Ironically one of the biggest benefits to the environment could come from “Tony’s tradies” in the form of rooftop solar. One of the benefits to small business is the ability to write off immediately as a tax deduction business expenditure to the extent of $20,000.
- The sum of $20,000 is enough to buy a solar PV array of around 10kW, possibly more according to some quotes. And/or, it could account for two or three Tesla battery storage devices, or the equivalent from rival manufacturers who now insist they can match Tesla on price.
- The tax benefit means that one third of the cost of solar systems will come from the renewable energy market, and another one third from the Tax office – at least for those with a tax bill.
- Commercial scale solar – above 10kW – is the fastest growing component of the solar industry in Australia, and promises to be massively disruptive to the incumbent industry.
Other than that the only decent coverage of environmental provisions in the budget comes from Sarah Phillips at the ABC. As she points out, the first Hockey budget contained sweeping cuts to climate change and environmental programs, led by the abolition of the carbon tax. That work having been done the environment now rates below cost of living pressures. Here are the highlights she identifies:
- * $4 million to establish Bjorn Lomborg’s Consensus Centre on climate change. The Danish academic is well known for his laissez-faire approach to climate change but plans to establish a research centre for him at the University of WA have been stymied after the university’s staff revolted.
* $26.8 million over the next four years to enable the return of radioactive waste from the United Kingdom.
* $6.1 million over the next two years to continue the Climate Change Authority from within the existing Department of Environment budget. Beyond 31 December 2016 it is unclear what its fate will be.
* $100 million over the next four years for the Great Barrier Reef Trust. This is the body with the task of keeping the Reef off the World Heritage In Danger list.
* No new funds for clean coal National Low Emissions Coal Initiative.
* The Government will abolish the CSIRO Environment Strategic Advisory Committee. This committee gave longer-term strategic direction on research priorities to CSIRO.
* The size of the Green Army program will be reduced by $73.2 million over four years, with the savings largely going towards the Reef Trust.
On the Great Barrier Reef WWF-Australia conservation director Gilly Llewellyn says:
- “The budget is the last before UNESCO makes its decision in June on the future of the Reef’s World Heritage listing but only allocated 20 per cent ($100 million) of the funds needed (at least $500 million) to fight chemical pollution flowing to the Reef.”
Comment was made on subsidies to diesel fuel used by miners. Environment Victoria campaigns director Nick Roberts:
- “The Fuel Tax Credit Scheme is a $7 billion per year federal government subsidy for diesel consumption — one of the largest single expenditure programs in the country. Environment Victoria has been calling for the government to introduce a cap which would save around $2 billion each year by taking the subsidy away mostly from huge mining companies with billion-dollar profits.”
“Even Abbott Government climate contrarian poster-boy Bjorn Lomborg has called to end fossil fuel handouts.”
Labor’s Mark Butler:
- “This is not a Budget about Australia’s future. The Abbott Government is still refusing to take appropriate action on climate change, and is gutting Australia’s renewable energy programs. Tony Abbott can’t see Australia’s economic future is intrinsically linked to mitigating the impacts of climate change and investing in industries of the future.”
The Greens also talked of wrong priorities and missed opportunities. Richard Di Natale goes on to a broader critique:
- Di Natale said the budget should have invested in health and public transport. It should have supported the most needy. Instead, it was “small-minded” and “visionless”, he told the Senate.
This budget could not be isolated from its predecessor – it cemented the “cruel foundations” laid in that one, maintaining and deepening funding cuts that put pressure on Australians. It “further entrenches the Abbott government’s unfair and ideological attack on communities”.
It’s not just that the Abbott government sees the environment as external to the human sphere, rather than seeing humans as embedded in the environment. The Abbott government also has a myopic and shrivelled view of the human sphere itself.