Bernie Fraser quits Climate Change Authority after difficulties with Hunt

Bernie Fraser has resigned as chair of the Climate Change Authority. Lukas Coch/AAP

The chairman of the Climate Change Authority, Bernie Fraser, has quit – apparently after a long period of bad relations with Environment Minister Greg Hunt.

It is believed Fraser – who is a former secretary of the Treasury and former governor of the Reserve Bank – had found the minister very difficult to deal with. Hunt was seen as hostile to the authority.

The tension with the minister apparently wore Fraser down.

The government was angry that it could not abolish the authority because of the Senate, but was forced to retain it in negotiations with Clive Palmer.

The authority recently urged emission reduction targets for Australia post-2020 which were much more ambitious than the ones the government subsequently announced for this year’s Paris climate conference.

Fraser’s resignation has left the authority without a quorum, but it has taken legal advice that it can continue its operations. The authority discussed the situation at a meeting on Tuesday.

“Arrangements have been made to ensure the Authority’s work will continue uninterrupted,” the authority said in the short statement announcing Fraser’s resignation. No explanation of the resignation was given.

Professor David Karoly, a member of the authority, has been delegated with responsibility for its official duties.

Four of its nine members quit last year and have not been replaced by the government. Hunt reportedly told the authority that he sent recommended names to the Prime Minister’s Office but nothing had been done.

One of those remaining is the Chief Scientist Ian Chubb whose position is ex officio. His term as Chief Scientist expires in December.

Fraser’s decision – said to have been made reluctantly – came as a surprise to Hunt. It did not follow any specific argument.

Hunt thanked Fraser for his work, in a statement on Tuesday night. “He has had an outstanding career in public service, which I deeply respect and acknowledge,” Hunt said.

“In particular, I thank Mr Fraser for his assistance with the crossbench in the passage of the Emissions Reduction Fund.”

The Conversation is a non-profit + your donation is tax deductible. Help knowledge-based, ethical journalism today.