I have a piece in the Spectator, a synopsis of which is below.
The Commonwealth attempted to divert money from the Emissions Reduction Fund from the negative value ventures it normally funds to supporting investment in a coal plant.
The Emissions Reduction Fund was set up by the Abbott Government following its election in 2013. Its Environment Minister, Greg Hunt, was an avid promoter of “direct action” which involves buying out firms’ greenhouse gas emissions rather than reducing emissions by taxing coal. In fact, buying out emissions provides negligible effects on total emissions, since the cashiered production is replaced by that of other supplies.
Conservative governments set up agencies to deliver policy outcomes but either lock in an inflexible process that cannot be subsequently modified or fail to establish the appropriate machinery from the outset. An example of the latter is the $1 billion Grid Reliability Fund, whereby Energy Minister Taylor sought to shift soft loan subsidy funding of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to reliable new (and hence lower emissions) coal generation. But, of the 12 projects recommended for further consideration by the panel he set up, only one was a coal project. And that will eventually be killed.
The fact is that the bureaucracy appoints its own gatekeepers. The committee set up to guard public spending through the Emissions Reduction Fund is headed by an environmental activist, ANU’s Professor Andrew Mackintosh (who was recently congratulated by the Environment Department for also being appointed as a reviewer of the Commonwealth’s expansionist Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act). Its other members also comprise environmental activists from within academia and the bureaucracy, and are supported by the pro carbon tax Climate Change Policy Branch in the Department of the Environment and Energy.
Minister Taylor is attempting to change the decision-making body as part of an additional funding package and has appointed a new “expert panel” for advice. The tentacles of the Deep State however run deep. Even though the head of the panel is Grant King (previously Origin Energy and AGL), its other members are Susie Smith, CEO of the Australian Industry Greenhouse Network, the aforementioned Prof Andrew Macintosh, head of the Emissions Reduction Assurance Committee, and David Parker, the Clean Energy Regulator.
Plus ca change, plus ca la meme chose
As a nation we are throwing out of work a million people from activities that provide consumers with the products and services they want. But the jobs remain of those – inside and outside government – dedicated to undermining the economy’s efficiency.