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Media Release
Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage
The Hon Dr David Kemp, MP

20 May 2002

Labor Wrong Again - No Cuts to Natural Heritage Trust

Kelvin Thomson continues to make mistakes in his reading of the Budget documents - a sad reflection on his previous job as Shadow Assistant Treasurer. No wonder Labor can't be trusted to manage a Budget.

There are NO cuts to the Natural Heritage Trust.

The Natural Heritage Trust is Australia's largest ever environment programme, with some $2.7 billion committed to restore and protect our natural environment.

The Government remains fully committed to the Trust. By 30 June the entire $1.3 billion originally committed will have been spent on Trust programmes. A further $1.4 billion will be spent over the next five years, bringing the Government's total investment in this most important venture to $2.7 billion. There has not been, and will not be, a reduction to Trust funding.

There has been no retrospective adjustment to spending from the Trust, as Kelvin Thomson is claiming today. In 2000-01 $395m was available for Trust projects. As is made clear in the footnotes to last year's Budget document, this figure reflects the "estimates proposed to the Trust Ministerial Board for approval". Actual expenditure was $284m, as reported in this year's Budget documents.

There are a number of reasons for the variation including that approved spending is often spread over a number of years, some projects do not continue to completion and seasonal factors impact on milestones. It is incorrect to assume that annual Trust expenditure will equal the amount approved by the Trust Board in any one year, as expenditure patterns will vary according to the nature of each project.

For example, in 2000-01 a scheme was approved to address the serious air pollution problem in Launceston, with over $2m committed to assist replacement of older polluting woodheaters. Expenditure on this scheme will be spread over two years, with the takeup rate increasing in the later years.

Other factors, like the weather, will also impact on when expenditure actually happens. For example:

Perhaps Kelvin Thomson and Simon Crean think a Federal Environment Minister can dictate the weather? Or do they think tree-planting programmes should have gone ahead in drought-stricken regions, even though the seedlings would have died?

Instead of taking cheap, muddled pot-shots, Simon Crean and Kelvin Thomson would serve the Australian environment better if they started persuading their Labor mates in NSW and Queensland to do something about the high rates of tree-clearing in those states which are putting more of Australia's farmland at risk of salinity poisoning.

Media contact:
Catherine Job (02) 6277 7640 or 0408 648 400

Commonwealth of Australia