Poor Selina, she had to watch the whole debate.
If you've forgotten what was said by Josh Frydenberg (Liberal, Treasurer) and Monique Ryan (Independent) in the Kooyong debate—unfortunately, I am here to remind you!
While a wide range of topics was covered, such as refugees, relations with China, and a hung parliament, the primary focus was on reaching net-zero, and establishing an integrity commission.
Rather than tell you who ‘won’ the debate, I am going to summarise and fact-check the points each candidate made for policies on climate change and integrity. Bearing in mind, a left-wing bias will probably creep in at some point.
Plans to reaching net-zero by 2050
Both Frydenberg and Ryan expressed their commitment to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.
Frydenberg insisted the Liberals "have the plan to get there", and that he was "absolutely committed to strong, practical action on climate change".
His claim on being able to reach net-zero was largely predicated upon figures showing that Australia's 2020 emissions had already decreased by 20 per cent below 2005 levels, which appear to put it on track to reach a 35 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030 (surpassing the original 26 to 28 per cent target).
The implication was that it is the Liberal Government who has facilitated such unexpected lowering of emissions, and will therefore be able to achieve a net-zero target.
While it is true that Australia's carbon emissions in December 2020 were 20.1 per cent below 2005 levels, Frydenberg failed to mention the impact that lockdowns and a global pandemic had on driving these emissions down.
What's more, even if the 35 per cent prediction turns out to be accurate, scientists and climate advocates have argued it won't help us get to net-zero by 2050. In 2014, the government's Climate Change Authority actually advised it to cut emissions down by at least 50 per cent by 2030, in order to realistically achieve the 2050 goal.
So far, 85 per cent of the Coalition's net-zero by 2050 plan relies heavily on 'existing and emerging technologies'. It plans to invest over $20 billion over the next decade on developing low-emissions technologies, such as 'clean' hydrogen, and carbon capture.
The last 15 per cent, will, according to Scott Morrison, "come from the evolution and momentum that is generated by those earlier technological developments".
In other words … the last 15 per cent of their plan does not exist.
So, Monique Ryan's comment in the debate that the Liberal government only has "a plan for a plan" to reach net-zero was, despite the slightly overused rhetoric, pretty accurate.
As she proceeded to announce, her plan for net-zero by 2050 is to support Zali Steggall's Climate Change Act, which calls for a 60 per cent reduction of emissions on 2005 levels by 2030.
When asked to provide the economic costs behind her plan, she responded that because the Act was a legislative framework, designed to hold the government to a net-zero commitment, "there's not a costing associated with it".
Instead, she cited research from the University of Melbourne, which found that although achieving net-zero by 2050 will cost Australia 86 billion dollars (roughly the same amount as what JobKeeper cost), by failing to reach this target, the subsequent climate disasters and emergencies experienced would incur a cost of 2 trillion dollars.
Now, I wasn't able to find the exact figures she referred to—but the University's 'Clean Economy Future: Costs and Benefits' paper produced similar findings. Namely, that the cost of current global emissions patterns will far exceed the cost of adopting an effective emissions reduction scheme.
All I can say at the end of this is that Monique Ryan's plan to reach net-zero is strong, but it lacks an official economic plan. Frydenberg and the Coalition’s policy, is, as of the current 2030 target, unambitious, and overly dependent on technologies that may or may not exist. Contrary to his claim at the start of the debate, it can be called neither "strong" nor "practical".
??Establishing an integrity commission
During the debate, both Ryan and Frydenberg discussed the need for an independent Commonwealth Integrity Commission (CIC), or an Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) at a federal level.
"I believe we should have a CIC, and that is the government's position," said Frydenberg.
He claimed there was $100 million allocated for a federal CIC in the most recent 2022-23 budget.
It's fact-check time!
Under its Staffing of Agencies Paper (Part 2 of Budget Paper 4), the Average Staffing Levels (ASL) for an integrity commission is … zero.
The reason provided for this is that allocation of funding for a CIC "is subject to the passage of legislation. Funding for the CIC is reflected in the Budget, and ASL will be reflected once the CIC is established”.
However, the main Budget Paper does not contain any mention of a CIC. In fact, the only mention of funding for integrity of any kind is for sports and tax integrity.
Ryan disputed this $100 million figure quoted by Frydenberg.
"The amount allotted for an ICAC in the most recent budget was zero dollars. So saying there is some commitment is patently false," said Ryan.
This is technically true.
Although Ryan did not detail her own plans for establishing an ICAC, she expressed support for Independent Helen Haines' recently blocked Federal Integrity Commission Bill.
Haines' Bill included the ability for members of the public to both attend public hearings, and make complaints directly to the federal anti-corruption body.
These features were absent in the coalition government's own ICAC Bill. This Bill has not been introduced to Parliament, and, unless it receives approval from Labor (which it hasn't), will likely never be tabled.
So basically, there is no plan for an effective and transparent integrity commission under the Liberal government.
After reviewing their policies and proposals, it’s clear that any plans the Coalition claim to have on reaching net-zero, or establishing an integrity body, come with quite a few caveats.
Of course, caveats will come with the policies of any political party—but it’s become particularly relevant in the wake of this debate, as both candidates attempt to convince voters that their proposals on climate change and integrity are more realistic, pragmatic and foolproof than the other.
Image from Herald Sun.