17 May 2024

Tanya Plibersek has again failed to meet a single one of her KPIs as Federal Environment Minister in the 2024-25 Labor Budget.

Following a series of embarrassing failures and broken promises over the past two years (including in relation to her undelivered national environmental laws overhaul, standalone Indigenous cultural heritage protection legislation, the shelved Landcare Rangers program, recycling funding and marine park boundary changes), this Budget has again showcased Minister Plibersek’s inability to do her job.

The Government has decided to spend even more money to prop up a failed consultation process on drafting new environmental laws – and this is a highly embarrassing admission of failure by this Minister. Instead of investing such funding in protecting threatened species or in on-the-ground environmental projects, more money is being ploughed into the bureaucracy in Canberra to continue this flawed and embarrassing process.

This Budget shows that an additional 2,300 bureaucrats have been employed in her Department since the 2022 Federal election and a further $96.6 million is now being spent again to ‘speed up environmental approvals’.  That all of it is being spent in Canberra, and not where it could make a difference in on-the-ground activity, proves again that Minister Plibersek doesn’t know what she is doing.

After saying numerous times that Australia’s national environmental laws are broken and must be changed without delay, Ms Plibersek has failed to put in place new, simple and stronger laws, and has instead employed more bureaucrats to administer broken laws.

This waste of taxpayers’ money will not improve environmental approvals – just like the $117 million already spent on this same objective in Labor’s October 2022 Budget did not, either. Fulfilling their broken promise, and introducing sensible new laws into Parliament, would.

Outside of Canberra, matters environment do not fare well in this Budget. Almost $36 million has been wiped from the annual appropriations, and there is a nearly $85 million fall in the total net resourcing, of the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) – which is the lead scientific agency managing the health of the Great Barrier Reef.

This Government claims to take climate science seriously and says it will address the shortcomings of the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) when it comes to being able to forecast the weather for our farmers and warn of extreme weather events.  However, more than $82 million has been cut from its annual appropriations.

All of this money has been ploughed back into the Department’s head office in Canberra for extra public servants – with no measurable increase in on-ground activity that will actually help our environment or our community.

While welcome, a one-off spend on the Australian Antarctic Division in response to political pressure does not secure Australia’s place as a leader when it comes to Antarctic Science. This reputation which has been built up over a long period of time by successive governments is now being frittered away by the incompetence of this Government and the lack of seriousness with which they are taking this issue.