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Democrats want assurance that Howard won't privatise the environment

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Senator Meg Lees Australian Democrats Acting Parliamentary Leader

11 January. 1996 ' ; M EDIA R E L E A S E 96/19


The Australian Democrats today called for an assurance from Opposition leader John Howard that a Coalition Government would not follow the Jeff Kennett path of trying to privatise the environment.

Democrats' acting leader Senator Meg Lees said Premier Kennett's emphasis on profit­ making within government-run environmental research programmes could have disastrous consequences for protection of Victoria’s threatened species.

According to reports today, senior officers of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources haye already resigned in protest at the decision to wind back full government funding which is placing long-term government research into endangered species, land degradation and river ecology at risk.

Senator Lees said; "Problems caused by government cut-backs to resources and staffing at many National Parks in Victoria are already evident.

"Premier Kennett seems to be only interested in those parks where he can turn a buck.

"Is this what we would see encouraged across the country under a Federal Coalition Government?

"I'd like to hear some assurances from Mr Howard and the shadow environment spokesperson Senator Kemp that they won't be treating the environment as a money- spinner."

Senator Lees said the Kennett Government's "make the parks pay" approach to environmental management highlighted the need for an urgent review at federal level of threatened species management in Australia.

She said the benchmark for threatened species management remained the 1992 Democrat Threatened Species Bill, which was defeated by the combined Labor/Liberal/National Senators.

The Democrats plan to ra-introduce the Bill this year.

Senator Lees said: 'The pressure being placed on threatened species management by the Kennett approach, highlights the importance of getting a national management plan up and running."

For comment, contact: Senator Meg Lees (08) 295 8911

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