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Wooden spoon for underspending to go to environmental programs.

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KELVIN THOMSON Media Release from the Shadow Minister for Sustainability & Environment Tuesday, 13 May 2003


John Howard’s two flagship environmental programs, the National Action Plan on Salinity and Water Quality, and the Natural Heritage Trust, are set to win the Wooden Spoon for Underspending in tonight’s Budget.

Ever since establishing the National Action Plan on Salinity and Water Quality, the Government has spent less than half the money it promises it will spend on Budget night.

In 2000-2001, only $1.7m was spent of the $5.0m the Government allocated, and in 2001-2002 only $30.6m was spent of the $65.0m allocated.

As at 3 March this year the Government had only spent $15.5m of $100.7m allocated for 2002-2003, and it is clearly set to spend less than half the money this year again.

As of 3 March only $35m had been spent on the NAP since its inception

If the Government’s original timetable had been adhered to we’d have spent $215m by now - six times as much!

The other prize contender is the Natural Heritage Trust, set up with proceeds from selling off Telstra.

The last 3 Budgets have shown underspending on the Natural Heritage Trust has been on average $100m per year.

This year it’s even worse.

Last year Minister Kemp trumpeted $250m for the Natural Heritage Trust. In fact it is likely to have spent just $80m on the NHT proper and around $20m on the Envirofund. This represents an underspend of some $150m.

Underspending does not come from lack of worthwhile projects - it comes from lack of political commitment.

The Government wound up the NHT Murray-Darling Basin program this year - saving itself $35m - and yet the Murray River is on life support, and needs concerted national government leadership to save it.

Underspending is simply a disguised funding cut, one which the Government lacks the honesty and integrity to admit up front.

Each year Minister Kemp claims to have increased expenditure on the environment - then he simply fails to spend the money.

Note: An Environment Budget Kit to assist with interpreting the Budget is available on request

For Further Information: Kelvin Thomson MP Phone: 02 6277 4633 Mobile: 0419 594882 Gavan O’Neill Phone: 02 6277 4632 Mobile: 0417 118146