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Crikey says: Climate Change Authority key to carbon future

One of the better aspects of the carbon price package revealed yesterday is its governance arrangements. Ross Garnaut, in his statement welcoming the package, correctly singled them out as key mechanisms to introduce economic discipline into future decision-making.

The establishment of a independent Climate Change Authority to advise the Government on the operation of the carbon pricing scheme and, most critically, Australia’s emissions abatement targets, reflects similar — though more rigorous — arrangements in the UK. The requirement for the Productivity Commission to review levels of industry assistance under the scheme by 2013-14 (or earlier, hopefully) with a bias toward reducing assistance if the Commission recommends it, will enable the extraordinarily generous handouts to big polluters to be scrutinised. In both cases, resourcing has been provided under the package.

This establishes two potent, independent sources of rigorous advice on the two most critical elements of the scheme — how fast we reduce our emissions, and how hard we make it by giving incentives to big polluters to continue business as usual. Both sources of advice have the potential to embarrass future governments — indeed, that is their essential purpose. On this basis, it would not be surprising if the Coalition goes to the next election promising to scrap the Climate Change Authority, not so much to save a few million dollars a year, as to avoid an independent, authoritative body pointing out how useless its own climate change policies are.

These arrangements achieve the right balance in public policy: it must always be the role of elected officials, not bureaucrats or experts, to be the key decision makers on issues of national importance, no matter how inept politicians may be. But expert bodies, taking an independent and rigorous approach to those issues, also play a critical role in shaming reform-shy politicians into adopting better policies or at least having to justify why they refuse to.

In a debate as complex as climate change, in which many Australian newspapers are engaged in a campaign of deliberate deception about both the need for action on climate change and the benefits of a carbon price, and in an era when economic reformists are thin on the ground in federal parliament, the need for high-profile, independent expertise is greater than ever.

  • 1
    Posted Monday, 11 July 2011 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

    In a debate as complex as climate change, in which many Australian newspapers are engaged in a campaign of deliberate deception”

    Now aint that the truth!

  • 2
    carolyn weingarth
    Posted Monday, 11 July 2011 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

    Your editorial comments: ‘all we need is an “Independent climate Change Authority to advise Government using their expertise”…
    Yeah! Sure!…are you really sure that is that answer to a considered, educated response to the issues that arise…
    ‘independent’ authorites set up by governments have traditionally shown to be just an addition of ‘Fat Cats’ to the government gravy train.
    Who will be appointed as a truly ‘independent authority’? I thought we needed to prune the public service (consultants/contractors)…not inflate it!

    Why are we (you) perceived to be so niave?

  • 3
    Captain Planet
    Posted Wednesday, 13 July 2011 at 12:21 am | Permalink

    @ Carolyn Weingarth,

    I thought we needed to prune the public service (consultants/contractors)…not inflate it!

    Did you?


  • 4
    Posted Friday, 15 July 2011 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    Tony Abbott seems to be hell bend to derail the Carbon Tax.
    On behalf of a clean Australia for future generations:
    STOP Tony’ sAbbottage!