Several environmentalist and energy experts have slammed the Federal budget, saying that it neglects one of the country's most pressing issues - climate change, while public spending is prioritising subsidies for fossil fuels instead of on renewable energy sources.
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Alarm bells rang during Treasurer Scott Morrison's announcement of the budget due to the fact that he did not utter the words "climate change" once in his entire speech, and many taking it as a sign that the Turnbull government seems determined to continue Tony Abbott's path of environmental negligence.

Experts say that the second budget of the Turnbull government continues on the path of poorly managing the country's energy and climate change policy - there is no climate change policies set, nothing substantial for the environment, and no long-term plans to help the country easily transform our energy system to run off renewable energy sources.

Dr Paul Burke, a fellow at the Crawford School of Public Policy at the Australian National University, told BuzzFeed News that the omission of the words "climate change" in the budget speech does not bode well. 

"The fact that its not even mentioned does not send a good signal in the lead up to the review of climate change policies to be released later this year," Burke said.

"It shows that climate change isn't a number one priority it its not mentioned at all in a budget speech.

"Australia would have been better off keeping the ill-fated carbon pricing scheme introduced by the Gillard government in 2011.

"From a budget balance point of view, it would have made more sense to have a carbon price that brings in money than the Emissions Reduction Fund with outlays." 

The budget continues with a 14% cut in environment expenditure since the Coalition formed government in 2013 - projected to be a 27% cut by 2020.

Meanwhile the $7.6 billion has been allocated for polluting subsidies, which is more than six times the environment budget.

According to Climate Council CEO Amanda McKenzie, she's concerned that Australia is not acknowledging the economic implications of climate change. 

"Given that climate change is increasingly an economic threat to Australia, it should be front and centre in thinking about funding and key solutions," McKenzie said.

"The Great Barrier Reef experienced the worst bleaching ever last year and has seen another one follow this year, that's affected the tourism industry - there's impact on infrastructure and agriculture and all sorts of things."

CEO of the Australian Conservation Foundation Kelly O'Shanassy adds that for the Turnbull government to "restore their credibility on environment and climate change is to reverse environment sector cuts and develop a comprehensive national plan to protect nature and move to clean energy." 

"By choosing to prop up big polluting companies with loans and subsidies, our government is choosing not to invest in clean energy, education and creating a better future for our children and grandchildren," O'Shanassy said. 

"The government's own State of the Environment report called for more spending on our reefs, rivers, forests and lands - not less.

"Polluters and big business should be made to pay for the damage they cause to the environment, not everyday Australians, and it is the government's responsibility to ensure this."

New energy-related measures announced include $86.3 million to increase domestic gas production, and up to $110 million for an equity investment into a solar thermal project in Port Augusta.

Other energy measures announced include:

  • $26.5 million over two years to invest in other energy infrastructure in South Australia, with the money coming from an asset recycling deal;
  • $30 million for scientific assessments at three sites - yet to be decided - of the impact on water supplies of possible new unconventional gas developments;
  • $28.7 million to accelerate responsible development of onshore gas sources for the domestic market; and
  • $20 million on a Gas Market Reform Group to improve transparency in the sector. 

According to O'Shanassy, the prioritisation of gas in this budget further demonstrates the Coalition's failure to recognise the need for a long-term transition plan for our energy system. 

"Budget measures that foreshadow investment in gas infrastructure and new gas exploration mean Australia will remain shackled to fossil fuels instead of accelerating the transition to renewables," O'Shanassy said.

"Australians want their elected representatives to take seriously their responsibility to Australia's reefs, rivers, people, forests and wildlife seriously.

"But, unsurprisingly, there is a crisis of confidence in the Turnbull goernment's ability to protect nature."

The Federal government also announced that they wanted to acquire a larger share of the Snowy Hydro scheme to bolster its renewable energy stores.

Though welcomed, McKenzie did criticise the government for a lack of new money being invested into renewables.

"The way you deal with extensive energy cost is to invest in technology with lower energy costs," McKenzie said.

"Renewable energy is now cheaper than gas and coal, and has no fuel costs, so it's not vulnerable to the costs that gas has experienced." 

She did however call the Snowy Hydro scheme a bright spot in the budget - as long as it's run using renewable energy. 

"The Snowy Hydro scheme is an important contribution - having pumped hydro as a storage solution for renewable energy is extremely valuable," McKenzie said.

"You've got various renewables like solar and wind, and then you need hydros and batteries to hold that. 

"The important thing is that the hydro expansion does not necessarily mean the energy that is used to pump that hydro is renewable - it could be fossil fuels.

"If they go ahead and it's renewables, it's a good thing - we'll wait and see but hopefully that's going in the right direction."

Federal energy minister Josh Frydenberg said the budget's $265 million energy package would ensure Australia maintains a secure, reliable and competitive energy system.

"The nation's energy system is undergoing its greatest transition since electricity became widely available in Australia," Frydenberg said.

"The measures in this package will set Australia up for a modern and dynamic energy system, allowing us to keep pace with changing energy technologies, as we transition to a lower emissions future.

"By learning more from consumers, exploring innovative options to expand existing renewable energy sources, and unlocking new energy supplies, the Government is building the future energy market."

The budget also includes about $62.8 million to go towards the management of hazardous wastes, substances and pollutants.

The management includes funds for biofuels monitoring, councils, ozone protection and synthetic greenhouse and a range of other areas.

This will be delivered through a risk-based approach to compliance and enforcement and delivery of government policies, programs and priorities in relation to environmental health.

According to Dr Alex Wonhas, Aurecon's managing director or energy, resources and manufacturing, the policy direction outlined in the 2017-18 Australian federal budget marks a distinct move away from a long-standing and bipartisan market led approach to energy to one of targeted direct intervention and government investment in the energy sector. 

"The 2017 May budget contains a number of measures aimed at improving the affordability and reliability of energy in form of investment in infrastructure and institutions," Wonhas said.

"It is true that the areas identified by government are likely to require future investment, and further detail regarding the energy security plan will be eagerly anticipated by the industry. 

"In order to improve its energy security, Australia will need to find cost effective ways to store or transport energy from where and when it is produced to where and when it is needed as energy supply will become increasingly variable through the expected uptake of renewable energy." 

Other budget announcements related to the environment include:

  • No reform of the Fuel Tax Credits subsidy, which will cost Australians $6.3 billion next year and $27.1 billion to 2020;
  • No change to the aviation fuel excise concessions which subsidise the fuel of the aviation sector and will cost Australians $1.3 billion next year, $5.8 billion over the next four years;
  • No further research funding for the National Climate Change Adaption Research Facility;
  • The government has committed to funding Landcare till 2022-23 with total funding of $1 billion over the seven years, however there is no new funding over the forward estimates above what has already been foreshadowed; and
  • Despite the Finkel Review, the government's Climate Policy Review, the Vehicle Emissions Review, and the completed National Energy Productivity Plan, there is no funding to address the country's growing climate pollution.