Climate Commission to live on as privately funded body
TIM PALMER: Less than a week after the Abbott Government announced it was scrapping the Climate Commission, its former chief has announced plans to replicate the organisation using private funding.
Dr Tim Flannery, along with a number of other former climate commissioners, will now head up the Australian Climate Council.
The new Environment Minister, Greg Hunt, says all that shows is that the public shouldn't ever have been funding the Climate Commission at all.
Lucy Carter reports.
LUCY CARTER: Last week, the Environment Minister, Greg Hunt, called Tim Flannery to tell him he was out of a job. The Government said its decision to scrap the Climate Commission and the Climate Change Authority were cost-cutting measures.
Today, Dr Flannery has bounced back, announcing the creation of a privately funded body, which will include the same experts who were at the helm of the Climate Commission.
TIM FLANNERY: The Council's going to be launched this morning. We exist for one reason, and one reason alone, which is to provide the Australian public with reliable, easily understood information about climate change. We've got a huge challenge ahead of us and this is a very critical time for our nation in terms of making sure we do the right thing. And we're very much focused on making sure the public understands that.
LUCY CARTER: How's it going to be funded?
TIM FLANNERY: Well, we've just gone live. We've had our website go live. We've had our first donation from James in Perth which is $15. Over the hour from midnight to 1am this morning we raised $1,000. So things are going very well for us.
LUCY CARTER: Do you believe there is that groundswell of support to keep it going?
TIM FLANNERY: Look, the groundswell of support is so evident. I can tell you, and it comes from across the political spectrum. We're seeing, I've had emails from everyone who voted - I voted for X, but I don't want to see this happen. And it is astonishing. I just feel so heartened by it.
LUCY CARTER: One supporter of the cause is Melbourne's Cameron Neil. On Sunday evening he set up an online petition calling for a publicly funded climate authority. By early this morning he had close to 4,000 signatures.
CAMERON NEIL: I've had private emails from a number of people, you know saying that this is fantastic and, yeah, looking forward to contribute. Some people have said you know I'd only be able to contribute a small amount, like $50 or $100. And other people are up for contributing a lot more.
I'm confident that we'll see a large percentage of those that will translate to supporting the new Climate Council.
LUCY CARTER: The Head of the new Australian Climate Council, Dr Tim Flannery, says he hopes their work is taken seriously by the new Environment Minister, Greg Hunt.
TIM FLANNERY: Our Minister has probably a heavier weight upon his shoulders than almost anyone else in Australia at the moment. He's got a very difficult job to do. We want to see him succeed, and we will be supporting him through having an informed public that will hopefully make his job easier.
LUCY CARTER: The Environment Minister, Greg Hunt.
GREG HUNT: Look, I respect Mr Flannery. I talk with him from time to time, and we have a very genuinely cordial relationship. So I'll read material from everybody, all points on the spectrum. At the end of the day, the Government's primary scientific advice comes from the Bureau of Meteorology and from CSIRO.
LUCY CARTER: Mr Hunt says he welcomes the news of a privately funded climate authority.
GREG HUNT: That's how democracy should work. That if people want to invest in those with a particular view, they have a right and a freedom to do that, and our job is to make sure that we deal with the core scientific agencies, that we protect the taxpayers funds. The fact that this can be done at the private level shows that taxpayers funds were not required from the outset.
It was $580,000, which has been saved for the remainder of this year and $1.6 million a year going forwards on the advice I have. We can do things more simply. We can achieve our targets, and we can reduce the bureaucracy.
LUCY CARTER: The new Australian Climate Council will be officially launched later today.
TIM PALMER: Lucy Carter reporting.