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NSW

Mar 30, 2012

Murray doesn't think carbon's a problem, so why tax it?

The government's carbon pricing plan is far from perfect policy, but it's hard to take the criticism of Murray seriously given that he doesn't think there's any correlation between warming and carbon dioxide.

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Everyone’s in a lather about outgoing chair of the Future Fund David Murray’s comments on the carbon tax on Radio National this morning.

Specifically, the  tax is “the worst piece of economic reform” he has every seen in his life.  And that “the consequence of introducing that tax at that level in Australia today is very, very bad for this economy, particularly in terms of international competitiveness”.

But are these sentiments at all surprising coming from a man who said this to The Australian Financial Review over lunch last year:

“‘[Carbon dioxide] has got nothing to do with pollution … carbon dioxide is not a pollutant, it is colourless and odourless. It is not a pollutant … It is a tiny proportion of greenhouse gases. There is no correlation between warming and carbon dioxide …’

“Asked what should be done about climate change, he replied: ‘Take measures to stop the effects of it.’ Asked about glaciers, Murray rejects any suggestion of glacial melt. ‘They’re not. The amount of ice in the world is slightly increasing. It is not decreasing. It is just staggering, staggering.'”

Channel Ten’s Paul Bongiorno tweeted this morning: “David Murray is on the record rejecting anthropogenic global warming. That makes his rejection of the CT logical but ill informed.”

The government’s carbon pricing plan is far from perfect policy, as we’ve outlined in our own pages. But it’s hard to take the criticism of Murray seriously given he doesn’t consider there is any correlation between warming and carbon dioxide. A price on carbon is inherently flawed if you don’t believe it’s a pollutant based on the, ahem, fact that it’s “colourless and odourless”.

The Future Fund board members have come under fire recently for sounding off about the government’s chair appointment process. But what about the appropriateness of the then-chair professing these kinds of sentiments?

As Bernard Keane pointed out last year: “Fairfax revealed via FOI documents … that the Fund’s Board of Guardians had not discussed climate change since 2007. But as a long-term investor with over $50 billion in assets under management, the Future Fund is even more exposed to the issues raised by climate change impacts, future carbon prices and the growth of renewables than most investors.”

The Future Fund is one of the world’s larger sovereign wealth funds and is a highly influential investor. The question was, and still is, whether Murray’s climate stance had a direct impact on the long-term returns of the Future Fund. All eyes on incoming chairman David Gonski to see if he’ll continue the legacy of apparent recalcitrance in an area that already commands well-established practices by most global investment funds.

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