A LEADING Australian free-market think tank with close ties to the country's conservative Liberal Party has revealed its plan for climate change - abolish it.
Aside from the current Labor-led government's mud-wrestling over its leadership, all opinion polls point to a landslide victory for the Tony Abbott-led Liberal Party at the next election, which has been set for September.
The Institute of Public Affairs, a leading promoter of climate science denial and misrepresentation, has revealed its recommendations for the next government in a document outlining budget cuts. The plan was written by Alan Moran, director of the think tank's deregulation unit.
The document made the pages of The Australian newspaper but the report did not mention the document's detailed plans to obliterate all climate change functions in the country's public sector. In one section the document outlines the think tank's recommendations for public sector departments. In delaing with the future of the “Climate Change and Energy Efficiency” department, Moran writes simply: “Abolish”.
Pretty much every other federal government function to administer climate change policy, research global warming, ensure sustainable development or support renewable energy gets chopped under Moran's plan. Many publicly-funded research programs and agencies are either chopped entirely or cut to the bone.
As well as abolishing the country's climate change department, the IPA plan would also scrap the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and cut research into sustainable development and climate change carried out in the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (the IPA plan also suggested a departmental branch responsible for plain packaging legislation should also be abolished, not surprising given that British American Tobacco has been a recent funder of the IPA).
The Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities would have 2149 staff cuts and all “climate change functions” in the Bureau of Meteorology would be abolished, along with 15 staff. The CSIRO - Australia's main science and research agency responsible for some world leading science on climate change - would be halved in size with 2780 people made redundant.
Moran's document is of course simply a wish list, but it comes from a think tank with close ties to the Liberal Party which, if you believe the polls, is heading for an easy win at the next election. John Roskam, the IPA's executive director, has been reported to have missed out on Liberal Party pre-selections for seats more than once, most notably in the seat of Higgins in 2009 where he had been considered a frontrunner.
He is a former boss of the Menzies Research Centre - the Liberal Party's official think tank. In a profile on Roskam for The Power Index, IPA adjunct fellow Tom Switzer said Roskam had driven the think tank's agenda on climate change - that is, an agenda to promote climate change denial and oppose policies to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
The IPA, which does not reveal its funders, has been a sponsor of climate science denial conferences hosted in the US by free market think tank the Heartland Institute. Since the early 1990s the think tank has been hosting and promoting the views of climate science deniers such as Fred Singer, Vaclav Klaus, Pat Michaels and others.
On the IPA board is Liberal Party powerbroker Michael Kroger, who in 2009 was reported as being behind a push to clear the deadwood from the party and instal Roskam and another IPA director, Tim Wilson, as fresh-faced new candidates. In recent weeks, a leaked Liberal Party discussion paper revealed it was ruminating over the merits of creating a new economic zone for the north of Australia.
The idea is being pushed by the IPA in partnership with another think tank, Australians for Northern Development and Economic Vision, founded by coal and iron ore mining magnate Gina Rinehart. ANDEV and the IPA was delighted at the Liberal Party taking up its plan.
Jim Chalmers, who heads the Labor Party's think tank The Chifley Research Centre, wrote in The Drum that Moran's document should be seen as a “chilling preview” of what was to come under a future Liberal government. Liberal leader Tony Abbott has already pledged to repeal the nation's price on greenhouse gas emissions.
But it's ridiculous to think that any government - even a Liberal one - would shut down all of its climate change functions entirely, isn't it? Well no, unfortunately it isn't.
As documented by The Global Mail, after the Liberal National Party came to power in Queensland a year ago, Premier Campbell Newman's government proceeded to napalm a host of environmental programs. Support was pulled for a major solar power project, 1400 jobs with an environment focus were axed, key legislation protecting wild rivers was rolled back while mining and resources was installed as on of the “four pillars” of his leadership. When it came to protecting the state's iconic Great Barrier Reef, Newman reminded voters that Queensland was “in the coal business” and that environmental protection would not get in the way of economic growth driven by the resources industry.
And the state's Office of Climate Change? Abolished. So wide reaching have been the cuts in Queensland, they might as well have been written by the IPA.