PM concedes climate policies must ‘evolve’
A ROYAL Commission into the killer bushfire season is necessary, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said this morning as he left the door open to increasing Australia's emissions reduction targets.
But he said this would be done without increasing electricity bills or bringing down coal or manufacturing industries.
He also acknowledged the nation was facing "a new normal", with more severe natural disasters on the way, and he would be seeking more powers to bring in the Australian Defence Force to respond more quickly.
Australia will also need to do more for "resilience and adaptation" to the changing climate, he said.
There will be more money than the $2 billion already committed to bushfire recovery committed, despite the promise to deliver a surplus this year, Mr Morrison said in an interview with the ABC this morning.
It will be done without a disaster levy, as seen under the Gillard Government responding to the 2011 floods.
Mr Morrison said there was new "community expectation" for the Commonwealth to have a more direct role in responding to natural disasters like the fires.
He said there were constitutional issues, already "taken to the very edge", which slowed the ability to deploy the ADF.
Constitutional advice and permission from the Governor-General was required before they could be sent in to assist with the NSW and Victorian bushfires.
Mr Morrison said he would want more power to be able to deploy the ADF as needed, where the Chief of the Defence Force believe there was a "risk to life and safety".
"This is the first time the Federal Government has ever been in a position where we had to take this action," he said.
"(I want) to ensure that in if the future it can be done in a way that is more pre-emptive, we could do that more seamlessly."
For the first time he declared a Royal Commission into the disaster was necessary and he would take a proposal to Cabinet, which would "look at the full gambit of issues".
This would include the operational response to the fires, a potential new role for the Commonwealth in deployment of the ADF, acknowledgment of climate change.
Mr Morrison did not rule out increasing Australia's emissions reductions targets, currently 26-28 per cent of 2005 levels by 2030, and conceded his government's climate policies needed to "evolve".
But he said any change would be done without "shutting down traditional industries" or with new taxes.
"What I'm saying is I'm not willing to put someone's job at risk, a region town's future at risk I won't put up electricity prices to do it or put a tax on them," he said.
He said there was a new normal and Australia needed to adapt to it and build resilience.
"It isn't just restricted to bushfires. It deals with floods, with cyclones, with the drought that is affected by these broader issues. Adaptation and resilience is key to that," Mr Morrison said.