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Treasury - Climate Bureaucracy

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Monday, 6 September 2021

Tags: Climate Change, Public Service, State Budget

Ms O'CONNOR - Treasurer, your Budget includes a new office - Renewables, Climate and Future Industries Tasmania - to sit in Treasury. I note that there is still funding in the Premier and Cabinet papers for the Tasmanian Climate Change office. Is it your intention that these are two separate entities, and how will they differ in the work they do?

Mr GUTWEIN - They will become one entity. In effect, Renewables, Climate and Future Industries will receive its board and lodgings from Treasury. Their CEO, who will be Anton Voss, will not answer directly to the Secretary of Treasury, other than for those administrative matters and support the Treasurer will provide.

The Climate Change Office will transfer out of DPAC into this new entity. Likewise, Renewables Tasmania from State Growth will also transfer in. They will bring the requisite funding that is currently supporting the roles of those two agencies. They will then be managed through Renewables, Climate and Future Industries.

Ms O'CONNOR - I'm interested to understand why Mr Voss is just announced as the head of this new agency, and if there was any recruitment process, and whether you are certain that Mr Voss has the awareness of the science broadly, and is in the detail of the IPCC report and how it might apply to Tasmania?

Mr GUTWEIN - In terms of his background, I think he is eminently suited to this role, especially with his understanding of energy and energy markets, and capital markets as well, which will become increasingly more important in this space as we move forward. To be frank, he is one of the smartest people I have ever come across. I am very pleased he was prepared to take on this role.

Ms O'CONNOR - Okay. So, Mr Voss will answer to -

Mr GUTWEIN - Directly to me as Premier. He will report to me, the Minister for Climate Change and the Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction.

Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you. Within that new entity within Treasury, would they, for example, be examining how to monetise avoided logging, and how to potentially make money on the voluntary carbon markets out of our forests?

Mr GUTWEIN - A significant amount of work has already been undertaken by DPIPWE in that space, in terms of sequestration and carbon farming. My intention is that Mr Voss will have a whole-of-government approach to this. Obviously, the initial focus will be on ensuring we can capture the benefits we want out of hydrogen, but I would expect him to take a whole-of-government approach and provide advice to me, as Treasurer and Premier, in terms of steps that the state could take.

I see this as being vastly different in terms of the advice that I would normally receive from Treasury or another line agency. Mr Voss will need to have an eye to the future into the opportunities that we see.

Ms O'CONNOR - Chair, on this line of questioning. Premier, I'm sure Dr Woodruff will have a series of questions about this, but what I have just heard from you is that the intelligence and policy expertise of the Tasmanian Climate Change Office will be moved into Treasury, and their focus will be on the hydrogen industry initially, rather than a whole range of other renewables, sequestration and science-based projects.

Mr GUTWEIN - You've misheard.

Ms O'CONNOR - Good. Could you reassure us?

Mr GUTWEIN - This agency will take a whole-of-government approach. I've had many discussions with Mr Ferrall on this over a number of months, looking around government at the work that was occurring.

Within the Climate Change Office, they have a body of work looking at the Climate Change Act and an action plan, and through that they touch a number of parts of government.

Look at the work DPIPWE is engaged in at the moment, looking at smart farming initiatives and carbon farming through primary industries.

We have Renewables Tasmania, which has a focus primarily on hydrogen, but also Marinus and Battery of the Nation projects.

In Treasury itself, we have a project to change the fleet to EVs.

In Metro, we have a pilot program for EV and hydrogen buses that has been funded through this Budget.

Right across government, including Brand Tasmania. We had Todd here this morning who recognises our very strong position in terms of how we brand ourselves as both renewable, but also in terms of our climate and emissions profile and natural environment. There is an opportunity here; a real moment for Tasmania.

I have said in the parliament before, and I am happy to say it here. if we were a country, we would be one of the most emissions friendly, and in terms of our renewable base, one of the most attractive in the world.

I think it's a position we need to capitalise on and be very proud about.

Ms O'CONNOR - But you would accept that we also need to be quite careful that we don't compromise the brand or that position that we have by mowing down our native forests and emitting more carbon into the atmosphere.

Mr GUTWEIN - One of the things that I released today is an economic report that provided an overlay of the report Mr Rockliff tabled in parliament. That modelling took into account the maintenance of our current forestry industry, but seeing a transference over time into more cross-laminate timber, into smarter woods and using smarter technology, but the forestry industry as we know it is still modelled, bearing in mind it transferred its plantation over time -

Ms O'CONNOR - That is problematic. It is clear to us that the consultants knew what the Government's policy position was on native forest logging before they provided that advice because no sound, scientific report could say that proceeding as we are with logging native forests is good for the climate or good for our brand. I will leave it at that.

Mr GUTWEIN - You are misreading what has occurred. The outcome of that consultant's report points to a very good future for Tasmania.