Doorstop interview at Taronga Zoo, Sydney

CHRIS BOWEN: Well, thanks for coming, everyone, today. It's great to be here at Taronga Zoo, which is doing such good work in ensuring not only that it is a Sydney icon to visit but they're playing a very important role in rewilding and ensuring endangered species get reintroduced to areas where they are able to survive and thrive going forward.

As Australia drives towards net zero, it's vital that our carbon credits are fit for purpose, that they are verifiable, that they are additional, i.e. there's increased reduction - in emissions reduction, that they are independently able to be verified and that they are able to be used for our international commitments. That's why, before the election, the Labor Party committed to hold an independent review into the operations of Australia's carbon credits. It's absolutely vital that Australians can have confidence that when a carbon credit is exercised, it is real, it is verifiable, and it is substantial.

And so more than six months ago I announced I was appointing Professor Ian Chubb AC to lead a review and just before Christmas, a couple of days before Christmas, I received that review, and now I'm releasing that review today and I'm also releasing the government's response. 

At the outset I want to thank Professor Chubb for his very comprehensive work, also the panel members, the honourable Dr Annabelle Rankin - sorry, the honourable Dr Annabelle Bennett AC QC, Dr Stephen Dodds, Hatfield-Dodds, and Ariadne Gorring for their very substantial work. More than 200 submissions received, 30 stakeholder outreach sessions held and very comprehensive work and a very comprehensive report. I can also announce the government is accepting all the recommendations either in principle - for those that need legislation and budget treatment - or in full - for those that can be implemented immediately.

In relation to methods - and I'm going to ask obviously Professor Chubb to add to this - to my remarks in a moment. In relation to methods, the panel has recommended that no further ACCUs be issued under the deforestation method. Of course the government accepts that recommendation, that is implemented from today. And they've also recommended a tightening of definitions and implementation of two other methods, the human-induced regeneration method and a landfill gas method. Both very important going forward but it's also very important that they be implemented correctly and, of course, that will be implemented immediately. 

Secondly, Professor Chubb and his colleagues have recommended a series of architectural changes, of structural changes to the way the ACCU market is regulated to ensure best practice governance, to ensure full transparency, and to ensure appropriate separation of roles, and we accept those recommendations in principle. They require legislation so we will be putting that legislation before the Parliament.

Importantly, the panel recommends much greater transparency, public information - access to the information which underpins the methods which see carbon credits traded in our market.

Secondly, the panel has recommended the abolition of the existing committee, the ERAC, and establishment of a new committee, independent - independent of the Clean Energy Regulator, independent of me, independent of my department - we will be implementing that with a full-time chair to accept that recommendation in principle - again, that will require legislation and it will require budget allocations but we will be implementing that and working that through all the necessary processes. 

In addition, it's been recommended that all carbon service providers be accredited and regulated. Again, we will implement that - we will make that the case. Also, no longer will methods be set or priorities be set by the minister of the day, me, and my successors; instead, there will be an independent process where proponents can put forward methods and they will be worked up with appropriate rigour. All these recommendations are important. 

Now this panel has not tried to please everyone. There will be some people that say this panel has gone too far. There will be some people who say it has gone not far enough. That's understood. But it's a substantial piece of work. It's informed by the best science and by the best evidence. Professor Chubb is one of Australia's leading scientists. I was delighted when he accepted my request to take this task on and I was delighted when his colleagues, the honourable Dr Annabelle Bennett, Dr Stephen Hatfield-Dodds and Ariadne Gorring also agreed to my request to serve and, as I said, we will accept all these recommendations.

Australian carbon credits are a vital part of the net zero. In many ways they're the net in the net zero. But they must be verifiable, they must be real, they must be additional, and that's what this panel has set out to achieve and that's what the government will do.

I'm going to ask Professor Chubb to add and then we'll take questions on this review and then if you have questions on other matters of the day I will take them separately and Professor Chubb can move to the side and I'll deal with political matters of the day. Professor Chubb. 

PROFESSOR IAN CHUBB: Thanks, Minister. I've got some notes to remind me of the key points in our six months of remarkably intensive work.

I'd like, though, first to acknowledge the review team. They worked pretty hard on the report. None of us went into it thinking it would be easy and it certainly wasn't easy. But we all thought it was worth it because, as the Minister outlined, because of the important part, one of the suite of portfolio of policies that will go towards Australia making and meeting its commitment to reduce anthropogenic climate change or the impact of anthropogenic climate change and in so doing we note that we all make confidence that it does what it's designed to do. It's not just about having the policy, it's not just about having a function, it's about implementing and implementing it appropriately. 

I'd also like to acknowledge the commitment of our secretariat. We had a secretariat of four. They all had much knowledge and wisdom to impart and they did. And it's fair to say that without their strengths and extraordinary commitment, we would not have been able to do what we did and the support of people who had the knowledge but also spoke the language was critical all the way through this process. 

So to begin with I think it's worth reminding us of the past so far. The ACCU scheme is a young scheme and the carbon market is a relatively immature market but both have enormous responsibility. So as the context in which they exist rapidly evolves, then they must evolve at pace also. And the thing that struck me about this during the past six months is how much has been done and how much is coming out about this general area, both within Australia and overseas, on even a weekly basis means that the evolution has actually got to be reasonably rapid and it's got to be prepared to be able to evolve rapidly. 

The Carbon Farming Initiative Act was passed in 2011 and the related Emissions Reduction Fund was established in 2014. The objects of the Act, I think, are important and we had these in mind all the way through. The first object is the removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. The removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and avoidance of emissions.

The second object is to create incentives to develop certain alternate projects and the Act goes on to increase carbon abatement in a manner that's consistent with the protection of Australia's natural environment to authorise the purchases by the Commonwealth of [indistinct] carbon abatement and facilitate the achievement of Australia's greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets. So that was written in 2011. 

If you were to argue today has anything changed, the argument today would only be that the impact of - or the need to pull CO2 particularly out of the atmosphere, and our understanding of that has increased substantially since it was written in 2011 - but it was an important part of the Act from the beginning and continues to be. 

So the ACCU scheme clearly has a place in the mitigation, it does force CO2 out of the atmosphere as the IPCC reminds us we must, and they've been quite adamant about that in recent times. It reduces methane emissions and builds social, environmental, and other co-benefits. Some proportion of the CO2 that comes down may well be used to offset present and future emissions, as the Minister said, substantially the net in net zero. But we need to go beyond net zero and get negative, by also removing CO2 that's emitted in the past and it's that combination of things that I think makes that scheme particularly important.

So how to achieve it? Now, you know, you'd expect to say the science and technology may well develop effective and scalable options to meet the twin challenges of greenhouse gas removal and secure long-term, that is, millennial-level storage - that isn't there yet. The only pathway known to science that has the immediate capacity - immediate capacity - to remove greenhouse gases, particularly CO2, from the atmosphere at scale is photosynthesis, the means by which plants absorb CO2 and water to create energy to fuel their eventually growth. So to start CO2 removal, at scale, well before 2050, as the IPCC urges, the land sector will have to carry much of the immediate load.

I would say that one of the advantages that we had in doing this complicated, complex work was that much has been learnt since 2011. There have been reviews upon reviews, upon reviews, there has been criticisms, there have been rebuttals of criticisms and rebuttals of rebuttals of criticisms, so there was a lot to learn and a lot to learn from and we took all of that into account. 

So when we - if I turn to the review, the purpose was to ensure, as the Minister said, that means what it says, that the carbon crediting framework is integrity, and that applies a strong and reliable reputation for incentivising and accelerating carbon abatement. It's important that the ACCUs, the credit units, are seen to be of high integrity and an ACCU has integrity because it's truly representative of one tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent removal. So that is actually an important part of this whole exercise - how do we ensure that is the case? 

The panel recognises that generating and verifying high integrity ACCUs is inherently complex, it's remarkably complex. But just because it's complex doesn't mean it shouldn't be done. The whole point is it should be done. So we actually have to find a way to do it and to give confidence it's being done and being done properly. It's not a question of it being too hard - it's too important to the system, to the leading systems, indeed on the planet, for us to take on some of those hard issues and do them properly and that was the orientation and the direction that the review team took all the time - how do we do it and how do we do it well and how do we prepare for the future which will allow for some evolutionary change over coming years that would allow us to be confident that it's being done?

So we had a consultation, as the Minister outlined. We had 220-odd written submissions, we met a number of people in response to the submissions as well as others. We did a couple of site visits. We spent two and a half days in Cobar and we looked at [indistinct], we looked at a lot of mud - they had a lot of rain - but we looked at projects that were actually delivering what we hoped they would be delivering and we saw that and we spoke to the people who were doing it on the ground, on the land, and we spoke to the community people, we spoke to Indigenous people in Cobar as well. So we had quite a wide-ranging set of conversations while we were up there. 

So the common themes that came out of the consultation period, overall: transparency. The whole point is that there are people who are critical of the scheme, critical of some of the projects, but the information that is able to be provided, because of the legislation, because of the restriction on provision of information, has meant that other people can say “well they're wrong because they didn't have the same information we had”. And we don't think that's sensible, we don't think it's suitable. In an area like this where you have always going to be judgment calls, and people with good will will make different judgments, drawing off slightly different information trying to get to the same objectives. So transparency was one. 

We were told frequently that the offset integrity standards are robust, that we need to allow for improvements and realignments in response to change. It would be fatuous for me to stand here and say the weather patterns are not changing, indeed the climate's not changing and not changing rapidly. Our responses to that are changing rapidly and need to change rapidly so it has to be able to - the scheme has to be to, the methods have to be able to - respond to those things as time. 

We think the scheme governance - we were told the scheme governance should reflect best practice and distribution of responsibilities, that more flexibility and agility is required to update methods in response to new technologies, scientific information, provide more opportunities for First Nations expert advice and project participation and the importance of environmental economic, social, and cultural benefits associated with the projects. 

So in other words what we were being told was that the governance arrangements would be clunky and that they should be simplified and made clearer so that people could be able to look from the outside in and say, well, this responsibility rests here and that responsibility rests there and people are clear in that and clear in what they understand it to be. 

So we go to clarify the intention of the scheme, it's about draw down, it's about uptake, it's about scale. Importantly it's driven by the objects of the Act and that is clearly around to reduce the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere as well as offsets [indistinct] and so on. So it's all got to be clearer than it is at the moment. 

We refer to healing country, particularly we also refer to the environmental and improvements and other co-benefits. It would be fair to say that the input we've had, we had was that the co-benefits whilst nominated in the Act actually received much less support and significance in the whole scheme of things and partly that's because they are harder to measure, some of them, but because they're hard doesn't mean to say we shouldn't do it. So our recommendation is that we should do it and I'll get to that in a minute. 

We go to clearly identify and separate the core scheme governance functions. So we talk about the - or recommend the need to lead method development to be led by proponents with support from the Department, if needed. Obviously, we don't want to disadvantage individual landholders, for example, or individual Indigenous groups that might want to develop a method but don't have the resources to do it so the Department is [indistinct]. We believe that the method integrity assurance and review should be separated from - separate and independent as the Minister just described it. We're calling it the Carbon Abatement Integrity Committee. There are three important words in those four – “carbon”, “abatement” and “integrity”, and we wanted to emphasise that its role was about carbon, abatement and integrity and you've got to call it something so we called it a committee. 

The Regulator should be focused on registering, monitoring, and the enforcement of the rules - that the Australian Government should purchase ACCUs if required, clearly and obviously there's a growing external market for that but at the moment the Commonwealth is buying most of the ACCUs and the Regulator doesn't. So it's taking some of these functions out of the Regulator and making them stand alone so that there can be no appearance of conflict. And I'm not arguing there is a conflict, I'm saying the appearance of a conflict in this sort of contender's space is also important. 

But I just want to make a special point about the proposed integrity committee. We're not proposing simply to change the name and leave the functions identical. We think that by contrast to ERAC, the integrity committee, when evaluating methods, should consider the integrity standards and the broader requirements in the CFI Act including the social, cultural, environmental, and economic impact of the eligible carbon abatement activities and we also argue, of course, there should be at least one First Nations representative - a member of that committee, and the reason for that, again, is to draw it back to the Act. The Act is actually quite comprehensive and it would be wrong just to focus on one or two or three objects, all of them can be taken into account, and some of them should be able to be, or they should be able to be evaluated, they might not all be able to be quantified but the intention should be that yes, we can do this or no, we can't for this reason and I think it's a question of leaving it open to the discussion and sensible outcomes rather than just trying to define it now in a big, long list. 

We want to facilitate a robust and responsive regulatory framework and it goes in part to the rigorous application and vigorous application of the rules and the integrity standards and transparency. We made the point that the default should be that data should be made public and widely accessible is an important principle; the information to be shared and open to evaluation. And the reason for that is that one of the criticisms, and I think one of the valid criticisms, was that if you look at what's publicly available, you will draw certain conclusions from that. If you look at what is actually available, then the people who have that information are rebutting those criticisms and you can go back and forth on that one but the key point is if you maximise it, and you respect the fact that some of it has to be commercial in confidence and you can't divulge every single thing, but, for example, it is not possible at the moment to release information about carbon estimation areas except in the aggregate at state or territory level, and that's not all that useful if you're trying to understand what's happening in a particular part of the State or a particular piece of land and we can't see any particular reason why that can't be released and made public and then proper discussion can have, “yes, it would be better like this”, how it wouldn't be better like that, and through the notion - the spirit of continuous improvement it's how we will improve. If people can look in, see, evaluate, critique, debate, discuss, do whatever they want to do, but you can arrive at a solution when you start from the same point. It's much harder to do that if you want to get to the same point but you start at completely different parts and you don't have the map to get you there. 

The Minister said carbon service providers and agents should be accredited and regulated, we think that's important. We heard some good stories of very good agents and repayment carbon service providers, enterprises. Very good stories. But we know that there are some less good and the point about that is how do we actually make sure that if you're a landholder sitting on your tractor you've got 2 kilometres of farm to go, you've got your iPad, if it's a modern tractor, and you're looking to see how do I get into this scheme, then the information has got to be in plain English, it’s got to be accessible to you. People you turn to advice have got to be working in your interests even if it's making profit out of it and working in the nation's interest because at the end of the day we need more people involved in managing the land, managing the land properly, meeting the obligations and requirements under the Act. 

So we've proposed greater flexibility and innovation in development of project implementation, we've recommended relieving the Minister of the obligation to provide five methods a year, which nobody in the backroom thought that was a good idea. I don't know about the Minister's office but nobody in the backroom thought it was a good idea. Put a big load, it pushed things in a way that was not necessarily useful and we think, in any case, it's much harder for me to understand what's happening on that person's land in Cobar on that side of the creek than somebody in Cobar 25 kilometres away. We ought to be able to adjust the method according to what's required for the individuals to do the best job they can in meeting the objects of the Act.

So we're proposing a proponent-led initiative, a triage process; goes through process certificates, past the first hurdle, and that eventually the integrity committee would look at it, approve it, hand it onto the administrator or the Minister would make it a method under the legislation. It goes onto the Regulator and the Regulator then monitors, evaluates, assesses, and feeds back information so that the next time around we can do it even better. So breaking some of the barriers but at the same time making the independence clear we think is an important part of it. 

And, finally, we had very good input from some First Nations people, largely in northern Australia. One of our - some of our most engaged interactions with participants was with a group from representing largely northern Australia and we think that the amount of knowledge that they had, the amount of knowledge they have, as well as their activities, the co-benefits accompany their involvement in the program, really does mean that there are a number of issues that should be rectified. One is that we don't think there should be conditional registration of project areas without free prior and informed consent, and that's happened and it's delayed activity for too long and we don't think that's sensible. But it is also sensible to make sure that there's adequate representation for First Nations people with tremendous expertise and knowledge in the various structural parts of the program. 

So our aim basically was to look ahead; we didn't review projects, we weren't asked to review projects. We look ahead, we say that if you were starting today knowing nothing about this at all, you might have done what was done in 2011 but if you're starting today in 2022 knowing what was done in 2011 and has followed through for the last 11, 12, years, 10 years or so, then you would make some of these changes just to make it better, give it more robust, more appearance of being separated, an assurance of regulator, all of those things would make the scheme better, and that's important because the scheme is important for Australia to be able to do what it has to do to mitigate the worst effects of anthropogenic climate change and getting greenhouse gases out of the way. Thank you.

CHRIS BOWEN: Thank you very much, Ian. Had some assistance from a bilby towards the end there. We'll take questions on the report. 

JOURNALIST: Minister, one issue in the report, it seems to suggest that the system is okay, despite what the critics have raised - avoided deforestation ends, there's a buffer suggested to be introduced and also change the baselines for the existing, say, HIR projects. Given those caveats, it does seem like there are concerns about the integrity of the ACCUs already issued and given these projects will keep doing, keep issuing for some years to come, doesn't that undermine, if you like, the credibility of the market until those methods improve?

CHRIS BOWEN: No, I mean Ian might care to add, but, no, Peter, because this entire review was set up to restore confidence in the ACCU market and I think the work that Professor Chubb and his panel have done, achieves that. They have suggested real and material improvements on two of those methods, landfill gas and human-induced regeneration, and the ceasing, in effect, the ceasing of the avoided deforestation, in effect.

What the panel finds is that ACCUs are fundamentally sound but after 11 years of operation, needs improvement in review. That's particularly unsurprising.

As I said at the outset, I don't think Ian set out to please everyone and there will be some who has gone too far and some who say they've not gone far enough. But they've got not only the balance right but they find a rigorous process based on all the evidence.

I mean, ACCUs cannot replace real emissions reduction at the coal face. But it must be additional to that, and we're here at Taronga Zoo because, in part, the team that Cameron's leading is developing a project of 5,000 hectares of rewilding and reforestation for koala habitat which will also be funded and supported by ACCUs. Wouldn't happen without ACCUs. So we're not going to throw the whole system out. We are going to make sure the system is fit for purpose and particularly, as Ian's pointed out, none of these methods come to a natural end anyway. I think the most important part of these recommendations is the integrity and the architectural change for best practice going forward. Have I missed anything, Ian?

PROFESSOR IAN CHUBB: No, you've got it all. 

JOURNALIST: Actually, if I ask Professor Chubb, the report so far we've seen doesn't have a lot of the evidence that you base your recommendations on. So, for example, the Academy of Science did raise significant questions about the value, if you like, of some of the regeneration projects which didn't have necessarily human components, they changed with rainfall. It doesn't seem like the report addresses those and, specifically, for instance, Professor McIntosh, I think he raised concerns that 92 projects in New South Wales, 73 in Queensland, have received 24 million of these credits even though the total forest cover in these areas actually retreated by, you know, many thousands of acres, or hectares. Does that not raise questions then about, like, why aren't those points of evidence, if you like, addressed in the report?

PROFESSOR IAN CHUBB: Well, there are a number of reasons. One is that the Academy of Science also make the point that the science underpinning is sound, proper, appropriate, and I think that's important, and there are issues at the edges that really we are now proposing these changes to take account of and likewise with Professor McIntosh. It was also true that the ERAC in 2019 issued a report that said the methods met the integrity standards in 2019 and that is continuing and there is no reason to assume that they don't at the moment. 

So the evidence, I think, and the evidence on the other side of the argument is almost as strong. So the point that we were - where we were was in the middle and saying, look, we've got this view here, that view there, where do we actually think this should sit? And when you're driven by the notion of the Act, the requirements of the Act, and the necessity to do this sort of work in Australia, too, as it has been done elsewhere in the world, then we think we came up with the best solution looking forward. We have no reason to believe that there are substantial numbers of ACCUs not credible at the moment. 

JOURNALIST: Professor, you said the land sector will have to do the majority of the work. Do you have a figure in mind of how many projects, how many years, how much space has been revitalised or changed to get to the goal here?

PROFESSOR IAN CHUBB: Well, the balance is always going to be tricky because they've got to be - it's got to be done where forests can grow, all plants can grow. The competition between that and food is always going to be substantial. So I have in my mind no target. I just believe that we can't actually throw out the opportunity to encourage landholders to make good use of their land, to help achieve an objective that's good for the living systems of the planet and that's actually pulling greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere and providing some of that for offsets for emitters who are cutting emissions, as the Minister said, because it's critical they do. There is no - there is no argument at all that emissions should not be cut. The point is that there will be some that aren't cut to zero because we want what they provide, whatever that may be. I don't know what it will be in 2050 but we want what they provide, so there are offsets. But the nub of this is how do we pull greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere?

The IPCC has argued that by 2100 we should have pulled 1,000 gigatonnes out of the atmosphere. That's a lot. And it's going to take multiple policies to do it and multiple technologies to do it. At the moment we've got one that we can deploy to scale. The size of that scale I can't tell you. The CSIRO has done a report which looks at the potential and the possibility and it's more than we presently do. 

JOURNALIST: Minister, one of the early recommendations is to make the program more accessible to people. How do you do that? How does the average person or the average business be able to access this scheme to understand what it's all about because it's so complex they need to action something that will help?

CHRIS BOWEN: I think, Charles, that the panel's recommendation is going bring the sunlight in as much as is humanly possible. As Ian said, there will always be some commercial [indistinct] on this but the default position should be if there's data then it should be publicly available so that will require some legislative change but we'll steer that through the Parliament. But we will seek to do as much of that as quickly as possible as we can. 

In relation to – now this is your question about how people are going to - this is a complicated area, as is evidenced by the substantial report, the detail that Ian went into, and, you know, we're not going to ask people to sit an exam on it. But what we are trying to do is ensure that there is confidence [indistinct] - that when people hear about ACCUs and carbon trading, it's not some replacement for real emissions reduction by a factory or by a mine, but it is additional to ensure that we really get to net zero and real net zero as quickly as possible and ACCUs and carbon trade will be a very important part of that. 

JOURNALIST: Minister, how concerned are you about a lack of public confidence in the carbon credit system?

CHRIS BOWEN: I have been very concerned hence we committed to set up this review. I'm concerned about two elements, really. I want to ensure that ACCUs are working properly and I want to ensure that Australians can have confidence that they're working properly. It needs to work and it needs to be seen to be working. That's why I think the recommendations of the panel is so important and will be implemented by the government with alacrity. 

JOURNALIST: Given the allegations of fraud at this system in the past, do you think these recommendations go far enough?

CHRIS BOWEN: Yes, I make it very clear. This has been an independent review. I made it clear to Ian at the beginning whatever he recommended, would receive my support. If he recommended throwing the whole scheme out and starting again we would do that. If he recommended minimal change, we would do that. You have an independent review for a reason. You appoint people with whom you have confidence and I cannot think of more eminent, respected and qualified Australians to do this job that one of Australia's leading scientists, supported by a retired Federal Court judge, Dr Bennett, an expert in agricultural environmental economics, Dr Hatfield-Dodds, and somebody who has been very involved in this field as well, Ms Gorring. A wide range of experience and support. 

I understand people will go through this report and they will say I don't agree with that bit, I don't agree with this bit, I do agree with that bit. That's fine. That's understandable. But you give a panel a job and then you give them the tools to do that job and then you get on with the job of implementing the report. This has been a totally thorough independent and exhaustive process. 

JOURNALIST: When it comes to, I suppose, putting these recommendations into action, is there a timeline that the government has in mind?

CHRIS BOWEN: As I said, some are effectively immediately, in effect, no new ACCUs will be issued under the deforestation method, for example. So where we can, we will. Other matters require legislation. Obviously the Parliament won't be sitting for some time and it takes some time to write the legislation and go off to the parliamentary committees. But as quickly as is feasible we will get on with that and there are some budgetary implications when you have a full-time chair, obviously, but I will take that through the budget. But it will be done and we will get on with the job. 

JOURNALIST: So, Minister, one test from this will be if there are, like, credits that are not actually delivering actual abatement, the price of future projects, the ACCUs will go up and this is something that the report actually mentioned, there's some concern about the price rising. But is it your sense that after this ACCUs are actually going to have to be more expensive because the cheaper ones, which may not be delivering, are weeded out?

CHRIS BOWEN: I'm not going to start speculating about ACCU prices. That would be ill-advised. This is one element. I want ACCUs working and whatever impact that has on cost that will be the impact it has on cost. It's not the only factor, though. I mean I've seen ACCU prices move around in recent months in response to the government's seriousness in relation to taking this on and the response of the seriousness, the market recognising the seriousness. There will also be implications from our safeguard design, which is - which will - I will be releasing imminently. So there will be a whole range of factors but I'm not going to start predicting prices, Peter. 

JOURNALIST: You've got the committee, like Carbon Abatement Integrity Committee, you've got six months - they will be trialled and I guess you will decide whether it's going to be an authority. If this committee actually finds that, say, the methods need closer examination, more evidence, and so on, do need refinement, given that that underpins the importance of the sector mechanism, you're going to release maybe tomorrow, is there some provision that you actually maybe should delay or hold back the introduction of these sorts of policies until you nail down –

CHRIS BOWEN: Which policies? Safeguards?

JOURNALIST: The safeguards methods.

CHRIS BOWEN: We are not going to get do 23% by 2030 if we start delaying important projects like  the safeguards reforms. We've wasted a decade, we're not now wasting a day. We're getting on with the job, we are implementing this report. Some people pointed out to me that it was sensible to see Chubb and safeguards be developed in parallel. I have accepted that. That's exactly what we're doing, releasing the Chubb Review today and responding. Safeguards, detail design imminent. But if you want to argue that we should delay safeguards to, you know, 12 months or 18 months’ time, not, because having wasted a decade, if we start delaying safeguards, we will not get to 43% emissions reduction by 2030. Question at the back. 

JOURNALIST: Just on another issue, on the voice –

CHRIS BOWEN: Come to that in a moment, mate? I want to exhaust questions on the review and then you will be the first cab off the rank. 

JOURNALIST: Professor Chubb indicated there is still a struggle between agriculture, food production and carbon farming and reducing emissions. Is that one that can be negotiated or are we going to have to sacrifice some of our food production in order to reduce emissions?

CHRIS BOWEN: No, I don't see it that way. I mean, we want carbon credits to work for farmers. You know, you there are many farmers to ensure, and we've seen some of them, where there's carbon credits working right alongside food production and farm production. We can do it all. Obviously we need to ensure the ongoing vibrancy of Australia's agricultural sector, it's very important to the government's agenda. We want carbon credits working to create jobs and investment, right across the board including agricultural Australia. 

PROFESSOR IAN CHUBB: I just add to that that a landholding isn't all about carbon farming. So, yes, we did see in Cobar, a carbon estimation area that was fenced off, the field gates were kept out, the other field animals were kept out, alongside fields of wheat, I think it was wheat, I might have got the plant wrong but anyway, plants for food. And the carbon estimation area can be as small as 0.2 hectare. So some farms have multiple 0.2 hectares dotted around where they protect that, protect that, protect that. Some had bigger carbon estimation areas but I don't know whether there's one landholding that is entirely handed over to carbon farming. So it's a balance and it will be a balance that can be struck and there is a role for the minister for agriculture in the present arrangements, too. So it can be done and it can be done because we've got to do both. 

CHRIS BOWEN: Any other questions on the report?

JOURNALIST: Transparency seems to be the key recommendation of the review. Will the government prioritise releasing the information?

CHRIS BOWEN: Yes, yes. I mean, as soon as all the necessary legislative changes have been made or any changes which we can do without legislation I will take departmental advice on that, obviously, going forward. But my default position will be: if it can be done quickly, it will be done quickly. Whatever changes are necessary, the implement of the recommendations of the report will be done as quickly as is possible and prudent. 

JOURNALIST: Will the government address the governance issues raised in the review and if so, how?

CHRIS BOWEN: Yes, I've accepted all the recommendations in principle and in full, and where it's in principle it's simply because of required parliamentary scrutiny and process. 

JOURNALIST: With the committee deciding like what the particular integrity issues are, it will still be down to the Climate Change Authority to decide whether that body becomes a more formal, like an authority independent name and individuals, for example, with, perhaps, let's say Andrew McIntosh whether he make it onto the board?

CHRIS BOWEN: There was for a while, but yes. 

JOURNALIST: - he was on the ERAC, so maybe there is a chance - well, we'll see whether he comes back. But in terms of the Climate Change Authority deciding whether this becomes an authority, do you have a preference at this point?

CHRIS BOWEN: I think the panel's recommended that we see how an independent committee goes for six months and then we consider whether it should be a statutory authority after that. I'm accepting that recommendation, I'm not going to start pre-empting or second guessing, we're accepting that to its letter. That means we'll see how it goes for six months and then we consider.

JOURNALIST: So how will the government restore public trust in the scheme?

CHRIS BOWEN: By implementing the recommendations. 

JOURNALIST: And just, though, Professor Chubb, what's the primary change that needs to be made to instil confidence in the system from your view?

PROFESSOR IAN CHUBB: Well, there are all the ones that we recommended, basically. Every recommendation goes to helping facilitate and restore confidence in one form or another to one part or another. The key one is transparency, obviously. We've got lots of comments about the lack of transparency and how complicated that made critiquing the scheme from third parties. And Professor McIntosh, as mentioned, one of his criticisms was based on that, or at least the rebuttal of the criticism was based on that. So we think transparency is critically important. 

But I also believe that Carbon Abatement Integrity Committee is important, giving it a full-time chair, giving it independence. Soo presently the ERAC is separate, but its secretariat is supported by the regulator and that seemed to us not to be sensible, so separate them both and make it freestanding. Then the question is does it have the clout that it needs to operate as a committee or should it be a statutory authority and that's something for review after six months, see how it goes. 

Members of the ERAC who we spoke to did comment on the fact that some of their difficulties were getting information at the right time in a timely way, having to wait to see what they got from other sources. They didn't have that independence that was necessary, so that's important. And I think it's important to actually make it proponent-led. It's too inflexible at the moment. You can argue certainly, and it was argued that it's too inflexible. So if you give individuals who know that they want to avoid deforestation so they develop a new method with a new system, perfect. Good for biodiversity, good for the planet, good for all of those sort of things. 

So it was introducing that and saying if you've got an idea that fits broadly under this umbrella, human-induced, avoided [indistinct], whatever, but your particular circumstances require this adjustment, then you can do it provided it meets the criteria, provided it's got the evidence, provided it's got all of the issues that would be necessary to get it approved. The Minister then approves it and away they go. So I think those are three important things. But I think they're all related to it. 

First Nations, particularly important, in our view. All of the Savannah burning which is going on, there's significantly First Nations. But the knowledge they have about protecting the country is underutilised. So bringing that in more formally and respectfully is an important part, too. So I nominate all 16 but there are two or three -

JOURNALIST: Just a question from me, can I ask - during the actual hearing, one of your panellists, Ms Bennett, was, and she is an active in the investment side of the carbon markets, did apparently, according to statutory declarations, say at an event that the carbon market wouldn't effectively be changed by any results of the report. The concerns being that having somebody who had a vested interest, if you like, providing that sort of information to public, did you raise that with her.

PROFESSOR IAN CHUBB: Of course. Of course we did. We raised all the other issues, too, that were raised by the individuals outside tossing a rock at the glasshouse. She didn't say that. She said allegedly, that the ACCUs might become a good investment vehicle and when somebody said, "Aren't they dodgy?" She said, "There's a review on at the moment, let's wait and see." She said she acknowledges the second bit. She doesn't acknowledge the first bit. I've read the statutory declaration. Senator Pocock sent it to me, redacted, of course, and I'm grateful that he sent it to me. It was appropriate that he did. 

So we manage conflict with interest. We had to have people with knowledge. We had to have people who were active on the committee. We had two who knew very little, Annabelle Bennett, and me, because we could interrogate the two who did as well as all the others who made submissions and so on. So it worked very effectively as a committee but her particular comment she does not recall saying that ACCUs would be a good investment vehicle. But even if she did, so what? What does that actually mean? She wasn't accused of saying the investment vehicle that she manages in Sydney Airports, Newcastle docks, big things. Not hundred thousand ACCUs on a landholding west of Bourke. 

So it's a sort of - I was unimpressed by it, as you can tell. I just thought it was a distraction. It took a lot of time in the secretariat and it achieved little because it didn't actually say - she wasn't saying go out there and buy it, go out there and ignore the review, I'm on the review but don't worry about it. She didn't say any of that. 

JOURNALIST: There were some people throwing rocks, as you say. You did meet some of them. One of them apparently you didn't meet was Professor - sorry, a lecturer at University of Queensland whose research had raised doubts about the effectiveness of the Mulga reforestation, human-induced regeneration projects in inland Australia which actually make up kind of the largest single chunk. Is there any reason you didn't meet him?


JOURNALIST: Didn't meet him. 

PROFESSOR IAN CHUBB: No, we couldn't meet everybody who wrote to us. 

JOURNALIST: But he's the national and probably international expert in these issues?

PROFESSOR IAN CHUBB: So he wrote a brilliant piece. I mean if they wrote a good piece with evidence, compellingly strong, we didn't need to meet them. We did some. We had a limited time. We got 200 with multiple authors on many, indeed multiple signature of an individual on several. But we met with the ones where we thought a face-to-face would add value to their written submission and some did and some didn't need that and if they were, you know, idiosyncratic I'm not saying his was, but if they were, then we didn't meet them and we didn't have enough time just to get into the interstices of the possible spaces. 

CHRIS BOWEN: Might take one more question on the review because I know there are other questions journalists want to get to. 

JOURNALIST: Professor, there will likely be those who say the changes that you recommended don't go far enough hence the scheme is more broken than you suggested. What do you say to that criticism?

PROFESSOR IAN CHUBB: They're wrong. 


PROFESSOR IAN CHUBB: They are. It does go a fair way. It does go a fair way to meeting intrinsic criticisms and it's not as broken as has been suggested. That was not in our finding. Our finding was it was basically sound with all of the safeguards, the checks, the reviews, and all of the things that go along that is basically sound and, of course, you've got a human design process implemented by human beings that will be a bit frayed at the edges. [Indistinct] I don't know but they're not so large that you would toss it out and stop doing all the good things that are happening because of that. You try to fix them up so that they can't occur or occur with much more difficulty because at the core there are people doing good things, the right things, and trying hard to get the best possible policy implemented as they can and I think they should be supported. That was our view and I would argue that's the majority. 

CHRIS BOWEN: Okay, might invite Ian and Cameron just to stand aside while we deal with political matters of the day. Questions? We did have a question at the back but he seems to have gone out to attend to a matter. 

JOURNALIST: I assume that was Peter regarding the Voice - the lack of specificity on the question. [Indistinct]. 

CHRIS BOWEN: I do. You know, this year is a really important year for Australia. It can and will be historic year where we can finally give our First People who are suffering still, after whatever century since the constitution was written, massive disadvantage and inequality, a Voice to their parliament. It was six years ago now that the Uluru Statement From the Heart was sent to our Parliament and it was ignored for the better part of those six years. It's not being ignored for a day longer. 

Now in relation to the Opposition, Mr Dutton, he has a choice. The Prime Minister has made it very clear he wants to engage with Australians in good faith from all walks of life, whether they are the Leader of the Opposition or anybody else. This time, done. What doesn't get it done is cheap stunts. The old, cheapest stunt in the book, writing a letter to journalists and then sending it to the person whose name is on the top. You've all seen that trick played. Mr Dutton played it on the weekend. That is not constitutional leadership. That is cheap, old-fashioned stuntery. If he wants to play that sort of game, he can. 

The Prime Minister is leading a national conversation and discussion to lead to an outcome to put our First Nations people rightly at the heart of our constitution. If Peter Dutton doesn't want to engage in good faith, he's got the Prime Minister's phone number. The Prime Minister's met with him on multiple occasions. There's a way to have these conversations. What you don't do is send it to newspapers and then send it to the Prime Minister as a stunt. Peter Dutton walked out on the apology to the Stolen Generations. He can walk out on this as well, on The Voice, or he can engage in good faith. What we've seen so far is not good faith. 

JOURNALIST: Minister, just on those acquisitions –

CHRIS BOWEN: Stepped out mate, I was going to take you first.

JOURNALIST: Sorry. Had to file for the midday news. 

CHRIS BOWEN: All good. 

JOURNALIST: Just on those accusations, though, the government is, you know, treating this politically by not releasing information, are you trying to avoid the mistakes that were made in say the Republic referendum, for example, where there was too much information?

CHRIS BOWEN: Let's just take this in a couple of lines. Firstly, the former Minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt, has made it clear, he went to Cabinet twice with detailed plans. Peter Dutton sat around that Cabinet. He knows the details. They're on the website. It's the Calma/Langton report as to how the Voice would operate. So that's the first point. Anybody who says there's not enough detail I would invite them to go and read the Calma/Langton report. I'm sure Peter Dutton has because he sat around the Cabinet table as Ken Wyatt went to the Cabinet with those plans, first point. 

Secondly, what we are asking the Australian people for is an in-principle decision to bring our First Nations people into the Constitution. That's about what's in here for our nation. It's a statement from the heart to the Australian people. 

Now, this idea that somehow you can't ask the Australian people that question without laying out every element of how it will work. I mean when we asked Australians in all the colonies to come together and vote on whether we should become one country, that was the question. It wasn't detailed - laid out about how every piece of legislation would work, it was a question to the Australian people - do you want to be a nation? Now we're asking the Australian people do you want to bring First Nations people in and give them a Voice to their parliament so we can tackle the inequalities and the inequities that still bedevil our country in 2023? The government says yes. I'm very confident the Australian people will say yes. There's a long way to go, a lot more conversation to have, that conversation is for people of good faith and good will, not for political stunts. 

JOURNALIST: But on that Calma/Langton report which you mentioned, there's been a lot of talk - is that the favoured model for the government?

CHRIS BOWEN: Well, it's the key model going forward and Marcia Langton has made it clear, for example, but that work will continue and there's been more details laid before the Australian people. Linda Burney has made that point, too. If Peter Dutton wants a sensible conversation about how that rolls out for the Prime Minister - he knows where the Prime Minister's office is, he's got his phone number, he can talk those issues through, you can meet if you like. What you don't do is send an email off to Sunday newspapers and then send it to the Prime Minister and say this is a letter that I've just released to the newspapers. That is not good faith. That is not leadership. As I said, Peter Dutton's shown bad faith in the past. He walked out on the apology to the stolen generations, I invite him not to walk out on the Voice. 

JOURNALIST: The storming of the capital in Brazil in the last few hours, on a small level has there been any concerns for Australians that are in Brazil at the moment, and secondly, your thoughts on the whole situation?

CHRIS BOWEN: In relation to Australians I'm sure the Foreign Minister and the embassy and the consulate staff are providing every support to any Australians in Brazil and indeed making inquiries as to the need to provide any support and I guess it reminds all of us who increasingly are going to travel that it's important to let, to let the Australian authorities know when you are going to a country where there might be an issue. 

In relation to the more general issue, the people of Brazil spoke, democracy worked. And you can't pick and choose when you live in a democracy. You accept the results. That's what makes democracies so special. It was under attack in the United States two years ago almost to the day. I know Australians will come together to support Brazilians in ensuring that their democratic will is respected and there is no place in any country that wants to be regarded as a serious nation and a democracy for what we're seeing on the streets of Brazil overnight. 

JOURNALIST: Can I ask about the Broome floods and the Kimberley? Do you see that it looks like maybe a record flood, certainly in that region, one of the biggest Australia's ever seen. Do you see it as a climate change footprint behind that or fingerprint in terms of increasing the likelihood of these kinds of disasters in the future?

CHRIS BOWEN: In relation to the floods themselves I know Minister White is on the ground in Broome so I leave him to comment on any details. He's much better placed to do it because he's there. 

In relation to natural disasters and climate change, yes, Peter, absolutely there's a link. Natural disasters are increasingly frequent, more intense, and natural disasters are increasingly less natural. They're less natural because they're caused by human-induced climate change. I mean this is a statement of scientific fact. Now, is one particular flood or one particular bushfire the direct result of climate change? That claim is not what I'm making. I am making statement as a matter of fact that natural disasters in, including floods, I mean here in New South Wales and in other States we've lived through this many recent months. Floods that were once regarded as once in 100 years or more are happening once every 10 years or less. That is not a coincidence. Climate change increases the amount of precipitation and increases the amount of flooding. Statement of fact, and unless we're going to engage in, you know, continuing ten years of denial, we have to acknowledge that and recognise it as a country. 

JOURNALIST: Minister, firstly apologies for being late. And, secondly, just on migration, skilled migration, I think it Business Council have come out and said we need to look at increasing migration. Two things. Firstly, your portfolio, of course, with jobs for Australians, but is it worth looking at bringing more people in in terms of your portfolio in energy but then more broadly do we look at raising a number? 

CHRIS BOWEN: A rise in energy we have a big task to ensure that we have a work force capable of the big transformation under way. There was a time when the politicians told Australians that action on climate change cost jobs and some of them still choose to do that. That was always a lie alive, it's never been more a lie than today because it creates jobs. Action on climate change will create hundreds of thousands of jobs. Even looking at energy efficiency and potential retrofitting in existing homes, it's highly labour-intensive and we need people to do that work and we need skills. Our first priority is training Australians to do that job. That's a why we have 10,000 new energy apprentices which has come into force this year for example, there was a key point in our jobs and skills summit held last year, how do we train people for this massive economic transformation. 

So our first priority is ensuring that Australians have the skills and the qualifications to participate in this massive transformation especially those Australians at the front line who have been trading energy for generations. If you created energy in traditional ways you can create energy in the new renewable economy and we're going to ensure that those Australians have a real opportunity for the jobs of the future. 

Secondly, of course sometimes there's always a role for properly designed, skilled immigration projects but that work will continue under the leadership of the Home Affairs Minister and the Immigration Minister, all the necessary work and Minister O'Neil and Minister Giles made it clear that post-pandemic and the inevitable impact on immigration will be appropriate reviews and work to ensure that the settings are right going forward. 

But, yes, we're going to need thousands of workers for energy. We've gone so long the batteries have gone out in the lights. We run an open and transparent government. Of course that work will continue. Any other questions? We've had a good go. Thanks for coming out, guys.