Environment

Budget Review 2017–18 Index

Bill McCormick

The Budget makes little change to overall funding levels in the environment area (see separate briefs for consideration of energy and resources). However, there are two points to note: the five-year extension of the National Landcare Programme, and the funding to support online platforms that inform decision makers as to how best to adapt to unavoidable climate change.

National Landcare Programme

In the 2014–15 Budget, the government made an initial investment of $1 billion in the National Landcare Programme (NLP) for four years to 2018.[1] Funding for the NLP has now been extended for an additional five years from 1 July 2018 with a further $1 billion.[2] This is in addition to the $100 million already allocated to the NLP over four years from 2016–17, which came from funds derived from the termination of the Green Army program announced in the 2016–17 MYEFO.[3]

The $1 billion to fund the extension of the NLP for the period 2018–23 would effectively amount to a 20% decrease in average annual funding for the program, because the sum will now be spread over five years, whereas the initial $1 billion from 2014–15 was for four years; with the reallocated Green Army funds, however, the cut is now about 12%.

The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) welcomed ‘the government commitment to the future of Landcare’ and said it ‘looks forward to further government prioritisation of Landcare through the Federal Budget.’[4] National Farmers Federation President, Fiona Simpson, commented on the drop in NLP funding:

The $1.1 billion commitment to the next 7 years of the National Landcare Programme, while falling considerably short of current funding levels, provides a clear commitment to support natural resource management initiatives.

We look forward to working with the Government to design the next program to ensure that sustainable agriculture initiatives are well supported.[5]

The savings of $100 million from the termination of the Green Army are being reallocated to the NLP as follows: $5.0 million in 2016–17, $35.0 million each year in 2017–18 and 2018–19, and $25.0 million in 2019–20.[6] In that time, $15 million of the funds will be used for new Indigenous Protected Areas, and $85 million will be for on-ground projects by Landcare groups, the Sustainable Agriculture small grants program, Landcare Australia and the National Landcare Network.[7] The commitment of these funds to the NLP was part of an agreement between the Government and the Australian Greens to secure the passage of the Working Holiday Maker tax arrangements in December 2016.[8]

Landcare Australia’s chief executive, Tessa Jakszewicz, was concerned that termination of the Green Army without restoring NLP funding to its pre-2014 levels ‘could be even more devastating because the organisation would not be able to use Green Army resources to complete projects it could no longer afford to do on its own.’[9]

Other Green Army termination funds will go to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, with $34.1 million over four years from 2016–17 to 2019–20 and then $15.0 million annually from 2020–21.[10]

Adaptation Partnership

CSIRO and the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF) are to be provided with $0.6 million to support online platforms that assist decision makers in their deliberations about how to adapt to climate change.[11] One such online product is Australian Climate Futures, which was built on CSIRO’s Representative Climate Futures Framework and released in 2015. Another is the NCCARF product CoastAdapt that went live in 2017.

Back in 2008, NCCARF was provided with $47 million for its first phase (2008–2013), during which it funded 144 adaptation projects and eight Australian research networks to address priority questions around adapting to unavoidable climate change.[12] Phase 2 of NCCARF was funded with $9 million over the three years 2014–5 through 2016–17. Phase 2 aimed to deliver a tool to guide local and state governments and other organisations make better decisions about managing risks from coastal climate change; produce and deliver relevant and accessible climate adaptation material synthesising research information for policy and decision makers; and operate four adaptation research networks.[13] While CoastAdapt will be supported using some of the $0.6 million provided in the 2017–18 Budget, it is not clear whether NCCARF will continue after 30 June 2017 when its Commonwealth funding ceases. Climate change researchers have said the cutting of funding to climate adaptation research was ‘at odds with the growing urgency of the problem’. [14] The ACF was also critical of this lack of funding:

The National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility has no further research money, it is a research facility without funding for research. The Budget shows that the Turnbull government is not serious when it comes to climate science.[15]

The review of Australia’s climate change policies is due for completion at the end of 2017 and there may be some decisions that arise from the government’s response to this review in relation to adaptation policy.[16]



[1].          National Landcare Programme (NLP), ‘National Landcare Programme’, NLP website.

[2].          L Hartsuyker (Assistant Minister for the Deputy Prime Minister), Ongoing support for Australian Landcare, media release, 11 May 2017.

[3].          Australian Government, Mid-year Economic and Fiscal Outlook: 2016-17, p. 154.

[4].          Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), Budget 2017: Turnbull government funds pollution over people and nature, media release, 9 May 2017.

[5].          National Framers Federation (NFF), Farmers hail Inland Rail, award a solid B+ for overall Budget, media release, 9 May 2017.

[6].          Australian Government, Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook 2016—17, p. 154.

[7].          Australian Government, Budget measures: Budget paper no. 2: 2017—18, p.96.

[8].          S Morrison (Treasurer), Government’s better working holiday maker tax arrangement secure critical Senate support, media release, 1 December 2016.

[9].          C Wahlquist, ‘Experts warn against axing green army without restoring Landcare funding’, The Guardian, 6 December 2016.

[10].       Australian Government, Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook 2016—17, p. 154.

[11].       Australian Government, Budget measures: Budget paper no. 2: 2017—18, p.94.

[12].       Department of the Environment and Energy, ‘National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility’, Department of the Environment and Energy website.

[13].       National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF), NCCARF Newsletter December 2014, NCCARF website.

[14].       T O’Donnell and J Mummery, ‘The 2017 budget has axed research to help Australia adapt to climate change’, The Conversation, 11 May 2017.

[15].       Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), Budget 2017: Turnbull government funds pollution over people and nature, media release, 9 May 2017.

[16].       Department of the Environment and Energy, ‘Review of Australia’s climate change policies’, Department of the Environment and Energy website.

 

All online articles accessed May 2017. 

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