Direct accountability for the waste crisis is the biggest win for sustainability in Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s new ministry in what is otherwise a pretty troubling line up.
Brisbane MP Trevor Evans has been appointed the assistant minister for waste reduction and environmental management, which has been met with enthusiasm from the waste management industry.
“This is the first time – Commonwealth or state and probably OECD – there’s direct ownership and accountability for recycling results at ministerial level,” Australian Council of Recyclers chief executive officer Peter Shmigel said.
“The creation of the assistant minister role is cool and really welcome innovation by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, and puts recycling up in lights as a national issue and opportunity.
“There’s so much upside here – community benefits, landfill diversion, greenhouse gas reduction and juicy regional jobs. Let’s recycle and roll, ministers!”
Director of the Boomerang Alliance of 48 groups, Jeff Angel, also welcomed the news.
“Recycling is in crisis as Asian markets reject our kerbside collections and stockpiles and landfilling grows and plastic pollution of the oceans worsens every day. The two new appointments – Trevor Evans as Australia’s first Waste Reduction Minister and Warren Entsch as Great Barrier Reef envoy – is potentially ground breaking.”
“Ensuring a minimum of 30 per cent recycled content is used for new packaging will be essential.
“There is a massive task ahead. Recognition we have major challenges is a start. The Boomerang Alliance is aiming for effective and quick action on single use plastics; and we look forward to progress on the government’s promises to support significant growth in domestic recycling capacity.”
The population, cities and urban infrastructure portfolio has been retained by Alan Tudge and moved into cabinet. There’s also now a dedicated minister for housing, the assistant treasurer Michael Sukkar, and an assistant ministry for community housing, homelessness and community services has been created, under the leadership of Luke Howarth.
Michael McCormack has remained minister for infrastructure, transport and regional development.
National president of the Australian Institute of Architects, Professor Helen Lochhead, welcomed the “focus on cities and housing as key areas that with considered policy, design and delivery can create real impact for everyday Australians”.
The Green Building Council of Australia also supported the elevation of “four major portfolios which reflect the key growth challenges facing Australia.”
“The Prime Minister has put together a cabinet and broader ministry that is carefully calibrated to tackle some of the biggest emerging challenges facing the nation,” GBCA interim chief executive officer Jonathan Cartlege said.
“From ensuring Australians have access to affordable homes, to managing the growth of our major centres and ensuring we meet our emissions reductions obligations, this ministerial line-up looks to the future and the solutions that need to be put in place now.”
Less promising is energy minister Angus Taylor’s expanded responsibilities to include emissions reduction.
He’ll have his work cut out for him, with news emerging today that Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2018 rose for a fourth year in a row according to a government submission to the United Nations.
Unfortunately, Taylor has repeatedly lied about Australia’s emissions going down despite his government’s figures showing the opposite, and in the lead up to the election cast doubt over the suitability for EVs to travel Australia’s long distances.
In a statement accepting his appointment, he claimed the government is overseeing a “record investment” of more than $25 billion in renewable energy projects to 2021, as well as Snowy 2.0 and Battery of the Nation in Tasmania.
Sussan Ley has replaced Melissa Price as environment minister.
Price is unlikely to be missed in this role, especially after she rushed to approve Adani’s groundwater management plan just before the pre-election caretaker period.
Ley – who was caught up in a travel expenses scandal that prompted her to quit as health minister in 2017 – is currently calling for an independent review of the rules around water allocations and entitlements.
In a recent statement, she said that Murray Darling Basin Plan needs to be more responsive and flexible to meet the needs of water-dependent communities, which includes short-term access to environmental water “which would have allowed farmers to finish their winter crops”.
“There is also a need to address the unfairness of conveyancing allocations, with upstream users wearing the cost of downstream delivery.
“My focus is to protect the value of irrigator’s assets and work with the state to ensure irrigators receive an allocation for this coming season,” she said.
The special envoy to the Great Barrier Reef, Queensland MP Warren Entsch, apparently doesn’t think climate change is the biggest threat facing the World Heritage site.
“We don’t need to ‘save the reef’. The reef is functioning well. There are lots of challenges. We need to continue to manage it and meet all those challenges,” he said.
According to the SBS he also took a stab at adult activists for “frightening the living hell out of kids” and encouraging them to protest on the issue.
He’s more worried about the plastics in the ocean and has vowed to legislate a national approach to reducing single-use plastics with the aim of phasing them out completely.
Liberal MP Stuart Robert will enter cabinet as the minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme in a new dedicated portfolio to reflect Morrison’s pledge to prioritise the scheme. Responsibilities for the NDIS were previously in the social services portfolio.
Ken Wyatt has become the first Indigenous person to be a member of cabinet and hold the position of minister for Indigenous Australians.
David Littleproud has been left with water and drought, and Bridget McKenzie was handed agriculture.
Former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce lost his role as special drought envoy.
Matthew Canavan is staying on as federal minister for resources and the Northern Territory.
See the full ministry list.