Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Economics Legislation Committee
Productivity Commission

Productivity Commission


CHAIR: We will now move straight to the Productivity Commission. I welcome representatives from the Productivity Commission. Did you wish to make any opening remarks at this hour of the night?

Mr Brennan : No, Chair. I'm entirely in the committee's hands.

CHAIR: My encouragement is to say no.

Senator ROBERTS: Do you dare to make any comments at this time of night? Thank you for being here tonight. I understand the Productivity Commission does analysis of policy sometimes, impacts and so on. Good policy in my view, particularly in terms of climate change and energy policies, would be based upon specified, quantified impacts of carbon dioxide. In other words, for a given amount of carbon dioxide output from humans, it would have a quantified effect on climate factors such as temperature. Now, you have written reports on climate change, I believe. Have you ever identified any specified, quantified link between human carbon dioxide and any climate factor, whether that be temperature, rainfall, droughts, storms or whatever—specific, quantified impact?

Mr Brennan : I would have to check. It's a while since we've done work that went specifically to climate change or other related policies like energy policy. For the most part the scientific basis for the work I think has been based on findings from organisations like the IPCC, so it hasn't been the practice of the commission to second-guess the scientific assessment made by other entities but possibly to make a judgement about the economic policy response and how best the economic policy response might sit with that science. But as I say, it's some time. I would have to take on notice the last bit of work we have done that was specifically on climate or a related policy and confirm that response.

Senator ROBERTS: So you've not been able to identify specific, quantified impacts between human carbon dioxide and climate factors?

Mr Brennan : I'm really saying it wasn't necessary. We would not have seen that as part of our remit.

Senator ROBERTS: Okay, I'm not finding you wrong for doing that, but you haven't seen that. You have assessed the costs and benefits of policies?

Mr Brennan : I'm going to have to take that on notice, because it's a while, and I might even turn to Mr Lattimore, because his history with the commission is longer than mine. Certainly in recent years we haven't done work in this area, going back 10 to 15 years, possibly.

Mr Lattimore : In 2012 we did some work on barriers to effective climate change adaptation, but we haven't done a lot of work in this arena.

Senator ROBERTS: Wouldn't it be difficult to assess a policy if there's no specified, quantified link between the claimed cause, carbon dioxide from human activity, and the impact, supposedly?

Mr Brennan : It could be, potentially, but if we were to undertake work of that nature, we would be taking the science as given by what we would take to be the expert scientific community.

Senator ROBERTS: We've had policies now going on at least 25 years that are impacting energy generation, agriculture, industry, transport, personal as well as business, and these have had billions of dollars of impact, throttling us back in our economy, especially relative to our competitors. Could you tell me on notice what advice the Productivity Commission has given to governments and MPs and ministers since 1996, just the date, the type of communication, whom it was sent to and what the advice was?

Mr Brennan : Senator, we can certainly take that on notice. It will be predominantly in the form of written reports that we will have published. That's our primary and for the most part the overwhelming bulk of our communications with government.

Senator ROBERTS: And if you could note the specific advice in there, just a summary of that advice, please?

Mr Brennan : We will see what we can do.

Senator ROBERTS: Thank you very much, that's all—short and sweet, like me.

CHAIR: You go with our thanks and wishes for a safe journey home.

Mr Brennan : You don't want to hear about multifactor productivity?

CHAIR: Look, I do, but I just have to decline tonight. Thank you very much.