TONY EASTLEY: The Federal Government’s preparing to dust off and dip into its contentious $30 million climate change fund to buy advertising.
AM‘s been told the Department of Climate Change is working up options for the Government on how to use the money originally set aside for a public information campaign.
The Opposition argues tapping the funds is not warranted because the political debate at the moment is all about a carbon tax, not climate change, and taxpayers’ money should not be used to push Labor’s case.
From Canberra, Alexandra Kirk reports.
ALEXANDRA KIRK: There’s a $30 million pool of funds sitting in Government coffers. Labor had a campaign ready last year but, with the demise of Kevin Rudd’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, it was dumped.
The Government is now proposing a carbon tax and Julia Gillard’s repeatedly not ruled in or out Government advertising.
But AM understands the Department of Climate Change has started working up options for the Government on how to use the money earmarked for a climate change campaign.
AM‘s been told it involves the bureaucracy asking the advertising industry about what could be included in a campaign including ads, mail-outs, forums and online information.
It’s not clear who set the Department to work but it’s understood the green light did not come from Federal Cabinet.
The Opposition says there’s no justification for spending tens of millions of taxpayer funds on a carbon tax sales pitch.
Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment Simon Birmingham says the money should be used for much more productive purposes.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, this carbon tax is a controversial policy. It’s a politically charged debate and there is no guarantee that it will get through the Parliament.
ALEXANDRA KIRK: You believe in climate change, don’t you?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Look, I absolutely accept the science and balance of scientific opinion…
ALEXANDRA KIRK: But there are some people in the community who don’t, so would it be a good thing for the Government to spend money to convince people that climate change is real?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: I think as politicians, and indeed scientists as well, we need to all ensure that we promote the merits of our arguments, that we argue our case strongly through the fora that are available to us.
But what we don’t need to be foisting down the public’s neck are taxpayer funded communications campaigns that are designed to shift opinion in those debates.
ALEXANDRA KIRK: Even if it’s just about climate change, not a carbon tax?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Look, Alex, I think that you have to let the merits of arguments stand. I find that the science is compelling enough. I think the balance of scientific opinion is strong enough.
If they run this advertising campaign and claim it’s about climate change, we know that’s just a smoke screen because climate change is not the subject of the debate.
It’s the carbon tax that is the subject of the debate and any ad campaign they run, whatever they mask it as, will clearly be targeted to try to sell this carbon tax which is frankly a probably unsaleable product.
TONY EASTLEY: Liberal Senator and Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment Simon Birmingham.