Angus accused on three fronts
Energy Minister Angus Taylor is being criticised for obfuscation and opacity on a number of important matters.
Firstly, Mr Taylor is keeping a report set to shape climate and energy policies under wraps.
Reporters have been seeking the findings of a 96-page report on emissions reductions policy compiled by an expert panel. That panel is run by former Origin Energy CEO and Business Council of Australia chair Grant King.
Freedom of information requests submitted to the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources and to the office of federal energy minister Angus Taylor have been knocked back, with the department saying the release of the report is up to the discretion of the energy minister.
The report could inform public debate and the development of energy and climate policy, but Mr Taylor is keeping it hidden. It has been speculated that this is to help calm the fears of anti-renewable energy figures in the Coalition.
The freedom of information requests - some of which were partially approved - were lodged by news outlet RenewEconomy.
The news service has analysed the shreds of detail it received, the fossil fuel industry links of the panel that wrote the report, and the potential policies changes it dictates.
Also this week, Jam Land, a company part-owned by Mr Taylor and his brother Richard, was found to have illegally poisoned critically endangered grasslands in the New South Wales Monaro region.
The federal environment department has ordered Jam Land to restore 103 hectares of native grassland but the company has not been fined.
It comes after over 3 years of investigation into the poisoning, which became even more controversial when it was revealed that Mr Taylor sought meetings with senior environment officials about the grasslands while it was under way.
After the meetings, the office of the then environment minister Josh Frydenberg sought advice about whether it could change the laws protecting the grasslands.
A senior official noted that Mr Frydenberg indicated he was “keen to see [if] he can accommodate Angus Taylor’s requests” and asked his department for a “how to guide” on changing the protection laws.
But the investigation has now concluded, finding Jam Land illegally used herbicide on up to 28.5 hectares of the critically endangered natural temperate grassland of the south eastern highlands on a property in Corrowong in NSW on or about 30 October 2016.
The company has six years to remediate the land.
In a third matter, Mr Taylor is also facing renewed calls for him to come clean on the source of documents he used attack City of Sydney lord mayor Clover Moore.
The minister has repeatedly insisted that false documentation he relied on to admonish Cr Moore for her travel-related emissions was downloaded from the Sydney city council’s website.
New evidence from NSW police says the document did not exist on the council’s website in the form used by Mr Taylor. Police say they asked to interview Mr Taylor, but instead had to deal with his lawyers. They also said that none of the IP addresses from which the actual report was downloaded from the council’s website belonged to Mr Taylor or his office.
NSW police referred the investigation to the Australian Federal Police, which chose not to proceed with a formal investigation.
Opposition leader Anthony Albanese says Mr Taylor must reveal where his office got the documents.
“He should just say where it came from. This is, quite frankly, absurd that this has gone on for so long,” he said.
“And if he won’t do it, the prime minister must make him come clean to parliament. Lying to parliament is a very serious offence. And we can’t have a circumstance whereby it is just swept away like it didn’t happen.
“You can’t have a circumstance whereby a minister simply is allowed to deliberately mislead parliament on multiple occasions and still sit there in the cabinet.”