my freedom and prosperity as a young adult with good prospects in life.

      We overcame the Cold War, we lived through the threat of nuclear holocaust, we suffered and overcame the Vietnam business, we saw and were part of China struggling its painful way into…

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    7. Michael Sheehan

      Geographer at Analyst

      In reply to Gil Hardwick

      "After all, those were the years of my coming-of-age"
      Another thing I've learnt is that this is true for everybody. We are all biased by what we were doing from age 15 to 24. Check out the music collection of any person you meet.

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    8. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Henry Verberne

      " such consumption I not only bad for our bodies but also our long term future as a species. "
      Henry, you probably know that old tale about taking a horse to water.......
      Apply it to government too and then as far as ill fed consumption, nature does its work in such wondrous ways and with people being what they eat, if it becomes only the fittest survive when medical technology starts to fail, perhaps nature will be looking after the species.

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    9. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Michael Sheehan

      Not "impartial" when it comes to their connections with business and finance (ie personal as well as as a party) - of course they are supposed to represent their constituents, it's just that individual politicians don't always do this, or even listen*, instead listening to those industries or lobby groups who profit (often financially) from decisions. Unfortunately, lobbyists have easier access to politicians than 'plain' constituents often have.
      Looking at recent history, 'perpetuation' refers…

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  7. Leigh Burrell

    Trophy hunter at Trophy hunter

    Climate Commission was NOT independent. Flannery is a shareholder in would-be clean energy producer Geodynamics. It is a scandal that he received public money to foment hysteria over AGW and spruik decarbonisation.

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  8. John C Smith

    Auditor

    We got dept of metterology. That is enough to keep record and let us look at those record and work out .

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  9. Mike Brisco

    Scientist at Flinders University of South Australia

    Mr Abbott's decision to abolish the Commission, in a way, changes nothing.

    The world is still warming.

    Regardless of what Mr Abbott thinks or says, or tells people, or gets people to believe.... the world is still warming. You can see it.

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    1. Gil Hardwick

      anthropologist, historian, novelist, editor and publisher at eBooks West

      In reply to Mike Brisco

      Well, yes, Mike, to the extent that what Tony Abbot says or fails to say on the matter is entirely irrelevant.

      What people chose to believe is a reflection on them, quite as much as what others chose to critique and challenge is their measure.

      Yes, the world is warming. It has been for a very long time now, through the past 8-10 prime ministers and longer.

      It will continue to do so whoever happens to be prime minister from time to time. Prime ministers do not cause global warming (though parliaments seem to release inordinate amounts of hot air), we do.

      It's up to us, not him, isn't it?

      So, what do we want to do about it, aside from criticising prime ministers?

      Anyone, come up with some ideas. We'll listen.

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    2. Michael Sheehan

      Geographer at Analyst

      In reply to Mike Brisco

      We simply do not need any of these bureaucrats, let alone their Orwellian Departments of Inclusive Climate Diversity Problematisers. We can access the best research globally for free.

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  10. Natasha turnbull

    Student

    If we need a climate change authority, as the author of this article has advocated, we also need a taxpayer funded counter climate change authority to give alternative view.

    Climate change science has not been settled. A lot of climate change results from computer modeling couldn't be replicated. By putting out exaggerating claims such as no more rain, no water in the dams etc has pushed more people to be skeptical.

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    1. Michael Sheehan

      Geographer at Analyst

      In reply to Natasha turnbull

      Don't we have a Department of the Environment? That's enough.

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    2. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Natasha turnbull

      While you're at it, let's have a department of burning homosexuals or a department of how many angels can dance on the point of a spear...

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    3. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Michael Sheehan

      Michael, check out the difference between a government department and an independent expert commission. It's a pretty basic distinction that I would have hoped a geographer would appreciate (even one who appears to have already stuck hot needles in his eyes).

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  11. David Rennie

    IT Contractor

    The purpose of these dismissals is surely to send a clear message that public servants who participate in the public debate, expressing views contrary to those of the Liberal Party will be suffer consequences.
    It is unlikely that those supporting Liberal views wil be dismissed.
    It's a return to the fundamentals of Liberalism, "there are reds under the beds".

    The Liberals clearly don't want any part of the public service pointing out how incorrect and uncommitted they are in relation to AGW. The ABC, BOM, and universities better watch out.

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    1. Mark Pollock

      Analyst

      In reply to David Rennie

      David,
      We can only hope that the ABC, the BOM and the universities start to understand that they have a duty to the Australian population as a whole. They have been functioning as a lobby group for the Watermelon Greens for far too long.

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    2. David Rennie

      IT Contractor

      In reply to Mark Pollock

      Mark,
      The ABC, BOM and the Universities have been spokesmen for intelligent analysis and research. THe fact that the Greens support many issues based on the same scientifically sound information means that they are likely to support the same conclusions. Hence they fulfill there duty to the Australian People which is much greater than complying with the ideological biases of idiots.

      By describing the greens as Watermelons you are simply demonstrating that your own views are based on political ideology, rather than science.

      If you have a scientifically based objection to any of the information these organisations provide state it, don't provide political humbug, (that's a polite way of saying BS).

      The fact that you are ignorant is because you don't listen to people who know far, far more than you do, such as these groups. .

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  12. Liam J

    logged in via email @gmail.com

    Stop climate change by sacking those telling us about it. Stop the refugee boats by not reporting them. Stop women complaining about sexism by locking them out of cabinet.

    Abbotts master plan: hide under the blankets.

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  13. R. Ambrose Raven

    none

    Denialists love to accuse the realists of flat earthism and religious cultism. Yet the denialist dogma itself bears all the hallmarks of religious extremism. Mankind must not repair the problems we cause, we must not save future children (saving them is a strange idea, to denialists), we must convert the non believer, mankind must be allowed to fill every corner of the planet without limit (or at least they avoid the sticky question of over population, too extreme), the non believer should be executed…

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  14. Garry Baker

    researcher

    Oh they will get climate institutions alright - In name only.

    Much like the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) under Wayne Swan, where that office did the bidding of its political master, and never had a remit to think or do otherwise. Indeed, neutered from the outset.

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  15. Greg North

    Retired Engineer

    I reckon there is plenty of news about climate change without a dedicated authority or a commission and all the money being spent on bureaucratic organisations as such will be far better spent being put to some constructive efforts in whatever areas are determined to be appropriate.

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  16. Whyn Carnie

    Retired Engineer

    Let's face it the Climate Commission and its predecessor the Libs' hybrid CSIRO/Weather Bureau flagship office on global warming were never set up to deliver sound scientific advice to Government. Politicians seem unable to divorce political goals from Public Enlightenment. Consensus science is not much use unless it can be delivered free of bias. There is no vote on true science. It either is or it isn't. Simply creating departments that tell them what they want to hear doesn't do it for me.
    Government warming/climate agencies designed around directorates comprising equal numbers of warmists and skeptics with the Chair holding a casting vote may have avoided the past 10 years' wasted effort and money. The current crop have just been running on the spot.

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  17. Mark Lawson

    senior journalist at Australian Financial Review

    Whatever you may think about climate there is little doubt that Labor had built up an elaborate and confusing climate bureaucracy with considerable overlap - thus we had at various times the Climate Change Authority, the Climate Commission the Department of Environment, the Renewable Energy Regulator and Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

    The Climate Commission in particular was a no-brainer, again whatever you may think about climate, as most of its material was simply activist tracts. This was particularly startling in its review of overseas developments. Why should the taxpayer have top pay for activist material, where there are plenty of organisations willing to produce such stuff for free?

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    1. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      Like the AFR ... or my own Woolibuddha Men's Shed Centre for Excellence in Climatic Sciencey Stuff... thanks from us all for your personal contributions to this area of complexity and confusing science... never knew it was all so simple really - a conspiracy... who woulda thunk it?.

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    2. Mark Lawson

      senior journalist at Australian Financial Review

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Your comment does not make a lot of sense and bears no relation to my post. If you want to make a general comment then that is better, rather than a reply to me..

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    3. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      Mark ...

      You merit a direct reply because your role in dumbing down the discussion of AGW and the IPCC has been quite consistent and calculated.

      Cheap, lazy and utterly ill-informed commentary for years. Agit-prop rather than insight or analysis. The AFR's Andrew Blot.

      In doing so, you have done Australia and your business readers in particular a great disservice.

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    4. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      'Activist tracts'?

      I suppose only a professional dysactivist would be able to spot that one.

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    5. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      Mark to both make sense and bear any relationship to one of your posts is probably beyond even Peter Ormonde's verbal scope...

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    6. David Rennie

      IT Contractor

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      When, people like yourself deny the evidence, of course you see the evidence as 'activist tracts'. The climate change commission was tasked with presenting the evidence. Which they did. Spin doctors and deniers like yourself don't want the evidence to come out so rather than refute the statements of the Climate Change Authority, which is scientifically implausible given that Authority was reporting the evidence, you seek to kill the messenger.

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    7. Whyn Carnie

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to David Rennie

      You say, "The climate change commission was tasked with presenting the evidence. Which they did." How can that be reconciled with the wild predictions made by the Palaentologist leading it? That messenger of course does not need metaphoric killing, just educating.

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    8. David Rennie

      IT Contractor

      In reply to Whyn Carnie

      Very hard to respond to your wild accusations about Tim Flannery. Many claims made about things he has said have been repeatedly shown to be exaggerations or misquotes.
      So please provide evidence of 'wild predictions' he has made while a Climate Commissioner.

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    9. Mark Pollock

      Analyst

      In reply to David Rennie

      Not and exaggeration but one of my favourites.

      "Just over the last decade Gaia is on the threshold of acquiring a brain and that’s happened because the internet and changes in human society have for the first time ever, allowed us theoretically to deliver a single, strong message to Gaia, what we want from Gaia. And also, after four billion years, we have got now the intelligence to see Gaia from space and to actually enhance its working parts…"

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    10. David Rennie

      IT Contractor

      In reply to Mark Pollock

      Mark,
      You obviously didn't understand the discussion. What Flannery was saying is that 'we' ie humans are the new command and control system in the environment overwhelming the natural processes that previously existed. Hardly a wild prediction.

      It also fails to meet the criteria that Flannery made the statement while a climate change commissioner as the statement waqs made in 2009 and the Climate Change Authority wasn't established until 2012. http://climatechangeauthority.gov.au/.

      So you have failed to understand Flannery's point and failed to identify that he didn't even make the statement while a climate commissioner.
      So that is Flannery 2 Pollock 0 in my book.
      Care to try again. This time using your supposed analytical skills and a trifling amount of research.

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    11. David Rennie

      IT Contractor

      In reply to Mark Pollock

      Mark,
      Try this one; wild statement or sane approach?
      "Coal export is a 55 billion dollar per year industry. If the government can’t put a 5% tariff on that and just say you’re going to be paying 5% more guys, we’re going to give it back to you to put into carbon capture storage, we’re not going to be able to solve the problem. We need a multi-billion dollar budget to start solving that problem and the industry itself has to foot the bill for that."
      Same source: http://www.latrobe.edu.au/news/ideas-and-society/in-conversation-with-tim-flannery

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  18. helen stream

    teacher

    The climate issue is political all right..... not in the way you claim, but in diametric opposition to your characterization.

    It's the Left that has politicized the issue and tailored it to its own agenda, as admitted by Kevin Rudd advisor, David McKnight in his essays and articles in 2007 and 2008, wherein he hailed the issue as the 'not-to-be-missed' opportunity for the resurgence of the Left---their vehicle to Australia's 'transformation'.

    The former Communist McKnight welcomed the prospect…

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  19. Jenny Goldie

    population and climate activist

    An excellent measured article thanks Frank. I personally would like to scream with rage so I appreciate someone else calmly and comprehensively stating the problem. And a problem it is, namely, the whole dismantling of the Clean Energy Legislation and its associated institutions. And now it appears the government may turn down the chance to chair the Green Climate Fund in Paris in October. What is wrong with this government? Must they bring shame on the whole nation because they are too ignorant to accept the science of climate change? And now Oxfam has just issued a report on global food production, finding that the cost and availability of food will be severely affected by severe weather events,a function of climate change. This is the very time we must take decisive action, not put our heads in the sand!

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    1. Mark Pollock

      Analyst

      In reply to Jenny Goldie

      Jenny,
      You can’t speak for the whole nation. Abbott signalled his intentions very clearly and was given a resounding majority. He said he would clean out the unproductive mess created by the previous government and here he is doing just that. What’s there to be ashamed of?
      Oxfam was captured by watermelons decades ago. Does anyone still listen to them crying wolf?

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    2. Jenny Goldie

      population and climate activist

      In reply to Mark Pollock

      Mark

      I'm not speaking for the nation. I just said "personally" I want to scream with rage. Did you not read the article by Frank Jotso? The new government will need scientific and economic advice. The various institutions (CC, CCA, CEFC) were independent, not ideological vehicles of the Labor Party. And what the Clean Energy legislation did was not "unproductive". It cut 12 million tonnes in carbon from our emissions in one year of operation and it increased the uptake of renewables by 30 per cent. It worked for goodness sake!

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    3. Mark Pollock

      Analyst

      In reply to Jenny Goldie

      Well, you imagine that these sensible changes will bring shame on the whole nation. I'm not ashamed and I am not alone.

      As for the abolished institutions, they were hand picked by the government, they got their agenda from the government, they dutifully spruiked the government line and were handsomely rewarded by the government for doing so. In what sense do you mean independent?

      I will admit that some of Professor "waterFront Flanelly's" pronouncement s were independent from the planet earth. But I don't think that's what you meant.

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  20. Mick Horne

    Freelance cartoonist

    I love hearing debate from both sides, as each contain persuasive elements.

    Historically, science and politics have had many disagreements.

    Toss in some religious and business pressure, and anything can evolve (or not).

    “Only listen to advice which assists the cause”.

    Anyhow, it always gives me plenty of material for my cartoons.

    This is my latest . . . .

    http://cartoonmick.wordpress.com/editorial-political/#jp-carousel-775

    Cheers

    Mick

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  21. Mark Pollock

    Analyst

    The “climate change issue” has been politicised for decades. The objective science went out the window when activists groups realised they could use it to generate the mother of all scare campaigns to legitimise their fringe political agendas. There is no point in the author complaining about this process as he was clearly a part of it.

    To the matters at hand though, why shouldn’t the government get rid of the person in charge of implementing Labor’s carbon pricing scheme? The scheme is toast…

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    1. Mark Pollock

      Analyst

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      I saw the inconvenient truth. Or the trailer at least. 50 metre sea level rises. 50 million climate refugees by 2010. Himalayan glaciers all gone by 2035. MDB dried out any time now. i couLd go on but you get the picture.

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  22. MItchell Lennard

    Researcher - Distributed Energy Systems

    Normally I start any response by thanking the author, which I will do again, while at the same time questioning the point of publishing yet another article making similar points to others published by the Conversation and the mainstream media not owned by self interested octogenarian US citizens.

    Yes it is not ideal that the Climate Commission has been shut down and yes it does tell us all sorts of things about the Abbott government; but really we knew all of these things months ago.

    The Climate…

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  23. Gary Goland

    Researcher

    I firmly support the comment by Mark Lawson that “whatever you may think about climate there is little doubt that Labor had built up an elaborate and confusing climate bureaucracy with considerable overlap - thus we had at various times the Climate Change Authority, the Climate Commission the Department of Environment, the Renewable Energy Regulator and Clean Energy Finance Corporation.” So true. So much duplication without any accountability to evidence anywhere in this elaborate hand-balling…

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    1. David Rennie

      IT Contractor

      In reply to Gary Goland

      If you, as most sane and intelligent people do, consider Climate Change to be the dominant and pre-eminient issue in politics globally it is sensible to cover all bases. Each of these authorities had different and specific duties, all of which would have led to a better future for Australia and the world. Their demise, to pursue an ideological agenda based on chosen ignorance, will just lead to economic instability in this country as necessary action is thwarted by ideological claptrap. The next government will restore real action on climate change and business will be thrown into another quagmire of change to rectify the sabotage being undertaken by the Liberals.

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  24. Oksanna Zoschenko

    logged in via Twitter

    To return directly to the text of the article, I was impressed with the profoundly ambiguous concluding comments of the contributor Frank Jotzo, which strangely sit as easily within a sceptical, as within an alarmist, world-view:

    "One can only hope that after the initial frenzy, there will be no “climate wars” but a measured approach to climate change policy. Scientific investigation and economic analysis should not be subjugated to political considerations."

    Chris Monckton could not have stated it better, even sans his trademark Latin. Well put, Sir.

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