9 May 2024

Fundamental incompetence, a lack of support and an absence of accountability from the Albanese Government have headlined the release today of the findings from the Senate Inquiry into the funding of the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD).

The inquiry, initiated by the Coalition in August 2023, revealed that a succession of financial problems have beset the AAD since 2022-23 – including a $25 million operating budget shortfall, a
re-appropriation of millions of dollars of previous funding from the Morrison Government, and an extraordinary $41.4 million overspend.

In turn, this has led to a series of other disastrous outcomes – including job freezes, a months-long fruitless search for a Chief Scientist, inaction on the finalisation of the long-anticipated Decadal Plan, and a diminution of Australia’s international reputation in relation to Antarctic issues. The substantial funding gaps for Australia’s Antarctic Program have also subsequently triggered delays to crucial infrastructure projects and the downscaling of numerous science and research initiatives, as well as gravely afflicted morale within Australia’s internationally-renowned Antarctic science community.

Shockingly, and even after much evasion of questioning during the inquiry, it also became apparent that the Albanese Government (and, especially, Environment Minister, Tanya Plibersek) has taken no discernible action to practically address and resolve these issues.

“Labor has been damaging our proud Antarctic legacy since they were elected to government. The inquiry reports released today have catalogued a shocking procession of failures – and spell out a series of recommendations that need to be taken to begin repairing the trail of destruction Tanya Plibersek has left in her wake,” said Shadow Environment Minister and Tasmanian Liberal Senator, Jonno Duniam.

“In particular, Ms Plibersek’s disinterest in addressing these substantial budgeting problems has left our Antarctic leadership stranded. The repercussions, and ripple effects, are now widespread – and they are especially serious for Tasmanians engaged in Antarctic science and for our credibility on the international stage. The gravity of this chaotic situation has not been met by anything like appropriate action by the Minister.”

“This inquiry has identified multiple failings – but it also provides direction for the listless and underperforming Albanese Government to follow. They simply can not let these problems fester any further, or allow Australia’s international reputation on Antarctic matters to continue to dwindle.”

The report: https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Tabled_Documents/5854