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Tuesday, 7 June 1994
Page: 1379

Senator IAN MACDONALD —My question is directed to the Minister for the Environment, Sport and Territories. Is it true that the federal government has stopped funding the wet tropics tree planting scheme, threatening 35 jobs and $1 million worth of infrastructure? Has this scheme been stopped because the federal government cannot secure matching funding for the Daintree rescue package from the Queensland government—the matching funding upon which the government's grant of $11.1 million was conditional? If this is not the reason, why was the scheme stopped in the face of promises made to timber workers at the time the government took away their jobs when the wet tropics rainforests were World Heritage listed?

Senator FAULKNER —It is true in relation to this tree planting scheme that funding of the existing program runs out on 30 June this year. I have currently involved myself in negotiations and discussions with Senator Collins in his capacity as minister for primary industries and also Minister Crean, and we are looking at a range of options to ensure that the very valuable work that is undertaken in this particular program continues in the future. I am hopeful that in the next period of time I will be able to make a public announcement as to the future of what is, I think, a very important project that operates in the Queensland wet tropics.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Why was funding stopped if it is such a valuable scheme, and why was it not included in this budget? The minister did not answer the second part of my question relating to whether one of the reasons for the lack of money was that the government did not secure the matching funding of $11.1 million from the Queensland government which this government announced with great fanfare in the budget for the Daintree rescue package. Is that the reason why there is no funding available? What is the reason why this scheme—which the minister says is a valuable one—cannot go ahead? Why did the government not get the consent of the Queensland government for that $11.1 million matching funding before it was announced in the budget?

Senator FAULKNER —The reason why this particular scheme sees its funding conclude on 30 June this year is that when it was established it was a three-year funding program. I have indicated—and I will repeat it in case Senator Macdonald did not understand what I said—that I have been involved over the past week in discussions with Minister Collins and Minister Crean to ensure that the valuable work that is undertaken by this particular project continues into the future. I hope that other ministers and I will find ourselves in a position to be able to make some announcements about that over the next couple of weeks.