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Environment and Communications Legislation Committee
Department of the Environment and Energy

Department of the Environment and Energy


Senator URQUHART: Can you tell me how much funding is allocated to environment programs by the government?

Dr de Brouwer : Yes. In both the administered and the departmental? I might get the specific numbers. I have orders of magnitude, but I think you want specifics.

Mr Sullivan : Thank you for the question, Senator. The total appropriation for the department as at portfolio additional estimates over the forward estimates is $3.81 billion.

Senator URQUHART: Thank you. And what is the current budget? Is that the same? What is the budget and what is the breakdown by program?

Mr Sullivan : By program, I would have to take that on notice, because obviously that stretches across the whole of the department, but in terms of—trying to be helpful—if I break down that $3.81 billion, the total departmental appropriation as at portfolio additional estimates over the forward estimates is $1.64 billion. There is a capital appropriation of $557 million, and administered appropriation is $1.61 billion.

Senator URQUHART: So what are the funding trends over the forward estimates? And are you able to break them down by program?

Mr Sullivan : I do not have the program breakdown. Again, that is because there are a number of different program lines, as you have seen in the breakdown of programs across the department, but in terms of—

Senator URQUHART: Sorry, Mr Sullivan, you said you would take the breakdown on notice. Are you able to provide that during the course of today?

Mr Sullivan : I can give you the macro figures right now, if you would like, in terms of what that looks like over the forward estimates.

Senator URQUHART: Yes.

Mr Sullivan : Do you want that across—in terms of totals—2016-17 it is $1.02 billion. For 2017-18 it is $990.5 million. In 2018-19 it is $876.3 million. And in 2019 it is $917 million.

Senator URQUHART: Okay. Thank you. So it looks like the funding is decreasing; is that a fair comment?

Mr Sullivan : If I give you the total in terms of the comparison between the portfolio additional estimates and the last estimates, which was the portfolio budget statement, there has been a net increase to the department for the portfolio additional estimates, as compared to the PBS, of $106.6 million over the forward estimates.

Senator URQUHART: $106.6 million.

Mr Sullivan : That is in total.

Senator URQUHART: Are staff numbers increasing or decreasing? And, if you have got the numbers. Thanks.

Ms Goodwin : Our staff numbers from the last estimates have increased by a head count of 44. As at the previous estimates, we had a head count of 2,774. As of 31 January 2017, we have a head count of 2,818.

Senator URQUHART: And are they—

Dr de Brouwer : Part of that would be because we have very strong seasonal patterns in our head count, especially with Antarctic and parks operations. So that will explain the fluctuation. It fluctuates a lot during the year.

Senator URQUHART: Are those numbers full-time equivalent?

Ms Goodwin : They were head count. Would you like me to give you the full-time equivalent?

Senator URQUHART: Please.

Ms Goodwin : So at the previous estimates our full-time equivalent was 2,467. As of 31 January 2017, our full-time equivalent is 2,511.5.

Senator URQUHART: Thank you. Have programs or services to the public been affected by any cuts in the resources?

Ms Goodwin : In terms of how we allocate our staffing, it really depends. There are a number of fluctuations in our staffing. It might be due to a machinery of government; it might be to do with terminating or commencing measures. And there are also seasonal fluctuations to do with our Antarctic expeditioners. We might move our staffing around outcomes, depending on our priorities.

Senator URQUHART: But has any of that had an effect on the public?

Dr de Brouwer : I think, in general, the design of programs is such that it is meant to insulate the impact on the public from changes in departmental structure or the way we are staffed. If a program is cut, then that is different; that has a direct impact. But mostly we operate—there has been a shift, say, from grants to more procurement type activities—using community groups and others on-ground to deliver the outcomes intended by the government for a program, rather than staff themselves delivering that.

Senator URQUHART: Have you got any examples of those, Dr de Brouwer—moving from grants to procurement?

Mr Thompson : One example of that has been around the 20 Million Trees program, which includes both a small grants program to smaller local tree planting exercises across Australia. But an element—in fact, the major element—of that program is around procurement to a small panel of providers who do large-scale tree plantings. It delivers the same if not better outcomes at larger scale; although, they are different outcomes for the small grants versus the larger plantings. And it allows the department to deliver in an effective way.

Senator URQUHART: Going back to the budget for the environmental programs, it has obviously come down from $1.02 billion down to $990.5 million and then down to $876.3 and then obviously up in 2019-20 to $917. How sustainable are the current functions without any improvement in funding, given that that funding is coming down?

Dr de Brouwer : I think you are asking me for opinions around government programs, government funding—

Senator URQUHART: I am not asking you about an opinion. I am asking you about—given that the funding has, certainly over a period of four years, come down, and then the fifth year it obviously goes up, how can you sustain the programs that you have got and the functions you have got now when you have not got an improvement in funding?

Dr de Brouwer : I think there has been an ongoing and broader focus on environmental outcomes. So the intention has been how to ensure those outcomes are delivered, and there are different ways of doing that. Shifting from grants to procurement is one example of that. In the design of our programs and regulation, there is more of a focus over time on the outcomes, rather than the inputs and the outputs, the processes that underpin it. So it is also: how do you use technology better? We are going through some major changes in technology. It is much easier, frankly, to assess the condition on the ground on a regular basis, and that information is provided directly and is available directly to businesses and communities and others on the ground. So there is a greater effectiveness that comes from just technology itself.

And there is probably a sense of: what is the opportunity for broader community based funding as well, and community involvement in environmental activities? So I think there is a sense there that funding is not the only instrument to achieve an outcome; it is how you go about trying to achieve that outcome that really matters. There are other instruments, through regulation and the use of technology, that enable the government to focus on those outcomes that are so important.

Mr Thompson : Senator, I might just add, in relation to the secretary's last point on collaboration, I think the department is being driven to better and more comprehensive models of collaboration. That is both with the states and territories. So if you look at the last statement out of the ministers of the environment meeting in November last year, you can see the amount of effort happening. It is being led by the states themselves. And then there is collaboration across the Commonwealth and with the Australian government on particular initiatives—say, in relation to waste, waste streams and stewardship of waste streams, but also collaboration with other partners. An example of that would be the $1.5 million donation from the Ian Potter Foundation for the new conservatory at the Australian National Botanic Gardens, which is one of the Director of National Parks properties.

Senator URQUHART: Have staff numbers for environmental assessments increased or decreased over the last three years?

Mr Knudson : I know we have provided this answer on previous occasions. The officers that are responsible for that area will be here later on this afternoon and can give you the latest information from the last estimates to this estimates.

Senator URQUHART: Okay, but have assessment times for projects increased or decreased?

Mr Knudson : That is another question that I think they would be more than able to answer.

Senator URQUHART: Which section is that in?

Dr de Brouwer : It is in 1.5.

Senator URQUHART: It is the first program and I have mucked up in the numbering already. I might leave mine there, Chair, and give someone else a go. I will come back to that in 1.5.

Senator RHIANNON: Can you tell me whether former resources minister Mr Macfarlane has met with any departmental staff or with the minister or his office in his capacity as Queensland Resources Council CEO since he left parliament?

Senator Birmingham: In relation to the minister, if my recollection is correct, at the last hearing of these estimates I provided an answer on that which indicated an event at which they had seen each other, or something of the sort, from recollection. I will let officials speak for the department.

Dr de Brouwer : I think that is still being assessed and under consideration, to answer that question.

Senator RHIANNON: When you say 'assessed and under consideration', what do you mean? Do you mean that you have not had time to go back and check the dates and meetings or that you have not decided if you will actually do it?

Dr de Brouwer : No. There is a process to do, to work out, and part of that is a clearance process through the minister's office. We are going through that process now.

Senator RHIANNON: What is the process? Is it just a matter of asking the minister if he is willing to do it, or is there a formal process that is written down?

Dr de Brouwer : No, that is the process. The response to these questions goes through a clearance process, and we are going through that process at the moment.

Senator RHIANNON: But can you explain what 'clearance' means? Is it that you have to wait to see if the minister agrees to release it?

Dr de Brouwer : It is with the minister's office, at this stage.

Senator RHIANNON: It is with the minister's office. So it might stay with minister and nothing happens. It sounds like there is no process other than it just being up to the minister.

Dr de Brouwer : The department works for the minister, and our answers go through the minister's office as they go out.

Senator RHIANNON: I want to also ask about the Prime Minister's statement of ministerial standards and the cooling-off period for former ministers, during which they are not allowed to lobby the government. Are you aware of the order of continuing effect adopted by the Senate on 23 November last year, in relation to the rolling disclosure of meetings with former ministers?

Dr de Brouwer : In general terms, yes.

Senator RHIANNON: You have said you are aware of it. What implications does that have for how you handle these issues?

Dr de Brouwer : We would handle that within the department, for departmental meetings, but it is a matter for the minister at ministerial meetings.

Senator RHIANNON: Just to clarify, the minister is responsible for the ministerial meetings and you as the head of department are responsible for everything else.

Dr de Brouwer : No, I am responsible for understanding the meetings of departmental officers with former ministers. That is my responsibility.

Senator RHIANNON: You are responsible for the disclosure. Is that what you are saying?

Dr de Brouwer : It is still run through the normal questioning process and we would clear those with the minister's office.

Senator RHIANNON: Could you explain what the normal questioning process is?

Dr de Brouwer : We prepare questions on notice but they are cleared by a minister's office. That is normal practice.

Senator RHIANNON: But apart from the questioning process—just the overall process about lobbying.

Dr de Brouwer : Any lobbyist who comes into the department, there is a record of lobbyists that is a requirement and that is recorded.

Senator RHIANNON: And with regard to the rolling disclosure, what are you doing about that?

Dr de Brouwer : The rolling disclosure would be us having a sense of what those meetings are and clearing that with the minister's office.

Senator RHIANNON: When you say 'having a sense'—

Dr de Brouwer : Well, tracking those as they occur.

Senator RHIANNON: So we now have tracking. You have got a sense, which means tracking. Does it mean public release? What happens with this rolling disclosure?

Dr de Brouwer : I have already said we would work that through with the minister's office.

Senator RHIANNON: So when you say 'work it through with the minister'—does not want it to go any further; it just lapses. Is that a fair description?

Dr de Brouwer : Well, we have not got to that situation yet.

Senator RHIANNON: And you have not got to that situation because it is still with the minister?

Dr de Brouwer : No, because at those meetings we have not put up anything additional to the minister's office, through that requirement.

Senator RHIANNON: I understand the order is called order No. 20C and it states that each minister must table a record of all meetings between former ministers who are within the cooling-off period and current ministers or senior officials. Is your department complying with that order?

Senator Birmingham: That sounds like it is an order related to the minister. I will have to take that on notice.

Senator RHIANNON: Can you explain where that is up to please.

Dr de Brouwer : I will have to take that one on notice.

Senator RHIANNON: As far as we can tell there was only one document tabled in response to this order and that was by Senator Birmingham as the Minister for Education and Training. Did anyone in the Environment portfolio meet with any former ministers who are within their cooling-off period since November last year?

Dr de Brouwer : I will have to take that one on notice.

Senator RHIANNON: Considering this is an important issue and the Prime Minister has been on the record a number of times speaking about transparency, and it was only November last year and you have come to estimates, do you really need to take it on notice? Wouldn't there be someone here who could assist, even if you cannot remember?

Dr de Brouwer : I want to give you an accurate answer, so I will take it on notice.

Senator RHIANNON: There is one example that has been reported, interestingly, in the Townsville Bulletin,of former resources minister Ian Macfarlane, who is still within the cooling-off period and, as we know, has got that important CEO position. He boasted at a business function in Townsville in February that he would talk to his 'good mates in Canberra in order to make sure our native title laws are amended in the wake of a Federal Court decision which threatens the Adani mine'. Did the minister or anyone in your department have any contact with Mr Macfarlane about this issue?

Dr de Brouwer : I cannot speak for the minister. The department does not have control of the minister's diary. That is a matter for the minister. On the department, I will take that one on notice.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you for taking it on notice. If it has not been disclosed, can you then explain why it was not disclosed? If it has been disclosed, that will be informative.

Dr de Brouwer : I will come back on notice, but the issue of continuous disclosure—what that means, how that is applied in practice—is something that we need to work out. There is always a clearance process though for these matters. I will have to come back on notice.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you.

Senator ROBERTS: My question is to the secretary. Do you agree that much of the strategic direction of this department is underpinned by the belief that coal-fired power stations are not clean and that their emitted carbon dioxide will cause catastrophic heating of the planet, so they must be replaced by wind and solar power?

Dr de Brouwer : Thank you for your question, Senator, but you have asked for my opinion—

CHAIR: I was just about to say: Senator Roberts, it is not appropriate to ask the officials for their personal opinion, but you can ask about matters of policy or matters of fact.

Senator ROBERTS: It was not asking the secretary his personal opinion but the strategic direction of his department that is underpinned by the belief that coal-fired power stations are not clean and that their emitted carbon dioxide will cause catastrophic heating of the planet.

Dr de Brouwer : I think you are asking my opinion about the strategic direction of the department.

Senator ROBERTS: I am asking whether or not it is based on the belief that coal-fired power stations are not clean. That is just a simple yes or no.

Dr de Brouwer : I think you are asking for my opinion, Senator.

Senator ROBERTS: I am not asking for your opinion as to whether or not it is good or bad, Secretary. I am asking for your response as to whether or not the strategic direction of your department is underpinned by the belief that coal-fired power stations are not clean.

Dr de Brouwer : The strategic direction of my department is determined by the government. It is set by the government, so you are asking government policy—

Senator ROBERTS: Let me move on then. Do you agree that the department's website contains a myriad of references to money committed assuming that coal-fired power stations are not clean and that their emitted carbon dioxide affects the planet?

Dr de Brouwer : There are a range of programs that will talk about emissions and emissions reduction, and that is one element of emissions reduction that comes from a coal-fired plant. That is not to say that we are ruling that out or that the government has not ruled that out.

Senator ROBERTS: What due diligence has been done by the department with regard to the use of those programs to cut the production of carbon dioxide?

Dr de Brouwer : If I understand your question, we rely in our policy formation and implementation on the advice of the scientific bodies like the CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology and other scientists, and on the use of technology in being able to identify or measure carbon reduction or emissions reduction, so it is premised on science.

Senator ROBERTS: On the science as given by the CSIRO and the BoM.

Dr de Brouwer : Well, as given by a very broad set of scientific bodies, including the Academy of Science, universities and the other range of bodies that look at these issues.

Senator ROBERTS: Thank you. Just as a simple question: if the belief that carbon dioxide is warming the planet cannot be defended, should the programs your department is driving be terminated?

Dr de Brouwer : I think you are asking for my opinion.

Senator ROBERTS: No, I am just saying that if the belief that carbon dioxide—

Dr de Brouwer : You are asking for my opinion.

Senator ROBERTS: You have a fundamental premise—

CHAIR: Senator Roberts, you are totally free to ask any question. However, if you could rephrase it so that it is not actually asking the secretary for an opinion that would be helpful.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: Point of order—or a hypothetical.

CHAIR: Yes, or a hypothetical.

Senator ROBERTS: Thank you, chair. As I understand it then, the programs that your department is driving are based upon science that is telling you that we need to use those programs to cut the production of carbon dioxide.

Dr de Brouwer : Yes.

Senator ROBERTS: If those programs in fact do not cut the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, would that mean that the program should be terminated?

Dr de Brouwer : I think we always want to use evidence and the aim has always been to ensure that policies are directed to their ends, and if they do not achieve their ends then they need to be reviewed. That is a standard part of program evaluation.

Senator ROBERTS: Thank you for that reassurance. If they were to be terminated, how many of the department's 1,700 staff would then lose their jobs?

CHAIR: Is that a hypothetical question? I think it is coming close to being a hypothetical question. You might need to rephrase that.

Senator ROBERTS: Is the department planning any major due diligence work soon on the advice you have been given from various agencies with regard to the science?

Dr de Brouwer : The science is very well established, and we have to rely on that. We rely on the input of experts for a range of things, and there is no sense from that scientific body that that is incorrect. But we always draw on evidence and many of the methods or the techniques that are used to reduce emissions, like in the Emissions Reduction Fund, are designed to only pay or reward people on the delivery of emissions reduction that is measurable and that goes through an independent verification process. So as much as possible we try to rely on science as the vast bulk of people set it out, and we always look to assess and verify actions in accordance with the policy aims.

Senator ROBERTS: Can I then put on notice that I request the empirical evidence upon which your department has based its plans.

Dr de Brouwer : Yes, I am very happy to. I will give you the material from CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology, our own scientists in Antarctica and elsewhere that we rely on. I will provide that material.

Senator ROBERTS: The science that is showing that the carbon dioxide from human activity is affecting the climate and needs to be reduced.

Dr de Brouwer : That is the science.

Senator ROBERTS: I just want to be clear: I want the empirical evidence that proves that carbon dioxide from human activity is affecting the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and that it must be reduced.

Dr de Brouwer : Okay.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: He has read already received a private briefing—

CHAIR: This is not a debate. We have only just started.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: It is obviously not getting through.

CHAIR: Do you have more questions, Senator Roberts?

Senator ROBERTS: Yes, I have. What is the department's policy when responding to allegations that the belief is wrong?

Dr de Brouwer : I think we always take every person's statement seriously, so we listen to people and we would look to then assess that against what we see to be the evidence, drawing from a wide body of knowledge. I think we always try to listen to people with respect and, if people have different views, we engage on those views.

Senator ROBERTS: Can you tell me what respect would look like?

Dr de Brouwer : I think it is a conversation. If people want to challenge or say that this is not right then we would listen to what they say and then look at that against what we understand to be the science.

Senator ROBERTS: So you would scrutinise what they have to say?

Dr de Brouwer : Yes.

Senator ROBERTS: Can the department show any evidence of having engaged constructively with those who question the belief? I understand that a number of people have.

Dr de Brouwer : I think if people ask us we talk about it or we provide the material that we are drawing on for our assessments.

Senator ROBERTS: Can you give me the evidence showing that you have done that?

Dr de Brouwer : I will have to take that on notice.

Senator ROBERTS: That is fine.

Dr de Brouwer : I think as a general principle, though, we do engage. There have been many debates over a range of these aspects over a number of years, and we do talk to people about that.

Senator ROBERTS: I am just looking for documented evidence that you have actually respected people and considered what they have to say.

Dr de Brouwer : The bulk of the evidence is that the climate is changing or has changed and is changing and will change further.

Senator ROBERTS: That is your belief, right?

Dr de Brouwer : It is not my—I am drawing on the evidence that the vast majority of scientists say.

CHAIR: Senator Roberts, when you say 'you', could you just be very clear if you are referring to the secretary personally or the department in terms of how they develop their policy.

Senator Birmingham: Senator Roberts, I think if I think back a couple of years to my time as parliamentary secretary in this portfolio—but with responsibility for the Bureau of Meteorology at the time—I recall both myself and the bureau, as well as the department, responding to many people who contested different views, approaches and policies in relation to climate science, and I think the entities involved largely did engage in a respectful exchange. But of course respect does not mean changing your opinion or findings to the other person's opinion or findings; it means, as Dr de Brouwer has indicated, listening, engaging and sharing the evidence but then of course weighing the evidence at the end of that engagement.

Senator ROBERTS: With due respect, the treatment I received from you in your previous parliamentary secretary role was not respect. You did not treat me with respect and you do not consider the evidence. I just want to make that clear.

CHAIR: Senator Roberts, if you could, confine this to questions and not a discussion or debate with the minister.

Senator ROBERTS: Secretary, from The Australian, 'Reef whistleblower censured by James Cook University':

Professor Ridd was disciplined for breaching principle 1 of JCU's code of conduct by "not displaying responsibility in respecting the reputations of other colleagues".

Why should any federal funding go to any organisation that rates the reputation of colleagues higher than scientific truth?

Senator Birmingham: I think that is certainly asking the secretary for an opinion. There are grievance procedures in place around universities, and if you would like to come back on Wednesday I can make sure that the officials present talk you through what those grievance procedures are, if you have an academic there who feels aggrieved in terms of their pursuit of academic independence.

Senator ROBERTS: Secretary, why should the parliament have any confidence in research from James Cook University?

Dr de Brouwer : I think you are asking me for an opinion again.

CHAIR: I was going to say, Senator Roberts, that is clearly opinion.

Senator ROBERTS: Will the department's own officials, then, defend the spending of money through James Cook University, or does the department rely on defence from CSIRO, the Bureau of Meteorology and the Chief Scientist?

Dr de Brouwer : I think when we evaluate these scientific programs for, say, the environmental science program and other forms of engagement with the university, we are looking at the specific project that has been nominated and we evaluate that on its merits. We engage with that university on its merits, rather than, 'We don't engage with this university or that university.' That would be something that would be more in the minister's domain. But we evaluate the government's engagement in terms of the specific projects and its own merits.

Senator ROBERTS: I would inform you that I have challenged both the CSIRO and the Chief Scientist for their belief and position on the claim that carbon dioxide from human activity affects the climate and must be reduced. So let me just give you a quick summary and then ask you questions about this.

CHAIR: If it could be a very quick summary because, as you know, we have to move on shortly to the next item.

Senator ROBERTS: It will be.

CHAIR: If it is long, is it something you could table on notice?

Senator ROBERTS: Yes, it will be. I am happy to do that, but I would like to just say that the evidence that the CSIRO has provided to me does not prove at all that carbon dioxide from human activity affects global climate. The same with the Chief Scientist; in fact, the Chief Scientist made a deplorable response to me. It was woeful.

CHAIR: Is there a question—is that a statement?

Senator ROBERTS: Yes, there is.

CHAIR: I have asked several times now if you could please make sure that you are actually asking questions of the officials and not commentary or asking for a personal opinion.

Senator ROBERTS: Okay.

Senator DI NATALE: Show some empirical evidence for the question.

CHAIR: Senator Di Natale, that is not very helpful.

Senator ROBERTS: I am about to.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: This line of questions is not helpful for our country or the planet.

CHAIR: Senator Whish-Wilson and Senator Di Natale, you have your opportunities on many occasions to put your questions and your points of view in the public. Please, Senator Roberts, you have a couple more minutes. If you could—

Senator ROBERTS: If it is allowable, I will be happy to send the secretary copies of my response to the CSIRO, the Chief Scientist's response to me and my responses to the Chief Scientist. Then I would put further questions in writing to you. I will be happy to also send you this: it is called Climate Models for the Layman by a well-known scientist—

CHAIR: You are now testing my patience. This is not an opportunity for an editorial; that is what the chamber is for. If you do have any more questions, I will allow about five more minutes of questions, and you can table questions or any other material through the committee.

Senator ROBERTS: Okay; secretary, I will send you a copy of that. The belief that coal is unclean would seem to be an emotive, ideological statement. Are Australian hydrocarbon-fuelled power generators currently in breach of pollution standards covering particulates and aerosols?

Dr de Brouwer : I think that matter actually, when it comes down to particulates—those sorts of questions are really a matter for the state. They operate under state law around environment protection. The federal government does not operate in that domain.

Senator ROBERTS: Are you aware of whether or not they are being prosecuted by the state for breaching of particulate and aerosol—

Dr de Brouwer : Not myself, personally. It is not something that—

Senator ROBERTS: I accept that. If they not being prosecuted for that, are they then clean by current standards for particulates and aerosols?

Dr de Brouwer : You are stating a proposition. I think it is more a statement than a question.

Senator ROBERTS: Is it, then, the emission of carbon dioxide that makes some generators 'unclean'?

Dr de Brouwer : In relation to greenhouse gas emissions, that is how that language is also used.

Senator ROBERTS: What do you see as greenhouse gas emissions that make them unclean?

CHAIR: Is that a personal opinion again?

Senator ROBERTS: What does your department see as greenhouse gas emissions? Could you specify the gases involved.

Dr de Brouwer : If I want to answer properly, I will come back later in the day with a list of gases that are involved.

Senator ROBERTS: Which are the primary ones?

CHAIR: This has to be your last question for this time, because I understand Senator Di Natale has some questions and we only have another five minutes for this session.

Senator Birmingham: There is a whole section on climate later today, Senator Roberts. We can come back to it then.

Senator ROBERTS: I will come back to you on that one, then.

CHAIR: This is your last question, Senator Roberts.

Senator ROBERTS: How much has been spent in each of the last five years by the federal government on anticatastrophic anthropogenic global warming measures? Please include—and I will put this on notice—all departments and agencies, all grants, funding of non-government organisations, departmental and administered expenses. Include also the imposition of the renewable energy target on the economy and all grants and subsidies for household and grid solar and wind power. I would like the cost for the last five years by the federal government on measures to reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Dr de Brouwer : I will take that question on notice.

Senator DI NATALE: I have some questions around the South Australian blackout. Can I ask those now—is that appropriate?

Dr de Brouwer : That is really for the energy outcome.

Senator DI NATALE: All right, I will hold those. What about Adani?

Dr de Brouwer : That is for environment regulation—outcome 1.5.

Senator DI NATALE: I have some areas around coal investment.

Dr de Brouwer : That might be in energy; it depends on what the question is.

Senator DI NATALE: Let me talk to you about the level of interest in investment in coal. Can I talk to you about that? Perhaps I will ask the question and you can then tell me whether you think it would be best directed somewhere else. Has the department engaged in any consultation in the last year with any investor anywhere that is interested in building a new coal-fired power station in Australia?

Dr de Brouwer : I will have to take that question on notice. You are asking about the department. It is really quite a broad question, and we would have to—

Senator DI NATALE: Check with other officials?

Dr de Brouwer : check it out.

Senator DI NATALE: Are you aware of any interest from any investor who wants to build new coal-fired power stations over the coming year?

Dr de Brouwer : Can I take that question on notice.

Senator DI NATALE: Let me ask you about whether you agree with Bloomberg's analysis for Australia, that the price of a new coal-fired power station is about $134 to $200 a megawatt hour.

CHAIR: Senator Di Natale, I think that might be asking for what sounded like an opinion.

Senator DI NATALE: No, no. It is a question of analysis. It is an empirical question. Bloomberg have calculated the cost of new coal-fired power at between $134 and $200 a megawatt hour. They have calculated wind at $60 a megawatt hour and solar at about $80 a megawatt hour. Does the department agree with this modelling?

Dr de Brouwer : We might come back to that—that is really an energy question. We would go back to the range of models that are out there, say, for example from the CO2, CRC and others. We will have to come back to that in the energy outcome.

Senator Birmingham: I think Bloomberg has done some assessment of the investment requirement for a 50 per cent renewable energy target, too, out of interest.

Senator DI NATALE: I am not asking that question. I am asking a different question. I am just interested as to whether the department—

CHAIR: To clarify, earlier on the secretary handed out—and we have just given you a copy of it—a list of what issue falls in what program. I understand that would be program 5.1. Is that correct?

Dr de Brouwer : Yes, Chair.

Senator DI NATALE: I think I am probably done for the moment, thank you. I will hold on to the rest for later.

CHAIR: Thank you very much. That is good news. We are two minutes ahead of schedule. I now call officers from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.