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Fund may make environment reliant on charity

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Senator Meg Lees


Australian Democrats Deputy Leader and Environment Spokesperson


BINGO nights for bilbies and lamington drives for Leadbeatter's possum could be the legacy of the Coalition's Natural Heritage Trust Fund, the Australian Democrats fear, unless there is significant new funding announced in the budget.

It seems that if the Trust plan were to go ahead it would be asked to support a much larger range of projects - such as endangered species and rivercare - than previously indicated. These extra projects would be funded by interest earned from the Trust and donations to it from the community.

Democrats Deputy Leader and Environment Spokesperson Senator Meg Lees has asked the Environment Minister if this means vital programs such as protecting endangered species will be forced to rely on charity for any chance of survival. He did not adequately answer.

"Endangered species and rivercare projects - already in the firing line of massive funding cuts - could be decimated," Senator Lees said. "The Democrats call on the government to commit to further funding for these programs in the budget, otherwise

they will be left to rely on charity."

Senator Lees was responding to the Coalition's trust fund briefing paper, released yesterday, which said "interest earned from the trust and other non-Telstra monies invested in the trust will be able to be spent on other environmental and natural resource management projects, such as rivercare and endangered species".

"This is not a package to rescue the environment but a blatant con job which will leave important green issues with less funds and Australia's environment - cap in hand - begging for a better deal," she said.

"Full implementation of the Coalition's environment policy - based on forward estimates - means a cut of funding for environmental programs in 1996/97 of at least $88 million and further cuts of $73 million during the first two years of the Natural Heritage Trust Fund."

To arrange an interview with Senator Lees contact Kelly Westell (06) 277 3765.

Attached: The Coalition's Environment Funding Mirage.