Privatisation and deregulation have taken centre stage in the government’s 74-page Energy White Paper, with climate change all but ignored.
The White Paper, released on Wednesday morning, outlines a vision of “a lower cost, business friendly environment with less regulation, lower taxes and more competition”.
This vision includes a commitment to privatisation of energy generation and distribution on the grounds that the private sector is “more productive”.
It also includes a promise to “deregulate retail electricity pricing”, and pass on regulation duties to the consumer by encouraging the installation of smart metres.
Consistent with its previous record, the government all but ignored climate change. One paragraph was devoted to the emissions reduction fund, and climate change was mentioned once.
“The ERF will also encourage investment in more efficient generation, new technologies and energy productivity that will contribute to meeting longer-term climate change emissions targets,” the paper said.
When asked about climate change at the launch of the paper on Wednesday, Industry and Science Minister Ian Macfarlane said: “Climate change is going to be discussed as part of our submission to the Paris conference later this year.”
Earlier in the press conference Mr Macfarlane said: “In terms of energy consumption, consumers can use energy whenever like in whatever way they like as long as they’re prepared to pay for it.”
The Climate Council slammed the content of the white paper, arguing that its blueprint for energy policy ignored the risks associated with global warming.
Chief councillor Professor Tim Flannery said many of the policies advocated in the report would undermine Australia’s obligation to meet international carbon gas targets.
“If Australia follows the policies outlined in the paper, we will not only be shirking our international responsibilities in helping to keep below that target but we will also be contributing more greenhouse gas emissions and worsening the problem of climate change,” he said.
Another council member Professor Will Steffen said the paper was focused on “technologies of the past” and failed to account for the international shift towards renewable energy.
“As one of the sunniest and windiest countries in the world, we should be embracing the opportunities of renewables rather than clinging to ageing and inefficient energy sources like coal,” he said.