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Tuesday, 12 November 2002
Page: 6083

Senator TCHEN (2:58 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Forestry and Conservation, Senator Ian Macdonald. Will the minister outline to the Senate how the Howard government is supporting communities in their efforts to develop local solutions to local environmental challenges through the Australian Government Envirofund?

Senator IAN MACDONALD (Minister for Forestry and Conservation) —I am delighted to again report that the Howard government have done more for the environment than any other government in the history of Australia. In addition to funding the first stage of the Natural Heritage Trust—some $1½ billion—we announced before the last election that another billion dollars would be put into the Natural Heritage Trust. Senator Tchen, who I know is very keen on supporting, maintaining and enhancing our environment and the quality of our land and our seas, will know that the second phase of the Natural Heritage Trust is all about focusing on the regions and the catchments—focusing more on the big picture.

Senator Tchen will understand that in NHT1 a lot of the good work was done by community groups—small organisations that did a lot of magnificent things on the ground at the community level. So, in addition to the major thrust of NHT2, we as a government have decided that there should be a program to assist smaller community groups, and that is called the Australian Government Envirofund. I am delighted to tell the Senate that just last Friday Dr Kemp as Minister for the Environment and Heritage and I as Minister for Forestry and Conservation were very pleased to announce the first grants under the Australian Government Envirofund. These grants of up $30,000 will go to community groups.

At the launch in my neck of the woods in Townsville, we were able to identify some of the magnificent projects that community groups are doing right around Australia. These are ordinary groups on the ground, and I know as well that all of my colleagues were involved in the launch of this very good program. Up my way, the green sea turtle, which has been in some danger of extinction, was given a boost with a grant to a Townsville group supporting the green sea turtle. Some $8,000 was given to a local Aboriginal corporation in my home town of Ayr to fence off some Aboriginal middens and put plaques on them so that that Aboriginal heritage would be saved for posterity. Right across Australia some 1,700 projects received funding last Friday, and those 1,700 community groups will now proceed to help enhance our environment and to look after the land and water quality of our nation.

I have to say that this is a government that has done something for the environment. I remember the days when Senator Faulkner was the environment minister, and all he could do was ground truth; he did absolutely nothing. He talked a lot. Senator Richardson only used the environment to get second preferences from the Greens, but this Howard government has actually put money into it. I acknowledge Senator Hill and the magnificent work he did as environment minister—such a contrast to the previous environment minister. This is a great program.

Senator Hill —Mr President, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.