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Wednesday, 16 June 2010
Page: 5632

Mr GARRETT (Minister for Environment Protection, Heritage and the Arts) (11:21 AM) —I thank the member for Flinders for those specific questions about microdetails of the appropriation. I would be happy to come back to him with some additional information in respect of them. I simply make the point to him that, as he would be well aware, the department has a range of activities which it undertakes which include the funding that he has identified in his question, which is central to the delivery not only of the government’s agenda but of the department’s ongoing programs and support of those programs. That is the essential component that goes to the heart of his question. As to the microdetail of that, I would be happy to come back with some more detail for him.

While I am on my feet, though, I might take the opportunity to highlight a couple of other issues in relation to the budget itself which I think are of great interest. The first of those is to point out one of the significant contributions that we are making through the provision of funding for Indigenous rangers. This is a really important program associated with the CDE reforms—in the Torres Strait, for example. I see the member for Leichhardt is here and I know he has some familiarity with these programs. Importantly, we are building on a successful Working on Country program, and providing additional significant funding, as we have since we came into government, to enable people in rural and remote communities—Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people—to build a skills base. These programs are about taking care of the country and being involved in natural resource management projects and the like. In so doing, people develop those skills necessary for not only doing that work well but also interacting with the wider community and taking up potential employment opportunities—with mining companies, with park managers, with resource managers, with the tourism industry and the like.

This is particularly important because it is a combination of environment, conservation and job creation. It is widely supported right around Australia. We are providing the funding for Indigenous rangers—including in the Torres Strait for some 21 Indigenous rangers. We are providing opportunities for people who know their country well—people who have connections with the elders in the community, who understand the culture of the community and who are able to build on those cultural connections and that knowledge—to specifically provide on-ground services for the protection of the environment in a region that they know very well. This is one part of the government’s investment that I think warrants a significant amount of attention, because it has been so successful, because it has worked, because it is popular and because it is seen by those in the communities as one of the most important and necessary components of our commitment not only to Indigenous people and their prospects and opportunities but also to protecting the environment.

The member for Flinders would be well aware in his shadow minister capacity of how important the government’s carriage of policy in relation to the Antarctic is. Here in this budget we are providing an additional $11.7 million, building on the previous funding of $58 million over the last five years, for the development and maintenance of the Australia-Antarctic Airlink. This is a significant commitment by this government to ensure that there is a timely transport node to enable the scientists and the researchers to get from Hobart to the Antarctic and back again in the summer seasons much more quickly and much more efficiently than before. Implementing this air link has been an outstanding success. There are a number of other countries who are now seeking to take up the opportunities that are on offer to travel in that way. Importantly, it is an affirmation of the leadership that we are showing in science and research in the region in relation to Antarctica. That is particularly important given that Antarctica is somewhat of a laboratory for climate change and that we have an Antarctic treaty which describes one of the purposes of the work that countries do there as ‘to seek to work together in peaceful cooperation for the whole of humanity’. I am particularly pleased that we have been able to provide the necessary support not only for the air link but more generally for the Antarctic program, something this government is profoundly committed to.