Greg Hunt, Our First Minister For Pollution


Has there been a worse federal Environment Minister than Greg Hunt?

It’s hard to think of one. This is the man who has presided over the destruction of Labor’s carbon pricing system, making Australia the first country in the developed world to remove its price on carbon pollution.

The killing of Labor’s carbon legislation didn’t just remove the carbon tax. It also removed the mandated carbon emissions cap.

And sure enough, since removing the cap, carbon pollution has increased. Recent figures showed the biggest jump in carbon pollution from Australia’s electricity sector since 2001. Quite an achievement, Mr Hunt.

Think about that for a second. Environment Minister Greg Hunt made polluting the environment easier.

The big news in the environment portfolio yesterday came from the Federal Court, which threw out the Environment Department’s approval of the giant Carmichael coal mine in central Queensland. The reason? Apparently the department had stuffed up its approval documentation.

Only an environment minister as self-loathing as Greg Hunt could have approved such a mine in the first place. The problems with the vast development are legion, but they boil down to the obvious. As a coal mine, Carmichael will dig up and export lots of coal. That coal will be burned, polluting the atmosphere and warming the planet.

Do we really need to explain why this is a bad thing? Coal equals global warming. The science is undoubtedly complex, but the concept is remarkably straightforward.

A recent report by the Climate Council suggested that new coal mining projects planned for Queensland could double Australia’s carbon emissions.

How can a minister for the environment approve a coal mine that will be bad for the environment? The answer: when he’s a Liberal environment minister under Tony Abbott, one of the most retrograde environmental vandals Australia has ever seen.

The Carmichael decision is the latest embarrassment for Hunt. According to several reports, he admitted to the court that he had failed in his responsibility to adequately assess the mine under environmental protection law. Even Adani is blaming Hunt and the department.

We shouldn’t be that surprised. Hunt has been, at the very least, the worst environment minister in living memory.

This is the man who abolished the Climate Council just days after taking the job.

This is the man who looked up Wikipedia when he wanted to find some factoids to pretend climate change wasn’t making bushfires worse.

This is the man who told us the carbon tax cost Australia “$36 billion” when the government’s own figures said it only ever collected less than half of that.

This is the man who claimed that the most recent report of the International Panel on Climate Change vindicated the government’s Direct Action policy.

This is the man who claimed Australia would “breeze past” our emissions reduction target, based on data from the first Direct Action auction that showed we would miss the target by 52 million tonnes and five years.

This is the man who said “coal will be a fundamental part of the world energy mix for decades and decades, if not more.”

This is the man who lied repeatedly about the Renewable Energy Target, committing to keeping it a number of times before (and even after) the 2013 election. “We will be keeping the renewable energy target,” he said in 2013, before slashing it by 40 per cent once in office.

This is the man bringing us Direct Action, a multi-billion dollar slush fund for the big energy companies, paid for at taxpayers’ expense. The same man who presided over deep cuts to funding for climate research, renewable energy industries, the Renewable Energy Agency, and who wants to abolish the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, despite the fact that it makes money for the Treasury.

There are no kind words that can be said about Greg Hunt. When it comes to protecting the environment he is useless, and actually seems to revel in eviscerating the portfolio he is responsible for.

Expect Hunt to push ahead with approving the Carmichael mine, again. There’s nothing this environment minister likes better than projects that rape and pillage the environment.

Greg Hunt is actively participating in the destruction of the planet. It really is that simple.

There should be a special circle of hell reserved for Greg Hunt, when he gets there. On any analysis, he has failed in his primary responsibility. He should resign. But of course he won’t.

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Ben Eltham is New Matilda's National Affairs Correspondent.