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Australia: Labor Government Considers Abolishing Climate Change Department

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Joe Kelly, The Australian

LABOR is considering dissolving the $218 million-a-year Climate Change Department as part of a cost-saving restructure that could see it merged with another government bureaucracy.

The department is part of a $1.6 billion-a-year climate change behemoth in place to administer the government’s carbon tax. It also includes the Clean Energy Regulator, the Climate Change Authority and the Office of the Renewable Energy Regulator.

The sprawling bureaucracy is centred in Canberra, with departmental staff housed in the six-star energy-rated Nishi building, which is under a 15-year lease worth $158m. Departmental figures given to the Senate last year revealed that 1094 staff members also work from offices in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Samoa – in a rental space located about 5km from the beach and a nearby golf course.

Senior government sources have confirmed to The Weekend Australian that the government is considering doing away with the Climate Change Department and absorbing it into another department. It is understood the duties of climate change will not be included in the Environment Department, as advocated by the Coalition.

Speculation has intensified about the Climate Change Department after Julia Gillard announced last month that its secretary, Blair Comley, would leave to head the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism.

Asked if Mr Comley would be replaced and whether the department would continue to exist in its current form, Climate Change Minister Greg Combet’s spokesman said: “The Prime Minister has said she will make a further announcement in relation to the position (of department secretary) shortly.”

The Climate Change Department and its agencies, as well as the $10 billion Clean Energy Fund, would be axed under Tony Abbott, with opposition climate action spokesman Greg Hunt saying the Coalition was currently calculating possible savings reaped by this move.

“We will merge the departments of climate and environment,” Mr Hunt said. “We will abolish the Climate Change Authority, the Climate Change Commission, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Energy Security Council.”

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