HOWARD SATTLER: Well, it seems that the Federal Government – the Labor Government, the Gillard Government – will go to any lengths to ram this unpopular carbon tax down our throats or spend any amount of taxpayers’ money to get their message across and try and convince us they’re on the right track and the majority of us aren’t, and the Opposition aren’t. This has been brought to the surface again by the Opposition today. Liberal Senator for South Australia, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment, Simon Birmingham joins us. Hello, Simon.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Good afternoon, Howard, and good afternoon to your listeners.
HOWARD SATTLER: Okay, what’s this latest cost of giving us the message that carbon tax is a good idea?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, Howard, what we’re seeing now is, of course, multi-million dollar expenditure on Labor’s carbon tax and it’s blown right out. We’re seeing some $24 million being spent on advertising and brochures and then another $13 million being spent on what they’re calling a Climate Change Foundation Campaign but in reality simply seems to be seeing a whole lot of funds being spent on essentially the cheer squad for the carbon tax…
HOWARD SATTLER: What do you mean by that? Who are you talking about?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, we’re seeing hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer funds going to groups like the Australian Conservation Foundation, the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, The Climate Institute and ClimateWorks Australia which really is, of course, actually repaying people for, of course, all of these groups backing Labor’s push for a carbon tax.
HOWARD SATTLER: These are all… they’re all pro carbon tax groups, are they?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Ah, look, these are all pro carbon tax groups. They’re all groups who have been a big cheer squad for the carbon tax, a cheer squad for what the Government has done, for Julia Gillard’s backflip, and they’re now getting hundreds of thousands of dollars to, it seems, keep on cheering.
HOWARD SATTLER: Now, also a rather large bureaucracy is starting to be formed here. That should be no surprise. Tell us about that.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, all up, the carbon tax bureaucracy is going to cost, over the next couple of years, some $400 million or so but we are already seeing staff appointed. Labor’s carbon tax isn’t even law yet but they’ve already started the hiring of a ballooning bureaucracy. More than 200 new positions, that are additional to the existing hundreds of people employed in the climate change space by the Federal Government, will be created and more than 50 new employees have already been taken on just to implement the carbon tax, as I say, even before it even finishes passing the Parliament.
HOWARD SATTLER: Well, what are some of these new bureaucracies called?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Ah, well, we do have a range of them. We’ll have more than 300 people, it’s claimed, will be working in the Clean Energy Regulator. There’ll be 45…
HOWARD SATTLER: What do they do?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, they will be, as I understand it, the body that really is in charge of how the carbon tax works. They’ll be the ones who will essentially send the bill, as such, to the businesses who will directly pay it, who of course will pass those costs on to people right around Australia.
HOWARD SATTLER: Why can’t they be run by the current Treasury staff?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, you would wonder as to why we need a whole new multi-million dollar regulator. The Clean Energy Regulator itself is going to cost around $256 million over the next few years and have around 330 staff, so it’s a massive new authority and it’s one of four different bodies that are being created across the public service as part of this whole carbon tax package that, of course, is such a giant money-go-round. What we’re seeing here is the billions of dollars that come in… so much of it gets churned up by a bloated bureaucracy and then some of it gets spat back out at the other end to selected individuals.
HOWARD SATTLER: Okay, you mentioned a couple [one] there but there’s a very big one, as far as money’s concerned, called the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. What do you know about that and how much is that going to cost?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: That’s right. The Clean Energy Finance Corporation is basically yet another attempt by this Labor Government to establish their own bank, it seems. This is a $10 billion body and it’s going to pick projects that the Government will invest in to change the energy mix in Australia and we don’t have a lot of detail yet as to how it’s going to work. We haven’t been told how many staff it will have or exactly how that will operate. There’s no legislation for the Clean Energy Finance Corporation yet so it’s really a $10 billion mystery at present but that was one of the key prices that Julia Gillard paid to the Australian Greens. It was a key requirement the Greens had for this package to get their support and so if anybody wonders why the Greens are supporting this carbon tax but didn’t support Kevin Rudd’s carbon tax, there’s your $10 billion answer.
HOWARD SATTLER: And the Australian Renewable Energy Agency? What’s its role and how much is that going to cost?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency has a budget that’s also a multi-billion dollar task – around $3.2 billion. It will pick up some existing activities … so it won’t be entirely new activities but once again I suspect what we’ll see is a massive duplication across these different agencies. They’ll all end up tripping over each other. They’ll all end up, of course, spending millions or billions of dollars commissioning the same reports, employing people who will do similar things and, just like the money that’s being rolled out to Labor’s cheer squad, organisations in the non-government sector at present will see a whole lot of bodies set up, all of course basically designed to prop up the carbon tax and support what this Government wants to have said.
HOWARD SATTLER: Stay there if you could because the Government has put forward Gary Gray, Special Minister of State. I wanted to talk to Greg Combet, the Climate Change Minister, but he’s not available.