5 August, 2020
Crossbench Statement regarding the Manufacturing Working Group report
We are deeply concerned that the Manufacturing Working Group, part of the Prime Minister’s National Covid-19 Coordination Commission (NCCC), has recommended significant new taxpayer subsidies and government underwriting for gas projects.
Under the Paris Agreement, the Australian Government has committed to keep global temperatures below 2 degrees but an expansion of gas extraction and use will make that impossible. The United Nations’ Production Gap Report 2019 has found countries plans to use 47% more gas over the next two decades will be incompatible with a 2 degree temperature goal. Australia must play its part in reducing gas use. The Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources, has reported that emissions from gas flaring and leakage is growing.
The costs to Australia of failing to keep temperatures below 2 degrees is estimated to be $2.7 trillion in cumulative economic damages. The COVID-19 economic crisis and recovery spending is going to impact Australians for years to come. The stimulus measures must therefore prioritise sustainable projects that create jobs with social and environmental benefits. Public debt incurred in response to the COVID-19 pandemic must be done in the interest of all current and future Australians.
Further, the changes to the operations of the NCCC announced by the Prime Minister on Monday give rise to increased governance and transparency concerns with the closed-door appointment of new commissioners, the lack of clarity around priorities and the ongoing failure to disclose and properly manage conflicts of interest.
These concerns over conflicts of interest are clearly evident in the Manufacturing Working Group’s leaked recommendations for Australian taxpayers to subsidise the gas industry, given that members have not been required to disclose conflicts of interest, despite the fact the group includes several directors of oil and gas companies.
The move to an advisory body structure is also a retrograde step. By reporting to the Prime Minister alone on issues of ‘national importance,’ it is bypassing Parliamentary processes and conventions and reverts to a selective “kitchen cabinet” with no transparency and no accountability.
We are calling on the Government to:
1. Confirm the Government’s commitment to the Paris Agreement and limiting global warming to below 2 degrees and as close to 1.5 degrees as possible
2. Commit to a recovery that delivers on this commitment
3. Direct the NCCC to promote inter-generational and gender equity by focusing on long-term sustainable employment with regard for environmental and socio-economic impacts
4. Direct the NCCC to promote inter-regional equity by ensuring support for projects across Australia in all States and Territories, consistent with the goals of those States and Territory Governments
5. Commit to an independent economic merit assessment of all recovery programs, plans, policies and proposals - including for all energy projects - recommended by the NCCC
6. Enact enabling legislation that provides a process of inquiry where the public are invited to contribute submissions and a system of reporting findings and recommendations
7. Require the NCCC to publish an active register of meetings, processes for soliciting proposals, organisational chart and membership of working groups, budget and expenditure and Freedom of Information procedures
8. Require any advice provided to the Government, as well as any modeling or research, to be made publicly available at the soonest possible time
9. Set up an open system for the appointment of new commissioners, including advertising positions, and selection based on merit and bipartisan appointment. The NCCC must have broad representation of sectors of our economy and society.
10. Commit to conducting an independent review into the operation of the NCCC and publish the results of the review and the Government’s response.
Adam Bandt MP, Greens Party Leader
Helen Haines MP, Independent for Indi
Andrew Wilkie MP, Independent for Clark
Zali Steggall MP, Independent for Warringah
Zali Steggall OAM MP, Independent for Warringah
“From the moment the National Covid-19 Coordination Commission (NCCC) was sprung upon us by the Morrison government, I have been gravely concerned.
New commissioners with clear links to fossil fuel industries are being announced without any consultation; special advisers are not having to declare if they have a conflict of interest; and most alarmingly is the clear direction the NCCC is taking for a gas-led recovery.
The Prime Minister needs to confirm that public money will not be used to subsidise projects and industries that do not pass independent economic merit assessment test.
The NCCC completely lacks accountability and transparency and I call on the government to rectify this and make urgent changes to the structure of the NCCC.”
Adam Bandt MP, Leader of the Australian Greens
"This opaque COVID Commission is just a repackaging of the government's pro-gas agenda, operating in secrecy to prop up a dying industry with taxpayer funds.
“While the gas-dominated National Covid Commission is operating in secret to push for the abolition of state based protections against methane extraction, Australia's manufacturing sector is crying out for more renewables."
Dr Helen Haines MP, Independent Member for Indi
“Communities around the country are asking this Government to embrace the immense economic, health, social and environmental opportunities in renewables.”
We recognise the benefits and we’re working to build a regional community energy plan for Australia to create jobs and prosperity.
But where we collaborate this government isolates behind closed doors, hunkered down with big energy and an unelected National COVID-19 Commission Advisory Board planning a fossil-fuel revival.”
Andrew Wilkie MP, Independent Member for Clark
“That the secretive COVID Coordination Commission is calling for the Government to use tax-payer funds to underwrite gas expansion is deeply concerning. Expanding Australia’s investment in fossil fuel extraction, including gas, is irresponsible in the extreme and will lock in dangerous climate change for generations to come.
But frankly this is not a surprising development considering the Prime Minister has stacked the Commission with his industry mates and is refusing to properly address concerns of conflict of interest. Instead, the Commission should focus on making Australia a renewable energy superpower.”