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Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage
The Hon Dr David Kemp, MP
Question Without Notice
Thursday, 16 May 2002
My questions is addressed to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage. Would the Minister advise the House how the Australian environment will benefit from the budget brought down on Tuesday night. Is the Minister aware of any alternative policies for the environment?
I thank the honourable member for Farrer for her question and I acknowledge her great support for the government's magnificent rescue plan for the Murray Darling Basin.
This is the greenest budget ever delivered, by the greenest government in Australian history. No government has done more to invest in putting the Australian environment on a sustainable basis. This is reflected in the fact that, in the next year, the government will be investing a record $1.8 billion in the environment, an increase of almost $200 million over the previous year.
Mr Speaker, this is a budget which delivers in full on the government's election commitments to pour another $1 billion into the Natural Heritage Trust, and the Commonwealth share of the $1.4 billion National Action Plan on Salinity and Water Quality.
Mr Speaker, I am asked if I am aware of any alternative policies. I am aware of comment on this extraordinary environmental budget by the shadow minister for the environment, who should probably be known as the minister for mistakes, because he would have to be holding the record for the most incompetent series of press releases that we have ever seen. He is a former shadow assistant treasurer and yet it appears he cannot even read the budget papers. In his press release yesterday, snuck out during question time so that it would not get examined yesterday, he said that funding for biodiversity had been cut by $67 million in the budget. In fact it has been increased by $25 million. He said that funding for national parks had been cut. In fact it has been increased by $7 million. He said that funding for the Greenhouse Office had been cut, when in fact its expenditure will increase from $95 million in the current year to $113 million next year - a 20 per cent increase.
Mr Speaker you have to ask the question did he get these figures wrong on purpose or was it just sheer incompetence and stupidity. Mr speaker he complains, that the National Action Plan has been delayed, but who has delayed expenditure on the National Action Plan - it was the Labor Party government in Queensland, and New South Wales, and Western Australia, who refused to sign up to the National Action Plan and put politics ahead of the environment before the federal election. It is only since the federal election that they have come good and actually started to cooperate in addressing these serious problems of salinity.
Mr Speaker, this budget is a budget which puts in place the strongest environmental programmes ever to put Australia on a sustainable basis. We'll be spending over $103 million next year on the vital work of ensuring the sustainable use of our waterways, our coasts and oceans and the protection of areas of high conservation value including that National Coastal Policy which we announced during the election campaign. We'll be devoting $55 million to improving air quality in our cities and towns to encourage a better environmental performance of industry and further combat pollution from motor vehicles. We'll be devoting $31 million to put the Great Barrier Reef on a more sustainable basis.
Mr Speaker, this budget delivers a record commitment by the Howard Government, in fact spending in the coming year will be two and a half times the level of spending on targeted environmental programmes of the Labor Party in 1995-96. Two and a half times. Mr Speaker, this budget once again confirms the government's historic commitment to placing Australia on a sustainable basis and to restoring an environment which is not just a natural treasure but a global one.