Great Barrier Reef 2050 Partnership
The Reef was the stand-out environmental item in this Budget,
although parts of the package were announced beforehand. The Government has
committed $535.8 million over five years from 2017–18 to accelerate the delivery
of the Reef
2050 Plan. In January 2018 the
Government announced $57.9 million (contained in additional Budget Estimates of
February 2018) to provide:
- $6.0 million to the Australian Institute of Marine Science and CSIRO to
scope and design a research and development (R&D) program for coral reef
- $10.4 million to accelerate the control of crown-of-thorns starfish
(COTS) by increasing the number of vessels targeting COTS from three to eight.
- $36.6 million to further reduce polluted water entering the Reef.
- $4.9 million to increase the number of field officers to improve compliance
and provide an early warning of coral bleaching.
In April 2018 the Government announced a $443.3 million Reef
Trust partnership with the Great Barrier
Reef Foundation (with money administered through the Department of
Environment) to tackle COTS, reduce pollution flowing into the Reef and
mitigate the impacts of climate change. The funding will be:
million to support farming practices that improve water quality flowing into
million to support R&D on reef restoration, reef resilience and adaptation.
million to expand the control of COTS.
- $45.0 million
to increase community engagement, such as
Indigenous traditional knowledge for sea country
management, coastal clean-up
days and awareness-raising.
million to enhance reef health monitoring and reporting to facilitate better management.
While the initial $57.9 million is to be spent over the next
18 months there is little information about the period over which the rest of the
funds will be spent. The Great Barrier Reef
Marine Park said that it will receive an additional $42.7 million
for its joint field management program over the next six years.
Interested parties have welcomed the additional funding for
the Reef but some don’t feel the funds are enough to protect it, and they
criticised the Government for not providing additional money for actions to
mitigate climate change itself rather than just to mitigate the impacts.
The federal Department of the Environment and Energy stated that ‘climate
Change is the most significant threat to the Great Barrier Reef’.
The chair of the Reef 2050 Advisory Committee, Penny Wensley,
said that both global warming and cyclones had contributed to the Reef's ill
health and that funding was still not enough, although it was more than the
committee had hoped for.
Enhancing Australia’s Biosecurity
The 2017 Intergovernmental
Agreement on Biosecurity Review stated that the erosion of biosecurity
budgets is hampering the efforts of biosecurity agencies, and that funding
needs to be more sufficient, more sustainable and better directed.
It recommended imposing levies on incoming shipping and air containers, with
the revenue being directed to those areas of the national biosecurity system
that are currently most underfunded.
In the Budget, the Government committed $86.8 million to the
Department of Agriculture and Water resources to increase funding to biosecurity
programs over four years from 2018–19, and $14.8 million to address the cost of
biosecurity clearances associated with increased sea and air passenger number
growth from 2017–18. Among other things, the
Government will fund the development of national action plans for priority
pests and diseases, increase the capacity
to deal with pest and disease incursions and permit greater assurance and
verification of biosecurity import conditions.
As recommended in the Biosecurity Review, the Government has
decided to impose a new biosecurity import levy from 1 July 2019 that is
expected to raise $360 million over the following three years. Legislation for
this levy has not yet been introduced into Parliament. This will apply to incoming
shipping containers at a rate of $10 per twenty-foot container and $1/tonne on
non-containerised cargo. It will be used to fund onshore surveillance,
diagnostics, data analytics, research and adoption of new technology.
The levy represents one per cent of the current cost of importing a container.
It would appear the Government has decided not to implement the recommended levy
on aircraft containers.
Per- and Poly-Fluorinated Alkyl Substances (PFAS)
The use of the highly persistent chemicals, per- and poly-fluorinated alkyl
substances (PFAS), in fire-fighting foams has resulted in the
contamination of surface and groundwater in and adjacent to some military bases and civilian airports. The
Hunter River wetlands,
a Ramsar wetland
downstream of RAAF Base Williamtown,
may be one of the contaminated areas. Remediation of these areas may be
necessary to stop PFAS in contaminated soil, ground water and surface water from
migrating into adjoining environments.
The Government will provide $34.1 million over five years
from 2017–18 for research into the remediation of PFAS contamination through
the establishment of the $13 million PFAS Remediation
Research Program and for the Department
of the Environment and Energy.
There is debate about the health effects of PFAS due to the
limited evidence presently available. The US Environmental Protection Agency
states that ‘there is
evidence that exposure to PFAS can lead to adverse health outcomes in humans’.
In Australia, the recent Expert Panel for PFAS Report stated that
‘there is mostly limited or no evidence for any link with human disease’ but ‘important
health effects for individuals exposed to PFAS cannot be ruled out based on the
current evidence’. In 2017, the Department
of Health released daily guidance values for PFAS in drinking water.
To help with the issue, the Government will provide $55.2 million over five
years from 2018–19 to establish a drinking water program, including supply of
bottled water, to communities surrounding Army Aviation Centre Oakey, RAAF Base
Williamtown, RAAF Base Tindal, and RAAF Base Pearce where environmental site
assessments have identified property owners who use bores as their primary
source of drinking water.
The budget figures have been taken from the following
document unless otherwise sourced: Australian Government, Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2018–19, 2018.
M Turnbull (Prime Minister), M Cash (Minister for Jobs and Innovation)
and J Frydenberg (Minister for the Environment and Energy), Investing
in the future of our Great Barrier Reef, media release, 22 January 2018;
Australian Government, Portfolio additional estimates statements 2017–18: Environment and
Energy Portfolio, pp. 14, 82.
M Turnbull (Prime Minister), J Bishop (Minister for Foreign Affairs), J
Frydenberg (Minister for the Environment and Energy) and M Price (Assistant
Minister for the Environment), Record
investment in the Great Barrier Reef to drive jobs, media release, 29
April 2018; Australian Government, Portfolio
Supplementary Additional Estimates Statements 2017–18 Appropriation Bill (No.5)
2017–18 and Appropriation Bill (No.6) 2017–18 Energy and Environment Portfolio
Explanations of Supplementary Additional Estimates 2017–18, p. 1.
M Turnbull, M Cash and J Frydenberg , op cit.
Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, $500 million funding “game changer” for the Great Barrier Reef, media release, 29 April 2018.
E Bagshaw, ‘$500m
reef rescue pledge’, The Sunday Age, 29 April 2018; R Yosufzai, ‘Is
$500m enough to save the Great Barrier Reef’, SBS News, 30 April
2018; Footprint Latest News , Tourism
operators demand strong action on climate change, Footprint, 4
May 2018 [paywall].
Australian Government, Portfolio budget statements 2018–19: budget related paper no. 1.6:
Environment and Energy Portfolio, p. 56.
Rebgetz and L Gartry, ‘Great Barrier Reef to get $500m to tackle pollution and breed more
resilient coral’, ABC News, 29 April 2018.
W Craik, D Palmer and R Sheldrake, Priorities
for Australia’s biosecurity system: An independent review of the capacity of
the national biosecurity system and its underpinning Intergovernmental
Agreement, Canberra 2017, pp. 1–2.
Australian Government, Portfolio
budget statements 2018–19: budget related paper no. 1.1: Agriculture and Water
Resources Portfolio, p. 20.
Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (DAWR), ‘Biosecurity
import levy’, DAWR website.
Australian Government, Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2018–19, p. 81.
United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), ‘Basic information on
PFAS’, EPA website.
Department of Health, Expert
Health Panel for PFAS: Summary, April 2018.
Department of Health (DoH), ‘Health-based
guidance values for PFAS for use investigations in Australia’, DoH website.
All online articles accessed May 2018
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