Tuesday 23 June 2009
LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL - ESTIMATES COMMITTEE B
Ms Rattray-Wagner (Chair)
Hon. David Bartlett MP, Premier; Minister for Education and Skills
Department of Premier and Cabinet
Rhys Edwards, Secretary
Rebekah Burton, Deputy Secretary
Greg Johannes, Deputy Secretary
Philip Foulston, Director, Executive Division
Jeff Reeve, Director, Corporate Services
Peter Wright, Manager, Finance
Tim Bullard, Director Policy
John McCormick, Director, Policy
Mat Healey, Manager Office of Security and Emergency Management
Mellissa Gray, Director, Social Inclusion
Philip Baker, Acting Director Public Sector Management Office
Phillip Hoysted, Director Tasmanian Together Progress Board
Marguerite Scott, Director, Community Development
John Di Falco, Manager, Employment Policy and Programs
Wendy Spencer, Director Tasmanian Climate Change Office
Jessie Byrne, Director Local Government Office
Office of the Governor
Anne Parker, Senior Adviser
Department of Education
John Smyth, Secretary
Greg Glass, Deputy Secretary, Corporate Services
Jenny Gale, General Manager, Strategic Policy and Performance
Sue Kennedy, Manager, Ministerial and Co-ordination Unit
Siobhan Gaskell, Director, Information Service and Community Learning
Mark Sayer, General Manager, Skills Tasmania
Malcolm White, Chief Executive Officer, TAFE Tasmania
Tony Luttrell, General Manager, Corporate Services, TAFE Tasmania
Nick May, Director, Finance and Resources
Belinda McLennan, CEO, Tasmanian Polytechnic
Mike Brakey, CEO, Tasmanian Academy
Sharni Driessen, Parliamentary Adviser
Terry McCarthy, Principal Education Adviser
Ruth Davidson, Education Adviser
House of Assembly Support Services
Peter Alcock, Clerk of the House of Assembly
Legislative Council Support Services
David Pearce, Clerk of the Legislative Council
John Menadue, Manager, Finance
1.2 Climate change -
Mr FINCH - Premier, I hope you will forgive me if I start with an expression of disappointment and some confusion in respect of climate change, at both a national and State level. Perhaps we could hear from you how you see this present situation of continual non-productive argument, inertia and some public confusion about climate change.
Mr BARTLETT - That's a fantastically broad question, Mr Finch, I have to say!
CHAIR - And the answer will need to be concise.
Mr BARTLETT - Well, I'll start at the international level if you like. My views about the international debate about climate change, which deeply impact what we need to do in Tasmania as well, largely related to flaws in the Kyoto Protocol that I think need to be resolved in Copenhagen later in the year, and Australia needs to have a strong voice at that table to make those changes to positively impact what we can do here and to encourage the rest of the world to do the right thing as well. One of those key areas - and I discussed this at length yesterday - is around the treatment of wood, wood products and forestry industries, which I do not believe are accounted for properly in the Kyoto Protocol and therefore, if resolved, will have a significant impact on our climate change efforts here.
At the national level there is of course a debate currently happening in the Senate about two items, one being the carbon pollution reduction scheme - the CPRS - and the other being the MRETs, the mandatory renewable energy targets. The two are of course deeply interlinked, and the one I am most interested in and, I guess, have been lobbying at the COAG level to get on with and get implemented, is the MRETs part of that debate because once the target is set that will allow Tasmania to unlock hundreds of millions of dollars of investment in renewable energies and, let's face it, we are the leading expert in renewable energies in the whole of South-East Asia, in my view. So it will enable us to export our knowledge and build more wind farms and explore other areas such as wave and hot-rock technology and so on, and it will lead to a significant economic gain for Tasmania. In fact, at a meeting of premiers and Professor Ross Garnaut, who of course wrote the report for the Federal Government, Ross Garnaut went around the table to each premier and said, 'You've got these problems in the implementation of this, you've got these and you've got these problems'. He got to me and said, 'It's all up-side for Tasmania; this is positive for Tasmania', for a whole range of reasons, and that is a good thing. So the application of the new MRETs will be a good thing for Tasmania overall and a good thing economically.
Drilling down to the State view of what we can achieve, the best thing we can achieve of course is to continue to be the leading light in the nation for renewable energies. We currently produce around 70 per cent of the renewable energy in the Australian energy market and if it continues to rain like it did last month we will be able to produce an even higher percentage of that as well. On top of that we have the opportunity to export our knowledge to the rest of the nation and make a contribution to their investment in renewable energy via Hydro Consulting, Hydro, Roaring 40s and so on.
What the Climate Change Unit and the Climate Change Advisory Council need to be focused on is the long-term legislative target that we're putting in place which is the reduction of carbon pollution by 2050 of 60 per cent based on 1990 numbers. Let's put this in context. Tasmania provides 1.3 per cent of all of Australia's carbon emissions or greenhouse gas emissions, and Australia provides 1.3 per cent of world emissions, so by any stretch of the imagination, even before you eliminated it and got to zero, we would still not have had any major impact on world emissions in Tasmania. But we can lead by example and create community knowledge, understanding and partnerships to achieve the goals we've set, and that's what the Climate Change Office within DPAC has been leading.
Mr FINCH - Premier, are we being serious enough about this, because in the budget papers we see a continuing decline in the forward Estimates here; in fact, down to less than $1.2 million in 2012-13. Is that a reflection of us perhaps not doing as much as they are on the international and Federal level?
Mr BARTLETT - It is more a reflection, again, of the initial work that we needed to do to get into this game. Two of those bits of work were the Parsons Brinckerhoff audit of all government agencies to look at where we could make savings, and that was an expensive piece of work. The second piece of work is a wedges analysis, which is essentially a look at the economic sectors in our economy that produce greenhouse gases and analysing them as to where they could be reduced and what impacts that might have on our economic circumstances over the next 50 years. Those two bits of work required a significant amount of start-up money to get done but once they're done, that is the knowledge we are working from on our long-term plan and therefore they don't need to be revisited again.
Mr FINCH - So what are the State Government's plans to get Tasmanians more involved in combating climate change?
Mr BARTLETT - I am happy to talk about my release yesterday of the projects that we invested in, but I'll ask Greg to talk more generally about the holistic view and then I'll talk about some specific projects.
Mr JOHANNES - Greg Johannes, Deputy Secretary, Policy, DPAC. We have a Tasmanian Climate Change Office and one of the campaigns it has led which you'd be aware of is the Earn your Stars campaign which was very prominent and you still see the logo out there on 31 buses. That is about encouraging Tasmanians from all walks of life to recognise that they can make a contribution to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions. That has been a very widely disseminated campaign, accessing people across the community. We have also formed the Tasmanian Climate Action Council, which has two members drawn directly from the Tasmanian community through a nomination process, and they're establishing a program of work to take climate change out to the local community level and get feedback from people in local communities on their ideas for reducing their greenhouse emissions, adapting to climate change and taking advantage of some of the opportunities that climate change raises for Tasmania. The third major aspect of work is that people from the Climate Change Office are regularly around the State at the community level talking to groups about the challenges of climate change and some of the responses. So there is a very bug grassroots effort.
At the funding level, we funded a grants program this year which we will continue to fund next year to enfranchise community action, and I think that's what the Premier is going to discuss.
Mr BARTLETT - Some of the projects we're investing in are essentially partnership approaches through grants with organisations outside of government to advance our goals.
Mr FINCH - These are incentives to the community?
Mr BARTLETT - These are essentially grants to the community. I'll read them out and you'll get a picture of some of them. There is a project called Energy for Change led by Sustainable Living Tasmania; Climate Challenge by the Geeveston Community Centre; and the Sustainable Schools Direct Assistance Initiative led by the Tasmanian Centre for Global Learning. The TCGL is an organisation that goes into schools and runs programs and educates kids and so on in those aspects, so that would be directly into schools. There is also Working it out Together, a community-based approach to reducing greenhouse emissions by Eco Tasmania; Simple and Sustainable Energy Conservation in Residential Aged Care Facilities led by Southern Cross Care Tasmania; Rural Rides led by Sustainable Living Tasmania; Implementing Emissions and Energy Reductions for Tasmanian Agriculture led by Northern Tasmanian Natural Resource Management Association; Art Bike Sharing Project - I really need to find out what this one's about because it sounds interesting - led by Contemporary Art Services Tasmania; the Kettering Energy Efficiency Project led by the Kettering Cricket Club; and Problems to Resources led by the Mersey NRM group. So they are all grants that have been awarded recently for projects.
Mr FINCH - What size are those grants, Premier? Just give us some idea.
Mr BARTLETT - It is $400 000 in total, so they're not huge grants but they're things that these organisations would be bringing their own resources to as well. On top of that, over the past year the climate change group has introduced legislation, the Climate Change (State Action) Act, that you would be well aware of, and has implemented the framework for reducing Tasmanian government greenhouse gas emissions. It has commissioned the wedges analysis of the Tasmanian economy, an approach that has been used globally to identify the most effective emission reduction measures within an economy to achieve a set target; and has established the Tasmanian Climate Action Council and so on over the year.
Mr FINCH - Can you tell us about future State plans to give Tasmanian incentives to perhaps generate solar electricity and then sell that back to the grid? Any plans?
Mr BARTLETT - Yes, but I'm afraid that's something you'd have to ask the Minister for Energy about. There is a national approach to feeding tariffs or what-have-you, and that is being worked through.
Mr JOHANNES - I guess the primary mechanism for providing incentives for the installation of domestic renewable energy supply will be the MRET scheme that the Premier referred to which will establish a target of 20 per cent of Australia's energy being generated from renewable sources by 2020, and as part of that it will give a disproportionate amount of credit, by way of example, to energy generated from domestic solar panels. So that will certainly be the principal mechanism in the Australian market for subsidising or providing incentives for the average person in the average house to install something for renewable energy generation.
Mr FINCH - Thank you. Premier, can you assure the people of Tasmania that you're satisfied that your Government is doing enough in respect to the threat of climate change?
Mr BARTLETT - Yes, but I would add to that that unless the major emitters in the world also do enough, the effects of climate change aren't going to be mitigated by the actions of the Tasmanian Government. Having said that, a lot of the research also shows that the effects of climate change are also about opportunity for Tasmania, opportunity in research, where we are proximate to the Southern Ocean and the Antarctic and we have significant skills in that style of research. There are opportunities, particularly following on from the idea that Tasmania can be a food bowl for the rest of the nation as the Murray-Darling continues to dry up with no long-term solution in sight. Tasmania has an enormous opportunity with 12 per cent of all of Australia's rainfall falling on 1 per cent of its land mass - Tasmania. Hydro Tasmania is the largest manager of water resources in south-east Asia, and the irrigation board that we have now established is investing in some 30 key irrigation projects to the value of $400 million. We have an enormous opportunity here to rapidly increase our productive value of primary industries and, more to the point, I think, downstream processing and value adding in those industries.
One example been given to me by a scientist at the cooperative research centre on climate change was around the research they were doing to show that for Tasmania as a wine‑growing region, our climatic change over the next 50 years will be significantly less than for every other major wine-growing region in the world. As other wine-growing regions, particularly the ones in the warmer climates, actually warm up, they will be unable to continue to produce the grapes. If you were a world investor at the moment wanting to invest in hectares of grapes, Tasmania would be a very good place to do it, because already we are in the cool climate lines for a start. We can afford the temperature to go up and still be in cool climate lines, but the differential in climate change here will be significantly less than every other wine-growing region in the world, maybe with the exception of New Zealand.
Mr FINCH - Just a final question, Mr Premier, in respect of the office, I am just curious as to where it is housed and what sort of numbers are in the office?
Mr BARTLETT - It is in the Executive Building. It is run very competently by Wendy Spencer, who is sitting behind here. There are five people within that office.
Mr FINCH - Any likelihood that there would be a reduction in staff because of the contribution needed to be made to the economy?
Mr BARTLETT - The complement is 5.8 FTEs. As of May it was five, because one senior adviser is on maternity leave, or leave without pay following maternity leave.
Mr GAFFNEY - The local councils are often the mainstay of climate change initiatives and audits coming from either State or Federal governments. As you would well know, recently there was a climate change conference largely coordinated by local government staff. Unfortunately, the funding for that position has decreased because it was a national initiative some eight months ago, and the shortfall was taken out of LGAT reserves. So local councils are often the people who have to instigate the decisions made from above about how it will affect communities. You would be aware of Clarence's national project with climate change. Would it be the intent of the Climate Change Office to take over some of those roles and responsibilities? There is already a network there within local government which should not be diminished just because we do not have a resource. That would be a handy role for the Climate Change Office to step into to fulfil that position?
Mr BARTLETT - Yes, as you are obviously aware also - other members may not be - we have a climate change partnership with LGAT, and it is probably something we can deal with through there. But I would be happy for Greg to expand on that.
Mr JOHANNES - As I said in response to an earlier question, the Climate Change Office is active across the community and all local council areas. There is a formal partnership agreement under the auspice of PLGC with local government, and the Climate Change Office has funding within its budget for a certain number of partnership projects throughout the year, responding to opportunities, in particular local council areas.
The other major initiative that the Climate Change Office and the Government are involved in which is highly relevant to local government is the work on the climate futures project. The climate futures project is a three-year project in which the Government is investing around $500,000 per year in partnership with Hydro Tasmania and the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre. The real purpose of that project is to provide very fine level modelling detail to predict the specific impact of climate change in terms of rainfall patterns, extreme weather events and wind velocity in small pockets of Tasmania across the State, so that the Climate Change Office and the Government are able to support local government decision making in the future by saying that within a particular municipality this is what the modelling suggests climate change will mean specifically for that area and, by extension, the particular industries and communities that are active in that region. Currently, all we are able to do is rely on very coarse grain modelling which says that Tasmania broadly might look a certain way in future, which is not particularly helpful, because we know that there will be strong regional differences.
That will be the key emphasis over the next couple of years - working in partnership with local government under the auspice of the PLGC, funding, in some cases, specific projects in specific regions based on the opportunities that arise, continuing the climate action fund that the Premier spoke about, which will be another source of funding for particular community groups as opposed to local government, but also providing the information to counsels across the State to inform their decision making on climate change going forward so that they do not have to individually spend, in most cases, what would be many hundreds of thousands of dollars independently contracting that work themselves.