My name is Billy and I am a volunteer with the AYCC in Victoria. I first heard about the AYCC through a friend during a discussion we were having about potential volunteer opportunities. She recommended them highly, and with climate change being something I already had an interest in, I was soon signing my first petitions and then expressed an interest to volunteer.
Ugh. The Budget, right? Number-crunching, meaningless figures hurled all over the place, the press on a pun bender. It's exhausting. When can we get over it and get back to the things that matter – like the climate?
Well actually, this Budget is a massive one for us.The Government is using it to make huge changes to our country's climate policies. Perhaps it's no surprise, but there ain't much good news.
The biggest change is the Government's decision to defund the ARENA, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency. ARENA has been investing billions in renewable projects for years, funding them all the way from the lab to construction. It's the agency stumping funding our hard-won feasibility study for a solar-thermal plant in Port Augusta and it's funding hundreds of projects just like that, all over the country. It's a big deal in the renewables world.The Government wants to use the Budget to get rid of ARENA.
But it may not work. ARENA's access to government funds is guaranteed through a law called the ARENA Act. If the Government want to abolish ARENA, they'll have to repeal the Act separately to the budget. That means it could be stopped in the Senate. That's going to be one to follow. Either way, the move to abolish ARENA is a huge blow to our renewables industry and yet another big step backwards on climate by the Government.
The Budget also introduces the Emissions Reduction Fund, part of the Coalition's Direct Action policy. $2.5 billion is being dedicated to the fund, which will pay polluters to curb their emissions. It sounds like a lot, but when you compare it to the $13 billion in tax breaks and subsidies for the fossil fuels industry also in the Budget, it's a drop in the ocean. And that's assuming the policy works. There are a lot of experts and NGO's telling us it won't.
There is a microscopically thin silver lining in this year's budget. The Government plans to bring back indexation for the fuel excise. That is, the tax on petrol will start growing along with inflation again – 3 cents to start and about 1 cent each year after that. The Government is doing that for the cold hard cash, but the tax has a side-effect of curbing greenhouse gas emissions from transport.
But let's be totally clear on this – the fuel tax hike is nowhere near as good as the carbon price. The carbon price was designed to shield the community from the impact of climate change mitigation and make polluters pay. The fuel excise hits the community big time, especially the poor. So the fuel excise will have half the environmental impact and fail to do so on just terms. If the country knew it had a choice between one or the other at election time last year, things might have turned out very differently. But that's the way the cookie crumbles in politics.
By James Murphy