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Wednesday, 16 June 2010
Page: 5631

Mr GARRETT (Minister for Environment Protection, Heritage and the Arts) (11:15 AM) —I am very pleased to present the 2010-11 Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts appropriations to the House of Representatives. As we emerge from recent economic challenges, the government is making provision to ensure that measures benefiting the environment also aid our long-term sustainable economic outlook. This means providing the assistance to Australians to adapt to changing environmental conditions to make sure that we engage sustainably with our limited resources. The key here is to be forward thinking and strategic, to show initiative, and to recognise and put in place both environmental and fiscal responsibility.

This budget provides funding for a range of environment, water, heritage and arts measures that will yield benefits throughout Australia. The implementation of a national waste policy, the development of a national plan for environmental information, and significant continued funding for the Australia Council are just some highlights of this investment. Along with the highlights of new measures, there are also fiscally responsible savings measures that support the government’s drive towards regaining a budget surplus.

Let me just point out some of the highlights in the appropriation bills for this portfolio. On waste, we are aware of the challenges of waste production and disposal and that they affect all Australians. But the question is: how do we stop landfills throughout Australia growing, and the costs and hazards of waste increasing? In these bills the government has committed some $23 million over five years for the implementation of the national waste policy, aimed at reducing waste and preserving resources. For the first time there is a strategic approach to deal with waste on a national level, to streamline and to coordinate a way forward to reduce waste, reduce hazards and re-use resources. It is clearly something which requires government leadership in this field, and the Rudd government is very willing to provide that leadership. We want to ensure that the management of waste in this country is done in a way which is sustainable, which ensures appropriate protection for the environment and which also provides sustainable economic opportunities for those in that particular industry.

Environmental information is another highlight of the budget. When it comes to Australia’s natural capital, governments, industries and communities all need comprehensive, trusted and timely environmental information to ensure that sound decisions are made. Put simply, we cannot effectively manage what we cannot measure, and so here we have a national plan for environmental information—a commitment of $18 million over the next four years—to build important foundations that will ensure better collection and management of our environmental knowledge. The Australian government will lead this strategy, making sure that our natural assets—our water, our soil, our ecosystems and our air quality—are adequately managed in a national context. The establishment of a system of information gathering and sharing is a visionary step in understanding how best to achieve these environmental results.

In this budget we provided ongoing funding to the Australia Council—this is a significant achievement for the arts sector—to support the creation of more opportunities for artists and arts organisations so that they continue to do the good work producing new creativity to growing audiences right around Australia. I am especially pleased that that provision of ongoing funding takes away any areas of uncertainty that might hitherto have applied to that funding. This government is strongly committed to funding our arts and cultural sector, and the funding to the Australia Council is ample demonstration of that.

Additionally, because environmental information underpins our ability to sustainably manage our oceans, this budget is providing $8.1 million in 2010-11 to finalise marine bioregional planning around Australia, providing clarity for industry and government on the impacts of human activity on the marine environment.

This government recognises that the challenges of protection of the environment are significant ones, and it takes those challenges very, very seriously. This budget provides ample evidence that this government is willing to and will continue the work that has been undertaken since we came to government to make sure that the environment is a priority, that the protection of the environment is something this government holds in the highest order and that we are able to do that not only in the programs we are delivering through Caring for our Country and the like but also in having a better understanding of the measures and the necessity to apply those measures in the future. (Time expired)