Greg Combet at University of Sydney 2012

Staff reporters

25 March 2013 – The Prime Minister Julia Gillard today announced that the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency would be merged with the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education.

Ms Gillard also today appointed Western Australian Gary Gray to the energy and resources portfolio, a move applauded by business and the mining industry, but slammed by  Australian Greens Leader Senator Christine Milne who said Mr Gray was a climate sceptic and a former  executive of petroleum explorer Woodside.

Today’s announcements had shown the prime minister had abandoned climate change, Senator Milne said.

“Labor has now given the green light to fossil fuels while the need to address climate change goes from orange to red.

“This was the opportunity to elevate climate change to a whole of government strategic approach making sure departments as diverse as defence, energy, agriculture, trade, regional development, science and research are formulating consistent policy with a world on track to 4-6 degrees of warming.

Climate Change Minister Greg Combet said the merger of the two departments was because “detailed policy design work and legislation for the carbon price has now been completed and the carbon price is being implemented successfully.”

The Government has also established the Climate Commission as an independent and reliable source of information about the science of climate change, the Climate Change Authority to advise on emissions targets and the Clean Energy Regulator to administer the carbon price.

A significant number of DCCEE staff moved to the Clean Energy Regulator when it was established last year.

Accordingly the Government has decided that a separate Department is no longer required for this policy work. DCCEE’s climate change functions will be merged into the DIISRTE.

Climate change is an environmental problem which requires an economic solution. That is why we are merging the responsibility for climate change policy into the Department responsible for driving innovation and industry policy in our economy.

Reducing carbon pollution and transforming the economy to compete in a low carbon global economy will be key drivers of Australia’s industrial structure. Industry and innovation policy needs to reflect this imperative.

Innovation and improving energy efficiency in industry are the principal means through which Australia will reduce its carbon emissions.

Integrating key energy efficiency policies with the wider energy market reform agenda will enhance our energy productivity reforms. Accordingly DCCEE’s energy efficiency functions will be merged into the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism.

Current resourcing for climate change policy work will be maintained under these new arrangements.

Labor has introduced a comprehensive economic reform and policy package to tackle climate change by reducing carbon pollution.

We are maintaining the public service infrastructure and resources needed to continue driving and administering this reform.

The Clean Energy Regulator will remain an independent agency with responsibility for administering the carbon price, the Renewable Energy Target and other key policy measures.

The Departmental mergers will improve the connections between climate policy and economic and industry policy and between energy efficiency programs and the wider energy policy agenda.

The Association of Mining and Exploration Companies chief executive Simon Bennison told business media today that Mr Gray’s experience in the sector would be invaluable.

“Over recent years Gary has shown his understanding of many industry issues, particularly as they relate to the workforce. He is certainly capable of managing the portfolio and has an excellent rapport with industry,” he said in The Australian Financial Review

The West Australian Chamber of Minerals and Resources chief executive Reg Howard-Smith said,  “Without being too parochial, getting key political and bureaucratic figures from Canberra to understand the operating context of the WA resource sector is a challenge. Gary brings to the portfolio significant understanding of that operating environment.”