Bacon-saving budget blocks Australian transition to clean economic future

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Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey handed down the Abbott government’s second budget last night and, while it has already been dubbed as an attempt to save the Government’s political hide, it has created a far greater challenge for itself on the clean economic transition and international climate negotiations. Despite acknowledging continuing low commodity forecasts and the non-mining future of Australia’s economy, Hockey still emphasised the importance of Australian coal while totally ignoring the challenge of climate change, the importance of supporting Australia’s world-leading scientific research, and the inevitable clean energy transition. Spending for the $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corp and the Climate Change Authority will be stopped in fiscal 2016/17, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency will be absorbed and defunded, and the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility will also be wound up in 2017. Even the Government’s own fig-leaf measures have been downgraded again, with its discredited ‘Direct Action’ having $2.1 billion stripped out of it (after blowing its budget on the first day of operation), and Tony Abbott’s so-called “Green Army” losing $73 million. Its “low emissions coal” initiative has also been cut, and while $3.7 billion in foreign aid is on the chopping block, the $4 million for Bjorn Lomborg’s “Australian Consensus Centre” – now rejected by the University of Western Australia after it was initiated through the Prime Minister’s office in an allegedly corrupt process – has been retained.

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  • “While there is so much that needs to be done to help tackle climate change, the most urgent is also the easiest, most popular, and most widely supported by economists. Put simply, it is time to end the subsidies for fossil fuel extraction and use. The diesel fuel rebate costs the budget $5.7 billion per year, and that means that Australians on the minimum wage pay more for their fuel than Rio Tinto and BHP pay for theirs. Such a tax concession is neither fair nor efficient.” Executive Director of the Australia Institute, Richard Denniss.
  • “This budget is a continued assault on climate and clean energy programs and institutions. This budget locks in the benefits that polluters now have to continue polluting for free, while loading up taxpayers and a supposedly stressed budget with the task of paying for emissions reductions. This budget, the continued assault on the renewable energy target and the loophole ridden proposed pollution ‘safeguard’ mechanism, strands the government well short of policies needed to achieve the modernisation and decarbonisation of the Australian economy.” CEO of The Climate Institute, John Connor.
  • “The most disappointing thing here is that the budget’s silent on all of those revenue measures that are really low-hanging fruit. It’s ruled out changes to superannuation, it’s silent on things like huge diesel fuel subsidies. The issue of multinational tax avoidance is raised in the budget, but there’s not a cent next to it. It’s gutted the ATO, so I don’t know how they’re going to be able to prosecute the case when it comes to multinational tax avoidance.” Greens leader Richard Di Natale.
  • “WWF’s Living Planet Report tells us that Australia has the 13th largest Ecological Footprint per person in the world, made up mostly of carbon pollution. If we want to protect places such as our World Heritage listed Great Barrier Reef and help our regional neighbours to have a more sustainable future, the environment needs to be made a priority in the budget.” WWF-Australia Conservation Director Dr Gilly Llewellyn.
  • “Our worst fears have been confirmed by the Government tonight – it has turned its back on millions of people who rely on Australian aid and gambled with Australia’s interests. Aid not only saves lives and helps people rise out of poverty, it is an essential investment in the security and stability of our region and our economy. This lose-lose budget grab will ultimately help no one. The Coalition Government has laid out a path for Australia – the second wealthiest country per capita in the world – to give our lowest aid level ever. Australians want to be proud of our government’s leadership on the world stage, not embarrassed. We have worked hard as a country to become one of the richest nations, we don’t want to be one of the meanest.” Oxfam Chief Executive Helen Szoke.

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