Department of the Environment

About us | Contact us | Publications

About us header images - leftAbout us header images - centreAbout us header images - right

Publications archive - Budget statements


Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

Investing in our Natural Heritage

The Commonwealth's Environment Expenditure 1997-98
Statement by Senator The Honourable Robert Hill
Minister for the Environment
Environment Australia 1997

Chapter 1: Introduction

One of Australia's achievements in managing the environment is the degree to which the principles of ecologically sustainable development have been integrated into the range of Commonwealth policies and programmes. This is an important achievement because it is only through progress on a broad front that the serious challenges facing Australia's environment can be met.

In this Commonwealth Environment Expenditure Statement the full range of Commonwealth environmental programme activity is described for the first time. The presentation of environment expenditure is designed to highlight the new measures in the Budget and to outline the broad picture of environment programmes and activities across all portfolios. The document is structured along the lines of the Australia: State of the Environment 1996 report.

Financial information and descriptions of programmes provided represent the information currently available within Commonwealth reporting systems. In some areas of Commonwealth activity, the information available is only indicative rather than comprehensive. Nevertheless, this is the first attempt to bring together this information and there will be scope in future budgets to increase the comprehensiveness of the information presented.

In some programmes the environmental elements are also so fully integrated that the related expenditure can not be practically or reasonably separately identified. Furthermore such integration is fully consistent with and promoted by Commonwealth environmental policy.

Against this background, it would not be meaningful to provide totals of programme expenditures in tables or compute an overall total of Commonwealth environmental expenditure.

Estimates for the expenditure on environmental programmes undertaken by Environment, Sport and Territories and Primary Industry and Energy Portfolios are given in Table 1.1. However, as this document reveals these are only part of the Commonwealth's environmental effort.

Table 1.1: Environment Expenditures undertaken by the Environment, Sport and Territories and Primary Industry and Energy Portfolios.

Image: table of Environment Expenditures

(a) This only includes funding directly related to environmental outcomes.


Measures announced in the 1997-98 Budget are summarised in Table 1.2.

Table 1.2: New Measures

Image: Table of New Measures

- denotes nil; 0 denotes zero; .. denotes not zero but rounded to zero; na denotes not available

(a) This only includes the savings related to Environment Programmes within the Environment, Sport and Territories Portfolio and hence will not agree to the amounts relating to this measure in other Budget Statements.

Natural Heritage Trust of Australia Reserve

The Government has committed to the establishment of the Natural Heritage Trust of Australia Reserve on the passage of the Natural Heritage Trust of Australia Bill 1996. An expenditure package, totalling $1.249 billion from 1996-97 to 2001-02, will be funded through the Trust and will comprise projects to improve Australia's environmental infrastructure. The $1.249 billion comprises $1.149 billion committed to the Trust contingent on the sale of Telstra, and included in the Contingency Reserve for the 1996-97 budget, and an additional $100 million added to the Contingency Reserve as a measure in the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook 1996-97, at $25 million per year from 1997-98.

To date, $41.9 million has been provided for expenditure on Trust programmes in 1996-97.

This measure provides for the balance of the $1.249 billion expenditure in the forward estimates. The measure is fully offset by the moneys provided in the Contingency Reserve.

The objectives of the Trust are to:

At the Commonwealth level, programmes covered by the Trust are to be administered through the Natural Heritage Trust Ministerial Board comprising the Minister for the Environment and the Minister for Primary Industries and Energy.

Estimates of expenditure funded through the Trust is given in Table 1.3.

Table 1.3: Natural Heritage Trust Funding

Image: Table of Natural Heritage Trust Funding

- denotes nil; 0 denotes zero; .. denotes not zero but rounded to zero; na denotes not available

Due to rounding some columns may not add exactly to totals.

The Trust programmes also subsume a number of existing programmes that addressed similar policy objectives. This is particularly the case with the National Vegetation Initiative which subsumes a number of existing vegetation programmes (see Box 1.1).

BOX 1.1: Pre Trust Vegetation Programmes Subsumed by the National Vegetation Initiative
Existing Pre Trust Vegetation Programmes Trust Programmes
One Billion Trees
Urban Forests
River Murray Corridors of Green
National Corridors of Green
Grassland Ecology
Wet Tropics Tree Planting Scheme
National Vegetation Initiative
Save the Bush Discontinued

The Trust also provides additional funding to already existing programmes such as the National Landcare Programme and Coastcare programmes which will continue to exist within the Trust programme structure. When the funds attached to both these subsumed and continuing Trust funded programmes are added to the Trust estimates the total funds are boosted as shown in Table 1.4.

Table 1.4: Total Expenditure Estimates for Trust related programmes

Image: Table 1.4: Total Expenditure Estimates for Trust related programmes

- denotes nil; 0 denotes zero; .. denotes not zero but rounded to zero; na denotes not available

Due to rounding some columns may not add exactly to totals.

(a) Land Resources includes some funding relating to Murray-Darling 2001 as part of the Natural Resource Management Programme.

The Trust, and the range of initiatives it will support, is based on a recognition that an integrated approach is needed to solve the spectrum of environmental problems we face. The initiatives funded from the Trust have therefore been developed around five interdependent environmental packages, namely: Vegetation, Rivers, Biodiversity, Landcare and Coasts (see Box 1.2).

Natural Heritage Trust programmes are outlined in more detail in Chapters 3-9.

Other New Measures

Payment to Queensland - Sugar Coast Environment Rescue Package

The Sugar Coast Environment Rescue Package was established as a joint $16 million Commonwealth/Queensland programme designed primarily for assistance in the removal of threats to habitat critical for the Mahogany Glider which is listed as an endangered species under the Commonwealth Endangered Species Act 1992.

This measure will enable the Commonwealth to meet its funding commitment to the Queensland Government for the Package.

Willandra Lakes Structural Adjustment Package

The Willandra Lakes Structural Adjustment Package arises from an agreement between the Commonwealth and New South Wales, matched on a $ for $ basis, and aims to address the socio-economic impacts on landholders in the Willandra Lakes Region World Heritage Property as a consequence of World Heritage Listing.

This measure will enable the Commonwealth to meet the final year of its funding commitment to the New South Wales Government for the Willandra Lakes Structural Adjustment Package.

Funding for Capital Works at Orielton Lagoon, Tasmania

This measure provides a Commonwealth contribution to enable the completion of the second phase of remediation works at Orielton Lagoon, a small embayment east of Hobart at the northern end of Pitt Water.

The first phase of remediation works to improve flushing has been completed. The second phase involves the diversion of sewage, which presently discharges into Orielton Lagoon, for use in irrigating orchards and cut-flower farms. The capital works, involving the construction of a holding pond and pipes, is being funded by contributions from the Commonwealth, State and local governments.

Box 1.2: Major Natural Heritage Trust Programmes


The National Vegetation Initiative (or Bushcare) aims to halt the decline in the quality and extent of Australia's native vegetation cover and sharply raise the level of revegetation activities across Australia. The goal is to ensure that the rate of vegetation establishment will exceed the rate of vegetation clearance by 2002. The National Vegetation Initiative will be guided by an expert Council for Sustainable Vegetation Management. The other programme funded under the Trust is the Farm Forestry Programme, which will promote wood production on cleared agricultural land.


The sustainable management, conservation and restoration of many of Australia's waterways will be supported by a range of programmes including the Murray-Darling 2001 Project, the National Rivercare Initiative and National Wetlands Programme. These initiatives will aim to improve the ecological health of our rivers and ensure that integrated land management practices are adopted.


The Trust will develop, in conjunction with the States and Territories, a comprehensive, adequate and representative National Reserve System by providing increased funding for the development of a network of parks and reserves across the major ecosystem types in Australia. To ensure that endangered and vulnerable species and ecological communities are restored to a secure status in the wild, additional funding will be allocated to the Endangered Species Programme. Under the World Heritage Area Management Programme, additional funding will be provided to implement improved and consistent management arrangements for all of Australia's eleven World Heritage properties, in cooperation with State, Territory and local governments.


The National Landcare Programme supports activities which contribute to the sustainable management of land, water and vegetation resources with an emphasis placed on addressing priority problems at a regional level. The Trust will also fund the National Land and Water Audit which aims to provide a comprehensive appraisal of the extent of land and water degradation in Australia. Other programmes funded under the Trust include the National Feral Animal Control Strategy and the National Weeds Strategy which will both help to enhance the recovery of threatened species, communities, farm productivity and natural landscapes.


The Coasts and Clean Seas Initiative will tackle coastal pollution hot spots and threats to Australia's coastal water quality and marine biodiversity. Focus will be placed on previously neglected areas of policy such as ocean outfalls, stormwater pollution and marine research. The first comprehensive and integrated Oceans Policy for Australia is being developed to promote the conservation and ecologically sustainable use of Australia's ocean resources.

Grant to AAP Mawson's Huts Foundation for the restoration effort on Mawson's Huts

This measure will assist the AAP Mawson's Huts Foundation to undertake conservation work on the huts established at Cape Denison by Sir Douglas Mawson during the 1911-14 Australasian Antarctic Expedition. The huts are a significant part of Australia's Antarctic heritage. The Cape Denison site is entered in the Register of the National Estate and is recognised internationally under the auspices of the Antarctic Treaty as a historic site.

Rationalisation of the National Energy Efficiency Programme

This measure represents a rationalisation of Commonwealth energy programmes, through a reduction in the National Energy Efficiency Programme (NEEP), as a consequence of increased state and local government activities and outcomes achieved through energy market reforms.

This rationalisation is appropriate in light of changes in the energy sector in recent years and the Commonwealth's view of the appropriate role for government which include:

This measure focuses the Commonwealth's investment in energy programmes on activities which have national outcomes and a clearly defined Commonwealth role.

The Energy Research and Development Corporation

This measure represents a rationalisation of Commonwealth energy programmes through the winding up of the Energy Research and Development Cooperation (ERDC).

Consistent with the Government's review of the appropriateness of Commonwealth activities, the need for direct Commonwealth investment in energy research and development through the ERDC has been overtaken by changes in the energy sector:

Reallocation of funds from Natural Resource Management Programmes

This saving represents a reallocation of funds from the Landcare Programme in each of the years 1997-98 to 2000-2001 to cater for other priorities within the Primary Industries and Energy Portfolio and in recognition of other new major initiatives. The savings represent approximately 5 per cent of total Landcare funding.

Environment, Sport and Territories Portfolio Savings Initiatives

As part of the Government's fiscal consolidation strategy, the portfolio is reducing outlays by approximately $20.4 million over four years. Of this amount $16 million relates to environment programmes.

The portfolio savings initiatives measure will be achieved through reductions in various programmes with the main focus on outlays relating to departmental running costs, the coastal policy package, State of the Environment reporting, park management operations, deferment of park works, forests policy, public relations and increased cost recovery for meteorological services.

Discontinuation of the Save the Bush Programme

This programme has been discontinued to offset other vegetation initiatives within the portfolio.

Concurrently, the Government will be introducing a major new vegetation initiative to be funded by the Natural Heritage Trust of Australia Reserve.


The Commonwealth's environmental activities now go well beyond the traditional programmes targeted directly at environmental protection, nature and heritage conservation, and natural resource management. The Commonwealth is increasingly incorporating and pursuing environmental objectives across the whole array of its activities (see Table 1.5).

Table 1.5: Environmental activities by Portfolio

Portfolios Major environmental activities
Administrative Services Provision of various environmental services and green purchasing guidelines. Acquires and processes satellite imagery which is used to support environmental management.
Attorney-General's Funding of Community based environmental legal services and provision of environment related legal advice.
Communications and Arts Responsible for a range of heritage programmes and radiofrequency and electromagnetic energy research and information.
Defence Management of the environmental and heritage attributes of the defence estate, particularly training areas.
Employment, Education, Training And Youth Affairs Green corps and other programmes which provide youth training, skills and work experience in environmental conservation and heritage activities. Provision of environmental education materials and professional development to teachers.
Environment, Sport And Territories Primarily responsible for environmental policy, with a broad range of environmental programmes.
Antarctic Division Research on matters of oceans and marine life, atmosphere, climate change and management of the antarctic environment.
Bureau Of Meteorology Atmospheric, oceanographic and hydrological monitoring, research and service provision.
Finance Monitors commonwealth environmental spending and contributes to environment policy.
Foreign Affairs And Trade Seeks to promote solutions to international environmental issues consistent with Australia's economic and environmental interests.
AusAID Overseas aid programme supporting Australia's humanitarian and national interests through environmental activities in developing countries.
Health And Family Services Undertakes a range of environmental health activities and contributes to chemical assessments.
Industrial Relations Administers the national industrial chemicals notification and assessment scheme.
Industry, Science And Tourism Major funder of environmental research particularly through CSIRO, cooperative research centres, the Australian institute of marine science, and the Australian nuclear science and technology organisation. Renewable energy industry assistance.

Monitoring, protecting and enhancing the environment in relation to tourism.

Australian Customs Service Border operations to control potentially environmentally damaging imports and exports.
Prime Minister And Cabinet Provision of general environmental advice; coordination of the Government's forest policy activities.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission Land management and aboriginal heritage programmes.
Primary Industries And Energy Primarily responsible for natural resource management policy integrating environmental considerations, with a broad range of environment related programmes.
Australian Quarantine Inspection Service Responsible for quarantine services to prevent entry of exotic pests and deceases.
Transport and Regional Development Primarily responsible for transport policy integrating environmental considerations, and protection of the marine and coastal environment through the Australian maritime safety authority.
Treasury Contributes to the development of environment policy.
Australian Bureau of Statistics Development of environmental accounts and reporting of environment statistics.
Productivity Commission Addresses environmental issues in its public inquiries and research.
Australian Taxation Office Administers a range of environment related taxes, levies, deductions and rebates

Commonwealth programmes to achieve economic growth, microeconomic reform, social goals and international cooperation and development, as well as programmes aimed at specific resource and industrial sectors, are aiming to integrate environment and economic considerations in the pursuit of ecologically sustainable development. Also, internal management practices in areas such as defence and government administration are moving to environmental best practice.



This Statement attempts to cover all Commonwealth activities and programmes which have environmental protection as either a primary or subsidiary goal. This means that some activities included here were introduced within broader programmes with non-environmental purposes such as providing defence or transport services.

Environment protection has been defined as:

In practice there is no clear cut definition of an environmental programme and some judgement has been exercised in deciding what programmes to include and which not to include in this Statement. The aim was not to strictly define environmental activity but to show the broad range of programmes that now have an environmental focus.

The expenditure figures do not include general purpose payments to the States that may then be applied to environmental spending. Nor do the figures include general funding to tertiary educational institutions that may then be applied to environmental research or training.

Running costs are only included where they are directly attributable to environmental programmes.


Commonwealth activities are presented according to their objective, not by the department or agency that undertakes them. Chapter 2 deals with activities that cut across different sectors. Chapters 3 to 9 deal with activities in the areas of biodiversity, land resources, inland waters, environment protection, atmosphere, coasts and oceans, and Australian heritage and Antarctica, following broadly the approach of the report Australia: State of the Environment 1996. Many activities cover more than one sector. In these cases activities are located in the chapter to which the majority of their activities are relevant. Cross references are provided to other chapters where necessary.

Style Conventions

This Statement follows many of the style conventions of the Budget papers. However, there are some important differences.

Unless otherwise indicated the expenditure and revenue figures are expressed in constant 1997-98 prices rather than indexed or otherwise adjusted for expected cost increases. This means that, where relevant, they cannot be reconciled with the figures contained in other Budget Statements which are so adjusted.

There are also some significant gaps in the figures for outyears. Often this reflects the fact that the document is reporting components of larger programmes and that decisions about how these programme funds will be deployed in future years have not yet been made.

Figures are also often not available as they cannot be separately identified from larger programme funds as the activities in question are closely integrated with the total programme.

Not all dollar figures in the text are included in the tables of new measure and programme and tax expenditure estimates. For instance those dollar figures that are only broadly indicative, are provided as illustrations of particular individual project expenditure, and/or are only partially funded from Commonwealth outlays are excluded.

Tables of new measure and programme and tax expenditure estimates are broken into two sections. The first section include new measures resulting from the current Budget (except Trust figures that include all funding from the Trust). The second section has total programme and tax expenditure estimates including the effects of the new measures.

All dollar figures are rounded to the nearest $100,000. This means that figures in tables may not add up to totals given in tables or those quoted in the text.

It should be noted that forward estimates from 1998-99 onwards are as described, only estimates, and are subject to normal budgetary procedures.