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Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment

Opposition Parties Block Environmental Rescue Plan

20 August 1996

Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill says the environment is already feeling the impact of the opposition Senate parties refusal to fund the Natural Heritage Trust.

Senator Hill says the Coalition had intended to provide start up funding of up to $84 million for a range of programs under the Trust in this year's Budget.

This would have allowed programs such as the Murray Darling 2001 Project and the National Vegetation Initiative to be up and running when funds from the Trust kicked in 1997-98.

But Senator Hill says the refusal of the opposition parties in the Senate to allow a funding base for the Trust had forced the Government to hold back the funds.

"It would be fiscally irresponsible and quite pointless to allocate funds to start programs when the opposition parties are refusing the funding needed to complete the job.

"The $84 million of start up funding we had planned to spend this year from general revenue would have set up the delivery of a $1 billion package of environmental programs.

"We cannot justify spending this money while Labor, the Democrats and the Greens block funding of the $1 billion.

"This is a setback for the most comprehensive environmental rescue package ever planned by an Australian Government.

"The blame for this delay lies squarely with Labor, the Democrats and the Greens.

Senator Hill says the Government has decided to restore funding to a number of programs which had faced the axe because Labor had not provided for them in its forward estimates.

"Our aim is to do some preliminary work in preparation for the Trust. If the opposition parties come to their senses and allow funding through the sale of one-third of Telstra we will immediately consider supplementation of current allocations for the balance of 1996-97 to commence implementation of the Natural Heritage Trust programs.

"The people of Australia elected us to do a job. They want us to take action on the environment. They overwhelmingly endorsed our plan and our proposed funding base.

"We now want to get on with that massive task. We want to start spending more on the environment. It is time for the opposition parties in the Senate to listen to the people and pass the funding base for the Natural Heritage Trust."

For further comment contact Matt Brown on (06) 277 7640.

Commonwealth of Australia