Environment and natural resources

Budget Review 2012–13 Index

Bill McCormick

Caring for our country

The five year $2 billion Caring for our Country (CfoC) program was scheduled to finish on 30 June 2013. In the 2012–13 Budget, the government announced the program’s continuation for another five years, with funding of $2.2 billion over that time. This will start with $399 million in 2013–14, and then increase to $406 million in 2014–15 and to $464 million each year after that until 2018.[1]

Earlier this year, an extensive review process of CfoC was completed, with the delivery of a final report in April 2012. The report found that CfoC is appropriate, effective and efficient in delivering a national‐scale response to natural resource management (NRM) issues.[2] A number of themes emerged from the consultation for this review, including the importance of the alignment of national, regional and local NRM priorities, improving efficiency of funding arrangements, and exploring potential to leverage funding from industry, the private sector and philanthropists.[3]

The next five years of the program will draw on the findings of the review and the strengths and successes of the first phase, focus on activities that address emerging priorities in natural resource management and strengthen the focus on the marine environment.[4]

The existing CfoC (and the previous Natural Heritage Trust (NHT) Stage 2) has been delivered by a joint team comprising staff and resources from the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPaC) and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF). Prior to this, the two departments delivered the 23 NHT Stage 1 programs separately. The CfoC Review Report noted that over the past year there has been a move to establish clearly defined portfolio responsibility for elements of CfoC and suggested that further disaggregation of joint delivery would improve efficiency and effectiveness.[5]

The Government has taken note of these findings, and so from 2013–14 CfoC will be delivered separately by the two departments: a national sustainable environment stream, including the Working on Country and Environmental Stewardship programs, to be run by DSEWPaC; and a national sustainable agriculture stream, including Landcare, by DAFF.[6]

No final decisions have been made about CfoC funding priorities, activities or delivery mechanisms. CfoC will be designed to complement other Government policies and programs such as the Biodiversity Fund and Carbon Farming Futures. It will address the protection and conservation matters of national environmental significance, the long term sustainability of Australia’s food and fibre production and the maintenance of healthy ecosystems essential to national wellbeing.[7] The broad framework of Caring for our Country and areas for further consultation will shortly be available on the Caring for our Country website www.nrm.gov.au.[8]

Consultation on the future program design and implementation of CfoC will take place over the coming months,[9] though regional delivery of CfoC programs will continue.

Greens Senator Larissa Waters stated that the Government has failed to extend Reef Rescue, a CfoC program.[10] However, it is not clear if this will be the case as the Government is still considering details of any successor to Reef Rescue in CfoC.[11]

Budget Measures: Budget Paper No. 2: 2012–13 states that there will be a saving from DSEWPaC of $123.2 million over four years from 2012–13 to provide $110 million as an offset to restructure the Tasmanian forestry industry and to fund other programs.[12] However, the $110 million saving appears to have not been identified at the time of the 2011–12 Mid-year Economic and Fiscal Outlook.[13] The $13.2 million identified in Budget Paper No. 2 is the additional savings in 2012–13 that were added to $110 million to make the $123.2 million figure. Note that Budget Paper No. 2 also identifies savings of $20.7 million from DSWEPaC in 2012–13 but only $7.5 million of this is transferred to treasury. The remaining $13.2 million is the savings referred to previously.[14]

Along with these savings, an additional $95.9 million over seven years has been provided from 2011–12 to address animal and plant pests and diseases in the states and territories under a National Partnership Agreement. (See separate brief on biosecurity.) These funds are shown in Budget Paper No. 2 as transferred from DSEWPaC and DAFF to Treasury.

[1].       The budget figures in this brief have been taken from the following document unless otherwise sourced: Australian Government, Budget Measure: budget paper no. 2:2012–13, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2012, pp. 267–68, viewed 10 May 2012.

[2].       Caring for our Country (CfoC), Review of the Caring for our Country initiative April 2012, CfoC website, viewed 9 May 2012.

[3].       Ibid.

[4].      T Burke (Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities), Gillard government commits to another five years of caring for our country, media release, 8 May 2012, viewed 10 May 2012.

[5].       CfoC op. cit.

[6].       Budget measures: budget paper no. 2, op. cit., p. 267.

[7].       Personal communication, Department of DSEWPaC

[8].       T Burke (Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities), Gillard government commits to another five years of caring for our country, media release, 9 May 2012, viewed 10 May 2012.

[9].       Ibid.

[10].     L Waters (Green Senator), Budget fails Great Reef, media release, 9 May 2012, viewed 10 May 2012.

[11].     Personal communication, Department of DSEWPaC email

[12].     Budget measures: budget paper no. 2, op. cit., pp.267–268.

[13].     Australian Government, Mid-year economic and fiscal outlook: 2011–12, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2011, pp. 200–01,  viewed 10 May 2012

[14].     Budget measures: budget paper no. 2, op. cit., p. 267.

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