THE Turnbull government has appointed former National Farmers Federation head Wendy Craik and four others to the board of the Climate Change Authority for five-year terms, indicating the agency may yet be spared the axe.
The five new board members, including Ms Craik as chair, are understood to accept climate change is a serious issue to be dealt with. The Greens, though, say the board has been "stacked" with Coalition-leaning members.
Environment Minister Greg Hunt is believed to have resisted for more than a year the appointment of board members more sceptical of climate change. The appointments were in the end approved by former prime minister Tony Abbott and confirmed by his successor Malcolm Turnbull at cabinet on Tuesday.
The government has been trying to scrap the authority, which has criticised of some of its climate change policies. The authority's former chair, Bernie Fraser resigned last month and had described the government's post-2020 carbon reduction efforts - a pledge to cut 2005-level carbon emissions by 26-28 per cent by 2030 - as putting the country "at or near the bottom" of comparable countries.
The Abbott government viewed the authority as a Labor-Greens partisan body. It was forced to delay the move, however, until at least the next election following a deal with Clive Palmer's crossbench senators in exchange for scrapping the carbon tax.
The authority has funding guaranteed until the end of 2016, but the appointment of the board to five-year terms suggests a Turnbull government may be willing to grant it a longer lifeline.
Mr Hunt declined to comment other than to say each of the five new board members "is highly credible and highly credentialled".
Ms Craik, a deputy chancellor of the University of South Australia, has also served on the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, the Productivity Commission and the Murray Darling Basin Commission.
The other new board members are: Kate Carnell, the chief executive of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and a former Liberal chief minister of the ACT; Danny Price, an economist and managing director of Frontier Economics, who has advised the government on its Direct Action policies that replaced the carbon price scrapped in July 2014; John Sharp, a former Nationals politician and federal transport in John Howard's government before stepping down after questions raised over his use of ministerial travel expenses; Stuart Allinson, the chief executive of Bid Energy.
'Stacked with Coalition appointees'
Greens deputy leader Larissa Waters said the authority's board "is stacked with a majority of Coalition government appointees", and the party will watching for any interference in its work.
"I hope that with Wendy Craik's experience at the National Farmers Federation she will bring an understanding of the urgent need for action on global warming for farming communities," Senator Waters said.
"This is something the Nationals sadly don't understand as shown through their deal with Malcolm Turnbull to keep Tony Abbott's woeful climate policies in exchange for support."
However John Connor, the chief executive of the Climate Institute, welcomed the appointments.
"The new chair Wendy Craik is broadly respected and has significant experience in a range of natural resource issues and will be fully aware of the economic, social and environmental costs of climate change," Mr Connor said.
"Ultimately the importance of the CCA is not the individuals but the organisation which was designed to play an independent advisory role in pursuing climate objectives," he said, adding that his organisation hopes debate over global warming "can be less encumbered with partisan and ideological handicaps".
The remaining four board members are Melbourne University climate scientist David Karoly, former head of The Australia Institute and Greens candidate Clive Hamilton, University of Queensland economist Professor John Quiggin, and Australia's chief scientist Professor Ian Chubb.
The authority is currently working on a special review including a report on emission trading schemes due to be released in draft form by the end of November.