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Thursday, 17 June 2010
Page: 5837

Mr CHESTER (11:38 AM) —I want to raise the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry’s attention to the issue of Landcare funding and the decision to not proceed with the forecast expenditure, which involves an amount in excess of $10 million. The minister does continue to claim that because funding has gone up by $1 million Landcare funding has not actually been cut. I think we are splitting hairs in that regard, minister, because the feeling on the ground throughout regional Australia is that Landcare has suffered a blow in this budget. Your own budget papers indicate that Landcare is not getting the money that your government intended to give Landcare 12 months ago.

For the sake of clarity, Minister, is it true that funding for Landcare has not been increased at the level that was originally planned by your government? What is the government’s justification for making that decision in relation to Landcare and what impact do you expect that decision will have on the reduction in practical environmental work undertaken by an estimated 100,000 volunteers across Australia and by more than 4,000 Landcare groups? Does the decision to not proceed with that forecast level of spending reflect some change in the government’s position regarding Landcare? Are you focusing on a different form of community based environmental action? I would appreciate some clarity on those points from the minister on behalf of the Landcare volunteers right throughout Australia, who I believe are the great champions of our environment through their practical work.

I will just reflect for a moment, Minister. I am sure you are aware—you have been out in regional areas—that these people are bitterly disappointed. They are seeing this as some sort of diminishing of the government’s respect for the fact that they are prepared to give up their time, normally on a weekend, to get out there and get their hands dirty. These are the practical environmentalists of our nation. They are not the people writing reports; they are actually out there digging holes on a weekend, planting trees, undertaking pest animal and pest weed controls. They are the people who we really need engaged in the process. The reaction they have taken to this budget has been very negative. They believe there is some sort of diminished view of Landcare as a result of the government’s decision to not proceed with the original forecast level of expenditure.