There were two big losers in the federal budget: the planet, and the people who live on it. The Turnbull government’s slavish devotion to coal is smudged all over budget 2018 and Tony Abbott’s blackened fingerprints are all over it.
Coal barons must have been cheering on last week as treasurer Scott Morrison presented a budget with no new funding for renewables, an almost 50 per cent decrease in funding to tackle climate pollution, and a phase out of the Renewable Energy Target.
Mr Morrison said “all energy sources and technologies should support themselves without taxpayer subsidies”.
And yet, this rule clearly doesn’t apply to fossil fuels.
Coal polluters are still getting $6.9 billion a year in fossil fuel tax subsidies, including $1 billion to help coal corporations – many of whom pay no tax anyway – enjoy cut-price fuel.
Mr Morrison also doubled down on the government’s pathetic 26 per cent emissions reduction target for electricity, which he described as “achievable”. That’s true.
The Renewable Energy Index revealed this target is so achievable it’s probably already been met by renewable energy in the pipeline.
Which means the government’s National Energy Guarantee is guaranteed to do precisely nothing to cut pollution or build renewables!
This budget revealed the extent to which the government is being held hostage by a handful of far-right backbenchers (the so-called Monash Forum) for whom coal will always be king.
It showed Malcolm Turnbull is willing to delay climate action to indulge Mr Abbott’s fantasy that coal will burn forever.
All the while, people and our planet are getting hurt.
Take for example the Great Barrier Reef, which is rapidly being roasted to death by fossil fuels.
The latest peer-reviewed study confirmed 2016’s heat killed 30 per cent of the reef’s coral.
Scientists, tourism operators and the world at large are desperate for action to save the reef.
Of course, the treasurer knows this, but he also knows a posse of hard-right MPs can make his life difficult if he tries to take their coal away.
As a result, half a billion dollars is thrown to Queensland for a reef “rescue” package that does nothing about climate change.
It’s like launching a plan to tackle lung cancer that ignores cigarettes.
The token package costs about half the amount of cash the Turnbull government wanted to give mining giant Adani to build the biggest new coal mine in the southern hemisphere.
Now that has been stopped, they've changed the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation’s mandate to allow cash to funnel to Adani through the back door instead.
For coal, the government willingly defies rational scientific and economic analysis, its own free market values and the majority of Australians that know renewables are the future.
Meanwhile, our emissions rise again, a bit more of the Great Barrier Reef dies and Sydney has bushfires raging in the middle of autumn.
This budget is another missed opportunity on climate change. But the Great Barrier Reef doesn’t have time for delays. Nor do we.