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Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage
The Hon Dr David Kemp, MP
16 May 2002
I am astounded that Kelvin Thomson is drawing attention to the fact that the ALP conspired to delay for a year the Howard Government's national rescue plan for salinity.
The seven-year, $1.4 billion dollar National Action Plan on Salinity and Water Quality has not been cut and will be delivered in full just as quickly as the Labor states allow.
Yes, the funding rollout has been delayed. The reason? Last year the Labor states refused to sign their bilateral agreements ahead of the Federal election.
WA, NSW, Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania all sat on their hands and let the Federal Government's generous offer of assistance with this vital task go begging because they didn't want to do anything that would make the Howard Government look good in an election year.
The only state to sign on and allow the money to flow was the then-Liberal-governed South Australia.
I am pleased that commonsense and the national interest has now overtaken politics and since the election Tasmania, Victoria, Queensland and NSW have all signed. The National Action Plan is now rolling out everywhere except WA.
Kelvin Thomson complains that only $30 million of this year's predicted $65 million has been spent. How does he suggest we could have spent the rest when the states wouldn't allow it? Does he think we should have stripped the Labor states of their allocations and given them all to South Australia? Kelvin's state ALP mates might have a different view.
Kelvin Thomson, Simon Crean and the federal ALP all stood silent last year while their Labor state colleagues refused to accept our help.
To complain now that the funding has been slowed is brazenly hypocritical. To blame the Howard Government is laughable.
This week's environment Budget - of $1.8 billion - is the greenest ever, by the greenest ever Federal Government in Australia. It continues the Howard Government's proud tradition of providing record levels of funding for the environment, year after year.
If Kelvin Thomson wants to help the environmental cause, I call on him to pressure his Labor colleague, Peter Beattie in Queensland, to slow down the rate of landclearing in that state before it too, faces the same tragic levels of salinity as those that afflict other parts of Australia.
Now that Queensland has signed the National Action Plan bilateral agreement, the Federal government is ready and able to assist.
Catherine Job (02) 6277 7640 or 0408 648 400