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Media Release
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell

4 September 2004

Significant progress on land clearing under Howard Government

The Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell has welcomed the Review of progress towards the National Objectives and Targets for Biodiversity Conservation released today by the WWF and HSI.

"Amongst other encouraging signs, the review referred to the 'significant and highly important progress that has been made towards one of the key threats to biodiversity — clearing...This outcome is a significant advancement on the situation a decade ago'," Senator Campbell said.

"This is an objective, clear, scientifically-based endorsement of the Howard Coalition Government's leadership on the issue of land clearing.

"Under Labor, the annual rate of destruction of forests, the majority of which were previously undisturbed native forest, was 450,000 hectares a year. The Howard Government has completely turned that around. We have virtually abolished land clearing and habitat destruction and we are now increasing forests at the rate of 366,000 hectares a year, the majority of which is regrowth of native forests.

"The review states that 'the Australian Government is exerting influence in relation to the major threats through the national agreements particularly the integrated regional NRM (Natural Resource Management) frameworks, NAP (National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality) and NHT2 (Natural Heritage Trust) and CoAG (Council of Australian Governments) agreements'.

"It also says effective management of threatened and ecological communities will be dependent on 'landholders and community groups supported through NHT'.

"This is a major blow to Labor who has vowed to abolish the Natural Heritage Trust and replace it with a centralised environmental bureaucracy in Canberra."

Senator Campbell said while the report outlined shortfalls in meeting targets, it also acknowledged that target setting was 'inexact' and that some of the targets reviewed had constrained timeframes relative to biodiversity policy and given the ordinary pace of public policy implementation.

"We've brought the best science to this country in monitoring our environmental progress. Never again will Australians be conned by politicians trying to run empty lines like Labor's 'one billion trees'. The Howard Government has made the whole process more accountable.

"As the new Minister for the Environment I will be examining closely the findings and recommendations of the review, however we all recognise that there is no 'quick fix' to addressing the threats facing our environment," Senator Campbell said.

"We have implemented an Australia-wide approach to biodiversity conservation, tracking our biodiversity, measuring it, understanding it, saving it. This has only been possible under the leadership of the Howard Government through the Natural Heritage Trust. We built it from the ground up — before we were elected there was nothing, and this review demonstrates the progress that has been made in a relatively short space of time.

"The review concedes 'many of the statistics provided are likely to change in the near future. We acknowledge this review will be current for a short period only'.

"Given the achievements under the leadership and record environmental financial investment of the Howard Coalition Government during the past eight years, I am optimistic this will indeed prove the case and that the significant achievements made on the ground will accelerate the trend of improvement," Senator Campbell said.

Commonwealth of Australia