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Thursday, 18 September 2003
Page: 20513

Mr PROSSER (2:55 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. Would the minister advise the House of how the government, communities and volunteers are working together through Landcare for the benefit of Australia's agricultural industry and the preservation of our environmental heritage?

Mr TRUSS (Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) —I thank the honourable member for Forrest for the question. Many Landcare groups operate very successfully in his electorate and, indeed, right across Australia. The Commonwealth is supporting approximately 4,500 Landcare groups around Australia and there are about 100,000 Australians involved in the thousands of Landcare projects that are occurring around our nation. Forty per cent of farmers are involved with Landcare, and around three-quarters of farmers say that they have received advice from Landcare about the way in which they should care for their own resource base and develop improved management practices.

This government has provided around $335 million to Landcare, and that is money in addition to what is provided through the Natural Heritage Trust and the national action plan. The special thing about Landcare is the way in which it is a community driven program. It involves the mobilisation of community effort towards achieving priority local initiatives. It is a model that has attracted interest around the world; many other countries are interested in setting up Landcare-type programs.

Over the next three years, this government is committed to a further $122 million in Landcare funding. All of that is in addition to the $3 billion commitments that have been made towards the national action plan and the Natural Heritage Trust. Some of the specific projects that we will be funding under the Landcare initiative over the next 12 months include $1.5 million to support innovative and sustainable production practices, $25 million towards on the ground sustainable natural resource management activities, $700,000 to develop new drought and flood warning systems and also funding for 70 Landcare coordinators to support this network. The key element is that the Landcare movement has delivered a great deal to rural management over recent years. A current review of its activities reflects the enormous public support that Landcare has around Australia.

In the past, Landcare has enjoyed a great deal of bipartisan support. It has been therefore somewhat unfortunate to hear all the scaremongering and negative comments by the opposition about Landcare over recent times. When it comes to new natural resource management initiatives, Labor is the driest of dry gullies; there will be no initiatives coming from it. But surely it could at least enthusiastically support what Landcare is achieving throughout rural Australia.