Budget Review October 2022–23 Index

Dr Emily Gibson

On the evening of the delivery of Budget October 2022–23, the Minister for the Environment, Tanya Plibersek, announced that the Australian Government was investing $1.8 billion for the environment and that ‘the October Budget is a down payment on strong action to protect, restore and manage our natural environment’. Much of the investment reflects commitments taken to the May 2022 election by the Australian Labor Party (ALP).

Great Barrier Reef

As noted in the Parliamentary Library’s recent Briefing Book article, the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) is an ecosystem under pressure. It experienced an unprecedented sixth mass bleaching event in late summer 2021–2022, the first such event in a La Niña year. The greatest threat to the GBR is climate change which influences weather patterns and the ocean’s temperature, pH levels and currents, and intensifies the effects of other threats such as cyclones and storms, flood plumes and crown-of-thorns starfish.

UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre and the International Union for Conservation of Nature conducted a reactive monitoring mission in March 2022 at the request of the World Heritage Committee. The Committee will again consider adding the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area to the List of World Heritage In Danger at its next meeting. The meeting was due to be held in June 2022 but has been postponed.

The March 2022–23 Budget provided a $1 billion funding package over 9 years ‘to strengthen Australia’s stewardship and leadership in the protection of the Great Barrier Reef’ (Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2022–23, p. 56; see also March Budget review 2022–23 article ‘Great Barrier Reef’, p. 75).

The October 2022–23 Budget provides an additional $204 million ‘to accelerate the defence and restoration of our Great Barrier Reef’ (Budget speech October 2022–23). The Budget includes 3 measures, all of which are partially met from within existing resources of the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water:

  • Reef 2050 Long-term Sustainability Plan – implementation: the measure provides $96.9 million over 4 years to ‘address critical gaps in the implementation of the Reef 2050 Long-term Sustainability Plan’ (Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: October 2022–23, p. 74)
  • Shovel Ready Catchment and Reef Restoration Projects: the measure provides $91.8 million over 5 years to deliver a range of programs including $40 million for catchment-scale land and coastal (blue carbon) ecosystem restoration, $20.3 million to accelerate deployment of coral reef adaptation projects, $18.3 million for projects identified in local council Reef Action Plans, and $13.2 million for actions to improve stakeholder stewardship (Regional ministerial budget statement 2022–23, p. 36)
  • Coastal Marine Ecosystems Research Centre: the measure provides $15.3 million over 2 years to support improved scientific expertise at the Central Queensland University centre in Gladstone (Budget paper no. 2, p. 58), which may allow it to ‘expand research to new industries’.

Budget paper no. 2 indicates that $5.2 million was a saving from the partial reversal of the 2018–19 budget measure Great Barrier Reef 2050 Partnership Program (p. 63).

Protecting threatened species

On 4 October 2022, the Minister launched the Threatened species action plan 2022–2032 which ‘sets out a pathway for threatened species conservation and recovery over the next 10 years’. This plan replaces the former Government’s Threatened species strategy 2021–2031 and the accompanying Threatened species strategy action plan 2021–2026.

Responding to the deteriorating environmental outlook presented in the State of the Environment 2021 report, the 2022–32 plan outlines four 10-year objectives (including no new extinctions and the protection of at least 30% of Australia’s land mass) and 22 five-year targets focused on 110 priority species and 20 priority places.

As previously announced by the Minister, the budget measure Saving Native Species provides $224.5 million over 4 years ‘to support actions to slow the rate of environmental and native species decline and lay the foundations for longer-term support and recovery of Australia’s native species and special landscapes’ (Budget paper no. 2, p. 76). As stated in the Minister’s media release, this includes $24.5 million for additional koala conservation and healthcare, $24.8 million to manage yellow crazy ants and $9.8 million to control invasive gamba grass.

The new 2022–32 action plan has been welcomed by environmental organisations, such as the Australian Conservation Foundation, and conservation experts. However, they also claim the funding provided will be inadequate to prevent further extinctions and to address the main threats to Australia’s native wildlife, including climate change, habitat clearance and invasive species (see also: Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee, Estimates, Proof Committee Hansard, 28 October 2022, p. 20).

The Government has indicated that reforms associated with its comprehensive response to the second independent review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act 1999 (Samuel Review; see below), along with significant private investment through the Government’s proposed ‘nature repair market’, will be necessary ‘to make progress on the biodiversity challenges ahead’ (Senate Estimates, pp. 19–20). Development of the nature repair market is subject to the passage of legislation.

Budget paper no. 2 (pp. 62–63) indicates the measure is partially offset by savings identified in the Government Spending Audit, including repurposing $100 million in uncommitted funds from the former Government’s Environment Restoration Fund (Senate Estimates, p. 18).

Refocusing national environmental law reform

Released in October 2020, the Final report of the Samuel Review made 38 recommendations to reform Australia’s national environmental law, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). The proposed reforms are considered essential to reversing the current state of environmental decline across Australia’s natural environment and iconic places. The proposed reforms are discussed in the Parliamentary Library’s Briefing Book paper ‘Reform of Australia’s national environmental law’, while the approach of the Morrison Government, including March 2022–23 budget measures, are discussed in the March Budget review 2022–23 article ‘Environment’ (p. 72).

The Albanese Government has committed to providing a full response to the Samuel Review by the end of 2022, with legislative reforms expected in the second half of 2023 (Senate Estimates, pp. 44–45).

The October 2022–23 Budget includes measures which reflect the Albanese Government’s different approach to consideration and implementation of the reforms recommended by the Samuel Review. These include:

The budget measure Sustaining Environmental Assessments provides $117.1 million over 3 years to ‘sustain assessment and compliance functions’ under the EPBC Act and the Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Act 1981 (Budget paper no. 2, p. 78). The measure is partially offset by savings identified in the Government Spending Audit. Both the Samuel Review and the Australian National Audit Office’s 2020 audit report on Referrals, assessments and approvals of actions under the EPBC Act highlight significant concerns about the effectiveness of the Department’s management of referrals under the EPBC Act and monitoring of compliance with approval conditions. The Minister’s media release states the interim funding ‘will ensure assessment and compliance activities continue while broader planning is undertaken to improve the system’.

Natural Heritage Trust Funding

The Natural Heritage Trust special account (NHT) was established in 1997, to support ‘direct investments in “on-the-ground” activities which restore and replenish both environmental values and the productive capacity of natural resources’. As explained in the recent National Landcare Program phase two review report (p. iii):

The NHT is an ongoing funding appropriation for environmental protection, sustainable agriculture and natural resource management, and is delivered through phased multi-year programs that allow for a review point ahead of the next phase of funding.

Since 1997, the Australian Government has committed funding in the order of $1 billion to $2 billion over successive 5–6 year periods through the NHT, the Caring for our Country initiative, and the National Landcare Program (see Figure 3 in the Review report, p. 8). The most recent tranche of funding provided $1.1 billion over 5 years to 30 June 2023 for phase 2 of the National Landcare Program.

The October 2022–23 budget measure Next Phase of Natural Heritage Trust Funding provides $1.1 billion over 6 years (and $2.5 million per year ongoing) to ‘support the sustainable management of Australia’s natural resources as well as local and long-term environmental, sustainable agriculture and Indigenous outcomes’ (Budget paper no. 2, p. 68).

The measure includes:

  • $604.2 million over 5 years from 2023–24 to ‘protect and conserve Australia’s iconic landscapes, continue and enhance the Indigenous Protected Areas program ... and support conservation and mitigation activities in World Heritage listed properties and wetlands recognised under the Ramsar Convention’
  • $302.1 million over 5 years from 2023–24 to support sustainable farming and land management practices, and contribute to agricultural emissions reductions
  • $90.0 million over 5 years from 2022–23 to employ and upskill 1,000 Landcare Rangers and fund Landcare facilitators
  • $66.5 million over 5 years from 2022–23 to expand the Indigenous Protected Areas program, including the creation of 10 new IPAs which will add 4.8 million hectares to the National Reserve System
  • $57 million over 6 years from 2022–23 (and $2.5 million per year ongoing) to support the recovery and longer-term conservation of koalas and their habitat (this component carries forward a commitment of the previous Government).

The cost of the measure is partially met from within the existing resourcing of the NHT special account (Budget paper no. 2, p. 68). At Senate Estimates, the Government indicated the funding would support the investment priorities outlined in Budget paper no. 2, although program design is yet to be finalised (p. 21).

Urban rivers and catchments

The budget measure Urban Rivers and Catchments Program provides $91.1 million over 6 years from 2022–23 (and $63.8 million over the forward estimates) to ‘improve local waterways, fund activities that restore the natural habitats of aquatic species and create recreational spaces for local communities’ (Budget paper no. 2, p. 78). The Minister’s media release states this is the ‘first round of our $200 million election promise to improve local waterways’.

The ALP’s Plan to fix our urban rivers indicates the program will provide grants to community groups and local and state governments, and is expected to fund up to ‘100 projects, depending on project size, with smaller community group projects likely to be less than $1m and large projects involving state and local governments eligible for up to $10m’.


Environment groups have cautiously welcomed the October 2022–23 environment-related budget measures. However, the Australian Conservation Foundation argues that the Government’s new commitments such as ‘zero new extinctions’ need to be backed by policies, laws and funding – and not undermined by continuing support for fossil fuel industries. Conservation scientists now estimate that Australia needs to invest $2 billion annually in ‘proper [threatened species] recovery plans, captive breeding programs, feral animal control and weed management’ to protect Australia’s threatened species and ecological communities. The Government’s response to the Samuel Review, and synergistic state and territory actions, will be crucial in protecting Australia’s natural environment and iconic places.


All online articles accessed October 2022

For copyright reasons some linked items are only available to members of Parliament.

© Commonwealth of Australia

Creative commons logo

Creative Commons

With the exception of the Commonwealth Coat of Arms, and to the extent that copyright subsists in a third party, this publication, its logo and front page design are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia licence.

In essence, you are free to copy and communicate this work in its current form for all non-commercial purposes, as long as you attribute the work to the author and abide by the other licence terms. The work cannot be adapted or modified in any way. Content from this publication should be attributed in the following way: Author(s), Title of publication, Series Name and No, Publisher, Date.

To the extent that copyright subsists in third party quotes it remains with the original owner and permission may be required to reuse the material.

Inquiries regarding the licence and any use of the publication are welcome to webmanager@aph.gov.au.

This work has been prepared to support the work of the Australian Parliament using information available at the time of production. The views expressed do not reflect an official position of the Parliamentary Library, nor do they constitute professional legal opinion.

Any concerns or complaints should be directed to the Parliamentary Librarian. Parliamentary Library staff are available to discuss the contents of publications with Senators and Members and their staff. To access this service, clients may contact the author or the Library‘s Central Enquiry Point for referral.