Some bright young faces gleam out from the latest Corporate Plan from Treasury, which according to secretary John Fraser — whose not-so-bright face also appears — “sets out the Department’s purposes, priorities and the key directions”.

What are those priorities? Productivity? Check. Participation? Absolutely. Ageing population? Yep. The budget? Of course — there’s a section on “promoting fiscal sustainability”. Infrastructure? Well, there are a few mentions. Globalisation and global integration get a section, suggesting the best and the brightest are aware of the increasingly sensitive issue of the political downsides of globalisation.

But climate change? Not so much. There’s not a single mention of the greatest long-term economic challenge to Australia in the document.

As we’ve noted before, John Fraser — who dates from the old John Stone Treasury era — seems to have had his mind frozen in the early 1990s. At least he’s now mentioning infrastructure, which has been absent from his major speeches, but climate change, a glaring absence in those addresses, remains verboten. There’s virtually no mention of climate change at all on the Treasury site anymore, except in the submissions provided by stakeholder groups to Treasury in various consultation processes. Search for climate change-related documents via Treasury’s own internal search engine and all it produces are two “historical” documents from the Labor years.

In contrast, Martin Parkinson now has a “Climate Change and Environment” branch back in Prime Minister and Cabinet — rather a contrast to the Abbott years when “climate change” had to be purged from that department and Parkinson himself was sent packing from Treasury by Abbott for his sin of being secretary of the Department of Climate Change under Labor. And PM&C’s Corporate Plan talks about “providing advice on major policy areas, including health, education, social security, infrastructure, industry, energy, climate and the environment, and regulatory reform” — rather a contrast to last year’s document, written while Abbott was still prime minister and Michael Thawley headed PM&C, where climate change doesn’t get a mention.

Maybe Fraser’s holding out hope for that Abbott resurrection, which will mean we can go back to the days when we stuck our fingers in our ears and pretended climate change wasn’t real.

Peter Fray

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