Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard has defended a decision to have the treasurer and not the environment minister answer questions on climate change in the lower house.
Ms Gillard said climate change was an economic issue and the Treasurer Wayne Swan was in the best position to field questions on the issue in the House of Representatives.
A list of the Rudd ministry, issued by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet this week, allocates “other chamber” responsibilities for the climate change and water portfolio – held by Senator Penny Wong – to Mr Swan.
Being a member of the upper house, Senator Wong will be unable to answer questions on climate change in the lower house.
Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson said it was extraordinary Environment Minister Peter Garrett would not be answering questions about climate change and showed Prime Minister Kevin Rudd lacked confidence in him.
But Ms Gillard said climate change was a core government business requiring the attention of the Treasury.
“We know it's at the centre of decision-making and the important agencies like Treasury need to be engaged if our economy is going to make the transitions it needs to deal with the challenge of climate change,” she told ABC radio today.
I think it should give people faith that a Rudd Labor government is going to deal with climate change as a mainstream business that we are expecting Wayne Swan as treasurer to be across every detail of climate change.”
Mr Garrett would answer questions in other areas of his responsibility, she said.
“We understand that addressing the threat of climate change is core government business.
“We need the Treasury working on it, we need the prime minister working on it, it's across all of government and that is our approach.”