29 May 2024

Secret cuts to the environment budget discovered through Senate Estimates hearings should quash any belief that the Albanese Labor Government care about delivering on the ground environmental outcomes.

Having revealed at the last Estimates Hearings in February a dishonoured commitment of $90 million from the Landcare Rangers program and deferral of its election commitment out into the never-never, the Minister for the Environment and Water, Tanya Plibersek has now been found to be a serial menace to the environment.

Despite declaring to the National Press Club in July 2022 that the thousands of environmental volunteers across Australia “just need a government that cares as much as they do,” it is clear the Albanese Government is not what they need.

As highlighted by Conservation Volunteers Australia, the decision by the Albanese Government to quietly shelve the signature $90 million Landcare Rangers election commitment is reinforced by the axing of the nation’s marine litter and environmental disaster volunteering programs, managed by Conservation Volunteers Australia – taking the management of our environment backwards. Together these programs had over 25,000 volunteers signed up between them.

This was despite the previous Coalition Government’s commitment to continue funding them as part of the $100 million Environment Restoration Fund extension announced in its final 2022-23 Federal Budget (March), but axed by the Albanese Government to fund its ‘Saving Native Species’ election commitment in its revised October 2022-23 Federal Budget.

The Shadow Minister for Emergency Management and Water, Senator Davey, who is also the Co-Chair of the Parliamentary Friends of Landcare, said she was appalled by the way the Albanese Government was killing off environmental programs by stealth.

“Minister Plibersek is acting like a feral cat in a wildlife sanctuary. She’s creeping around wiping out key organisations in the dead of night,” Senator Davey said.

“When asked today in Senate Estimates why the Government was cutting these programs we received nonsensical answers about skills shortages, deferrals and alternative funds.

“Programs like the Landcare Rangers and those managed by Conservation Volunteers Australia are the frontline of our environmental stewardship and are both locally popular and effective.

“Our environment deserves better than a Minister who is breaking promises and cutting environmental funding to on the ground volunteer organisations at the same time as bolstering the Canberra based bureaucracy.”

Shadow Environment Minister Jonno Duniam is stunned at the neglect shown to volunteer organisations by Albanese Government:

“On the one hand Tanya Plibersek is plunging millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money every year into organisations like the Environmental Defenders Office that seek to frustrate and stop important projects and is hiring thousands of extra bureaucrats in Canberra at great expense. Yet, on the other, she’s deciding to rip funding out of programs like Landcare that actually make a genuine, practical difference to local environments.”

“The uncovering of Labor’s secret axing of the $90 million Landcare Rangers program was further proof that they are not on the side of regional communities. They will always try to bloat bureaucracies and harvest Green votes in the inner-city rather than seek community consultation and deliver practical policies.”