There is some good news in the Budget. At least this year the Treasurer did acknowledge climate change, after 11 previous Budgets in which the phrase did not appear at all. Practical initiatives such as subsidies to install water tanks and solar panels are welcome. But the response is nowhere near the scale needed to tackle the problem.
The Budget recognises the cost of previous inaction by giving a further $314 million to farmers for “exceptional circumstances”: the impact of climate change on drought-affected properties.
The total allocation of $740 million for climate change initiatives should be compared with the extra $6.1 billion to encourage recruitment into the defence forces and pay for exotic hardware like Black Hawk helicopters and Collins class submarines.
It is also small change besides the billions allocated for roads, and the continuing billions in public subsidies of fossil fuel supply and use. Even the funding of climate initiatives seem to be oriented toward political impact rather than slowing greenhouse pollution. Solar cells feeding power into the grid are a good thing, but solar hot water and insulation are much more cost-effective ways of slowing climate change.
The basic problem is that the Howard government still doesn’t get it. They think climate change is just another political problem, like dental health or child care. So voter anger can be defused by throwing more of our money at it in an election year.
There is no sign of recognition that climate change is a serious threat to the future of civilisation, demanding an urgent and concerted response. After eleven years of denial and studied inaction, this is a very disappointing effort. The Treasurer has fluffed his last chance to show us he has moved beyond a simplistic emphasis on the economy.