Budget Review 2014–15 Index

Bill McCormick

In the 2014–15 Budget, the Government has reduced funding to a number of environmental programs, most notably landcare programs. A large portion of this funding has been redirected into the establishment of the new Green Army scheme.

National Landcare Programme

The Caring for our Country program, which includes Landcare, will be renamed the National Landcare Programme (NLP) and have its funding reduced by $471 million over the next four years, in addition to a reduction of $12.8 million for 2013–14.[1] Included in the NLP, funding to the Environmental Stewardship Programme (ESP) will be reduced by $25.8 million over five years.[2] In the ten years from 2018–19, the ESP funding will be cut by $54.8 million and will end a year early. These cuts were recommended by the National Commission of Audit (NCoA) which suggested that funding to the NLP ‘be halved and better aligned to the goals of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999’ (EPBC).[3] The new funding structure for landcare programs are shown in Table 1 below:

Table 1: Appropriations for landcare programs[4]

2013–14 Budget
Caring for our Country—Environment
Natural Heritage Trust
Environmental Stewardship Program
National Wildlife Corridor Plan
Caring for our country—Landcare (Agriculture)
Total at 2013–14 Budget
2014–15 Budget
National Landcare Programme—Environment
Natural Heritage Trust
Reef 2050 Plan
Environmental Stewardship Programme
National Wildlife Corridor Plan
National Landcare Programme—Agriculture
Total at 2014–15 Budget
Green Army
National Landcare Programme plus Green Army

Funding from the NLP will be used to deliver several Coalition environmental policy initiatives, costing $81.9m. These include: 20 Million Trees ($50 million over 4 years), a more competitive and sustainable fisheries sector ($9 million over 4 years), Coastal River Recovery Initiatives ($9.3 million over 4 years), Dandenong Ranges Wildlife Recovery, Weed Management and Fuel Reduction Programme ($3 million over 3 years), Keep Australia Beautiful and Clean Up Australia ($0.6 million over 3 years), Greater Western Sydney-Cumberland Conservation Corridor ($7.5 million over 3 years), Kimberley Cane Toad Clean Up ($0.5 million over 2 years), and the Whale and Dolphin Protection Plan ($2.0 million over 3 years). In addition $40 million over four years will be used to establish the Reef Trust.[5]

Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) CEO Kelly O’Shanassy criticised the Government for breaking its election promise to maintain full funding for Landcare.[6] The ACF had earlier said the Government would be labelled anti-nature if it acted on the NCoA’s recommendations to cut Landcare funding.[7]

Green Army and 20 Million Trees programme

The Government will establish its Green Army program in 2014–15, with $525.4 million in funding over four years, primarily redirected from Caring for our Country/NLP. In the Green Army, participants aged 17–24 will undertake environmental projects that are broadly comparable with landcare activities for a training allowance. See the Library’s Bills Digest for detail. Additionally, the Government’s Direct Action Plan commitment to plant 20 Million Trees by 2020 to re-establish green corridors and urban forests will be funded with $50 million over four years from within the NLP. The Government says that ‘revegetation projects will garner economic benefits such as preventing soil erosion and other land degradation.’[8]

Under the Green Army program, the Government made commitments of $1.5 million to plant trees in Point Cook Park, $3.5 million for greening parks and gardens across western Melbourne and $5 million to plant one million trees in the Cumberland Conservation Corridor in Western Sydney.[9] The Coalition planned that the programme would include large scale plantings in regional areas as well as urban street planting and highways. However, industry estimates in 2010 gave a delivery of cost $5 per tree, which results in a programme cost of $100m. [10]

Grants to Voluntary Environment, Sustainability and Heritage Organisations cessation

The Government has implemented the NCoA recommendation to abolish Grants to Voluntary Environment, Sustainability and Heritage Organisations (GVESHO) because it overlaps with the objectives and outcomes of the NLP.[11] The GVESHO started in 1973 and now contributes to the administrative costs of over 150 relevant local, regional, state and national community-based, not-for-profit organisations.

Great Barrier Reef

A Reef Trust will be established with $39.9 million over the next four years using funds redirected from the NLP. [12] The Reef Trust will fund projects that improve water quality and coastal habitat along the Great Barrier Reef (GBR), although it is unclear how this relates to the existing Reef Rescue program ($200 million over five years) which also aims to improve the quality of water entering the GBR through improved agricultural and urban management practices.[13] The Reef Trust will also fund other Coalition election policy initiatives, such as $2.0 million to cull crown-of-thorns starfish and $5.0 million for a Dugong and Turtle Protection Plan.[14] The trust will be set up to allow private contributions along with funds from environmental ‘offsets’ of projects approved under the EPBC.

[1].          Australian Government, Budget paper no. 2: 2014–15: budget measures, 2014, p.107, accessed 16 May 2014.

[2].          Australian Government, Portfolio budget statements 2014–15: budget related paper no. 1.7: Environment Portfolio, p. 27, accessed 16 May 2014.

[3].          National Commission of Audit, Towards responsible government: appendix: volume 2, February 2014, pp. 166–167.

[4].          Australian Government, Budget paper no. 2, op. cit.;  Portfolio budget statements 2014–15: budget related paper no. 1.7: Environment Portfolio, op, cit., p. 39; Australian Government, Portfolio budget statements 2014–15: budget related paper no. 1.1: Agriculture portfolio, 2014,  p. 35, accessed 16 May 2014.

[5].          Australian Government, Budget paper no. 2, op. cit.

[6].          Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), Anti-environment Federal Budget hands out billions in corporate subsidies, media release, 13 May 2014, accessed 16 May 2014.

[7].          ACF, For nature or against? It’s the government’s choice, media release, 2 May 2014, accessed 16 May 2014.

[8].          G. Hunt (Minister for the Environment), The Coalition Government's plan to repeal the carbon tax and tackle climate change, speech, 29 November 2013, accessed 16 May 2014.

[9].          G. Hunt (Shadow Minister for the Environment), Coalition-Commits-to-Greening-the-west-of-Melbourne, media release, 13 August 2013, accessed 16 May 2014; G. Hunt (Shadow Minister for the Environment), Coalition Commits $15 million for Greater Western Sydney conservation corridor, media release, 8 August 2013, accessed 16 May 2014.

[10].       Liberal Party of Australia and the Nationals, The Coalition’s Direct Action Plan, Coalition: Environment and Climate Change, policy document, Election 2010, accessed 16 May 2014.

[11].       National Commission of Audit, Towards responsible government, op. cit.

[12].       Budget paper no. 2: 2014–15: budget measures, op. cit., p. 108.

[13].       Australian Government, Portfolio Budget Statements 2013–14. Budget related paper no. 1.17. Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities Portfolio, 2013, p. 15, accessed 19 May 2014.

[14].       Australian Government, Budget paper no. 2: 2014–15: budget measures, op. cit., p. 109, accessed 16 May 2014.


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