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Thursday, 16 May 2002
Page: 2369

Ms LEY (3:11 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage. Would the minister advise the House how the Australian environment will benefit from the budget brought down on Tuesday night? Is the minister aware of any alternative policies for the environment?

Dr KEMP (Minister for the Environment and Heritage) —I thank the honourable member for Farrer for her question and I acknowledge her great support for the government's magnificent rescue plan for the Murray Darling Basin. This is the greenest budget ever delivered, by the greenest government in Australian history. No government has done more to invest in putting the Australian environment on a sustainable basis. This is reflected in the fact that, in the next year, the government will be investing a record $1.8 billion in the environment, an increase of almost $200 million over the previous year.

The SPEAKER —I warn the member for Sydney!

Dr KEMP —This is a budget which delivers in full on the government's election commitments to pour another $1 billion into the Natural Heritage Trust, and the Commonwealth share of the $1.4 billion National Action Plan on Salinity and Water Quality.

I am asked if I am aware of any alternative policies. I am aware of comment on this extraordinary environmental budget by the shadow minister for the environment, who should probably be known as the shadow minister for mistakes, because he would have to be holding the record for the most incompetent series of press releases that we have ever seen. He is a former shadow assistant Treasurer and yet it appears he cannot even read the budget papers. In his press release yesterday, snuck out during question time so that it would not get examined yesterday, he said that funding for biodiversity had been cut by $67 million in the budget. In fact it has been increased by $25 million. He said that funding for national parks had been cut. In fact it has been increased by $7 million. He said that funding for the Greenhouse Office had been cut, when in fact its expenditure will increase from $95 million in the current year to $113 million next year—a 20 per cent increase.

You have to ask the question: did he get these figures wrong on purpose or was it just sheer incompetence and stupidity? He complains that the national action plan has been delayed, but who delayed the expenditure on the national action plan? It was the Labor Party governments in Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia which refused to sign up to the national action plan and put politics ahead of the environment before the federal election. It is only since the federal election that they have come good and actually started to cooperate in addressing these serious problems of salinity.

This budget is one that puts in place the strongest environmental programs ever, to put Australia on a sustainable basis. We will be spending over $103 million next year on the vital work of ensuring the sustainable use of our waterways, coasts and oceans and the protection of areas of high conservation value, including the national coastal policy which we announced during the election campaign. We will be devoting $55 million to improving air quality in our cities and towns to encourage a better environmental performance from industry and further combat pollution from motor vehicles. We will be devoting $31 million to put the Great Barrier Reef on a sustainable basis.

This budget delivers a record commitment by the Howard government. In fact, spending in the coming year will be 2½ times the level of spending on targeted environmental programs of the Labor Party in 1995-96. This budget once again confirms the government's historic commitment to placing Australia on a sustainable basis and to restoring an environment which is not just a national treasure but a global one.