28 October 2022


Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek has been embarrassed today following confirmation that her portfolio has been chronically under-funded in this week’s Budget.

After the Coalition provided $2.3 billion of new money for the Environment portfolio in the Budget in March 2022, today’s Senate Estimates hearings in Canberra confirmed that Labor has provided no more than a quarter of that amount in new spending this year.

Her actions should leave no confidence that Labor will even go close to matching the Morrison Government’s investment of more than $6 billion since 2019 alone to protect Australia’s environment and oceans.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers’ Budget speech on Tuesday – and subsequent commentary from Ms Plibersek – spruiked an alleged new Labor spend of $1.8 billion on the environment.

However, it is now clear that at least $1.1 billion of that money has been pilfered straight from existing expenditure of the former Coalition Government.

In particular, Labor has claimed the Coalition’s already-budgeted $1 billion on Great Barrier Reef conservation measures as their own, and has used another $100 million of Coalition spending to underpin their supposedly ‘new’ $254 million Saving Native Species Program.

In turn, various (unreplaced) cuts have been made to other Coalition programs, rendering the level of their spending even more anaemic.

In a National Press Club speech on 19 July, Ms Plibersek railed against “brutal funding cuts” and said that “ambition is important but it’s not much good without achievement”.

Even in a media release of 25 October alone, she said that “the October Budget is a down payment on strong action” and “this Budget will protect our environment and heritage for our children and grandchildren, and for the sake of our planet”.

Back in the real world, the basic fact is that the Environment portfolio has been woefully neglected in the Albanese Government’s first Budget.

For a Minister who has talked a big game, this is a truly humiliating outcome.