With the trophy of world’s best minister already on Greg Hunt’s mantle, he’s declared his work done in the environment portfolio.
After almost a decade overseeing Coalition environment policy, Mr Hunt stepped aside to make way for the Liberal party rising star Josh Frydenberg.
“I feel as if my work is done,” Mr Hunt said in his first appearance as the new minister for innovation, science and industry on Wednesday.
On his self-designated list of achievements is establishing the $2.55 billion emissions reduction fund – which pays farmers and business to reduce CO2 – as Australia’s climate policy centrepiece. He also claims credit for “putting in place” the renewable energy target, which was actually a Howard government policy and was reduced on Mr Hunt’s watch.
Minister Frydenberg will take on the expanded responsibility of both environment and energy. His predecessor is certain there’s no conflict there.
“[Josh Frydenberg] spoke powerfully and with knowledge about the energy transition Australia has to face,” Mr Hunt said of their handover.
Environment groups generally welcomed the merger of energy and environment, and some believe it could signal a change in policy. Others fear appointing a “coal man” to the role could spell disaster.
Australia has been criticised both internationally and domestically for submitting one of the lowest emissions reduction targets in the developed world at last year’s United Nations climate conference. But Mr Hunt believes his environmental legacy has installed the architecture for his successor and maintains the government will meet its emissions reduction targets without jacking up power prices.
And, despite not wanting to spell out whether he asked the prime minister for his new gig, or if he could be removed from his old one, Hunt’s excitement suggests he may have.
“This is certainly one of the portfolios that I have always wanted to do,” he told reporters in Canberra.
“This is absolutely the best and most exciting role I could have had.”
Hunt brings the accolade of “best minister in the world” to his new role, after being handed the title at the World Government Summit in Dubai earlier this year. His award was met back home with a mixture of cynicism and criticism from opposition politicians and environment groups.
Original article published in the Guardian.