The [Australian] Government has transferred its entire emissions trading team into the strife-prone household insulation program, putting plans for carbon trading this year on the backburner. The team of 154, which has been costing taxpayers an average of $370,000 each planning for the non-existent emissions trading scheme, will be put to work on sorting out the problems with the $2.45 billion home insulation program that left four people dead and has been implicated in 120 house fires up to March 24.
With a budget of $57 million this financial year alone, the emissions team works for an agency that is little more than a name – the Australian Climate Change Regulatory Authority – until legislation to create an emissions trading scheme passes Federal Parliament.
Hiring for the “phantom” agency (as it has been dubbed) continues, with plans to take staffing to 300 by the end of next year, relayed Department of Climate Change deputy secretary Geoff Leeper.
Emissions trading laws, officially known as the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, are stalled in the Senate and now face a firm no vote from the Opposition. They were once the centrepiece of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s response to climate change, which he dubbed “the greatest moral, economic and social challenge of our time”.
The re-assignment of these bureaucrats is part of a quiet gutting of Environment Minister Peter Garrett’s department over the past couple of weeks as the Department of Climate Change under South Australian Senator Penny Wong and former ACTU secretary Greg Combet took responsibility for another $400 million in environmental programs.
About 500 Environment Department staff were requisitioned by the Department of Climate Change to keep the programs operating.
The Department of Climate Change did not exist until December 2007.
The new entity is known as the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency. Its secretary, Martin Parkinson, said it now has more than 1000 staff.