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Wednesday, 17 June 2009
Page: 6401

Mr GARRETT (Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts) (10:08 AM) —I am very pleased to advise the member what is actually going on in terms of the budget. I present to the House of Representatives the 2009-10 Environment, Water, Heritage and Arts appropriations in Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2009-2010. I say very clearly that the 2009 federal budget delivers an unprecedented level of environmental support while at the same time nurturing our nation’s vital arts and culture. This is a budget that supports a sustainable Australia—sustainability for our environment and sustainability for our economy for generations to come. I want to focus on the measures that the government is delivering against the major themes: energy efficiency, water, the environment, arts and cultural heritage.

On energy efficiency, the government is assisting households, businesses and communities to lower their energy use, save money and prepare for a low-carbon future through a strategy that will be put in place to deliver a new suite of measures, substantially improving minimum standards for energy efficiency and accelerating the introduction of energy efficient products and technologies, and the government will back the strategy with $64.6 million for key actions. A $100 million National Energy Efficiency Initiative will be the next step in developing innovative, smart grid energy networks, enabling greater energy efficiency and better integration of renewable energy sources. I am pleased to note the government’s $150 million commitment to the Solar Homes and Communities Plan, providing a total of 15,000 solar panel rebates over five years, was exceeded by some fourfold to support more than 80,000 installations of solar panels through funding of more than $700 million under that plan, including $245.3 million through this budget. Following the passage of the RET legislation and the making of regulations, solar credits will be available as an upfront capital cost subsidy to all households irrespective of income, businesses and community groups to significantly expand the market for solar panels.

I also want to refer to the Energy Efficient Homes package, delivering insulation at little or no cost to up to 2.9 million homes across Australia to improve their energy efficiency and comfort.

Mr Billson interjecting

Mr GARRETT —The member asked me about green loans. There is a reshaped Green Loans Program providing for 75,000 green loans to be serviced by participating financial institutions providing advice through up to 360,000 environmental assessments. That is a significant commitment to provide the opportunity for Australians to better understand and focus on the actions that they can take to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. It will provide a critical role in driving behaviour change and, integrated with the Energy Efficient Homes package, will maximise energy savings and cost savings for households.

The security of our nation’s long-term water resources is a high priority for the government. We are tackling it head on by providing historic funding of $12.9 billion for Water for the Future, strengthening the Basin Communities Program with an investment of some $200 million in grants to basin communities and a $107 million commitment under the Small Block Irrigators Exit Grant Package, as well as investing $300 million in the southern Murray-Darling Basin to deliver more efficient irrigation systems through on-farm irrigation efficiency programs. We have also committed a further $228 million to the Adelaide desalination plant and $10 million for bioremediation and vegetation trials on the Lower Lakes. We are driving reform in the basin in a way that was never the case with the previous government, which sat on its hands for a good 12 years and did absolutely nothing. The major reforms that have been driven through the Murray-Darling Basin here are a specific consequence of the Rudd government taking this issue seriously and providing the necessary investment and public policy substance in order to do that. As I go on I would like to mention the $500 million brought forward to restore balance in the basin to accelerate the buyback of water entitlements.

I turn to the environment. In this budget, Commonwealth parks and reserves benefit from an additional $33.6 million, protecting biodiversity and supporting jobs for Indigenous Australians. An additional $36.9 million has been provided over the next two years to ensure that Australia maintains a strong presence in Antarctica, further cementing our leadership in Antarctic science and research. Another $94.7 million has been provided over seven years for the crucial role of the Bureau of Meteorology. These are all significant, substantial commitments in this budget to ensure that our environment is well protected and that we continue to give people the opportunity to lower greenhouse gas emissions.