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Thursday, 5 May 1994
Page: 350

Senator MARGETTS (4.09 p.m.) I would like to comment briefly on Landcare Australia's latest annual report. Page 4 states:

A review of achievements against targets shows that the bulk of objectives set for the year were achieved and costs were contained . . .

However, looking at the objectives of Landcare Australia on the previous page, I beg to differ. The organisation's objectives are mainly to create public awareness and to stimulate all Australians to develop a landcare ethic, as well as stimulate public participation in landcare activities. I believe that Landcare Australia has shown that it has played a part in stimulating awareness and heightening a broad land ethic. However, I believe it has taken a shallow approach when it comes to meeting the most important objective, which is encouraging public participation in landcare work. This means transforming any awareness generated into feelings of ecological responsibility and, hence, landcare action.

  Landcare Australia's annual report is thick on public relations material, which may be an indication of its priorities. Figures on landcare groups are further into the document, and it is clear that some states, namely, South Australia, the Northern Territory and the ACT, need far more encouragement for public participation in landcare groups. Perhaps Landcare Australia could spend more energy on this.

  It is important that companies have some mechanism of channelling funds into landcare, and Landcare Australia proudly believes that because it has tax deductibility status this is of great benefit to landcare groups. What landcare groups tell me themselves is that it would be of greater benefit if they had tax deductibility status themselves. Then corporations could donate to them directly without having to go through an administrative structure that does not give them all the funds anyway.

  I also noted from the report the number of new landcare project offices which are coordinating local landcare groups. This is another criticism the government receives when it does not devolve responsibility to the landcare groups themselves. Landcare groups feel that dispensers of funding, whether they be state or federal departments, eat up a lot of money for landcare through propping up their own organisations and employing a lot of people. My point is that when this occurs far less money gets to the people on the ground doing the landcare work. A recent review of how much more money reaches the on-ground landcare project shows that this figure is less than 10 per cent of the money originally allocated. We need to address this problem.

  There is another issue that we need to address with respect to landcare moneys. The Landcare Australia annual report talks about expending much effort into raising the awareness of city people and city landcare. Yet inherent in the way the government doles out money for landcare is a rural bias. Even the city landcare program itself has a rural bias. Although we may need to spend most of our resources in agricultural areas, there also needs to be provision for real city landcare. However, the guidelines impose the condition that to get any city funding one has to show a link with a rural project. This would be very difficult for many city projects who are finding it almost impossible to get funding out of the program.

  Not only do we need to redefine the conditions attached to funding but we need to look at when we fund these projects. Most money is delivered in the summer season, which is not useful to groups when most planting is done in winter. There also needs to be more emphasis on funding for follow-up landcare and maintenance because too much money is spent on demonstration projects.

  Debate (on motion by Senator Reid) adjourned.