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Media Release
Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage
The Hon Dr David Kemp, MP

14 May 2003

False Reports on Environment Spending Incompetent and Misleading

The Government is providing environment funding of $353 million in this Budget for new measures, including measures in the Environment portfolio of $267 million over the next four years pushing total whole of Government environment spending past the $2 billion mark for 2003/04.

Blatantly misleading statements, from the likes of Labor's Kelvin Thompson, Greens Senator Bob Brown and extreme green groups have claimed that environment spending has been slashed.

"This misrepresentation of the facts is an attempt to discredit the significant environmental benefits that will be passed onto Australians in this year's Budget," Dr Kemp said.

"Significant new measures such as $13.3 million extra for our national heritage, $62 million for new meteorological radars and $115 million to restore and return historic foreshore lands to the people of Sydney are practical on the ground measures that will improve Australia's environment and sustainability."

Some of the claims that have been made and the actual facts include:

Claim: Funding for the Environment has been cut

The Facts: Total spending for Environment Portfolio

  03-04 04-05 05-06 Total
Post-Budget 906.5 989.9 977.8 2,874.2
Pre-Budget 876.3 930.5 927.3 2,734.1

Note: Pre-Budget figures have been adjusted by $61 million to remove the capital user charge (CUC) which is now not included in Budget figures. This is due to a change in whole of Government accounting policy. The change has no impact on actual programme funding, as it is an accounting adjustment.

Claim: The Greenhouse Office has been gutted with funding slashed by $26 million to $4.6 in 2003/04.

The Facts: Greenhouse funding increases by about $30 million from a revised estimate for 2002/03 of just under $94 to $124 million. This is set out on page 44 of the Environment Budget Statement.

The $26 million "cut" refers to funding provided under the Annual Appropriation Act, which does decrease to $4.6 million, but it ignores funding of over $119 million provided under the Special Appropriation, Appropriation (Supplementary Measures) Act (No. 2) 1999.

Claim: $8 million stripped from biodiversity policy

The Facts: As the Portfolio Budget Statement states on page 43 "These activities [biodiversity policy] will continue to be funded within existing resourcing".

Claim: The portfolio has failed to spend more than $38 million from the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality

The Facts: The truth is that NAP spending is being held up because it took longer than expected to achieve bilateral agreements with State Labor Governments. South Australia signed in June 2001; Victoria October 2001, Tasmania February 2002, Queensland March 2002, New South Wales May 2002, the Northern Territory February 2003 - and Western Australia is still yet to sign.

If Labor and others want more spending on the NAP, they should encourage the Labor Government in WA to sign up and urge other Labor Governments to work with their communities to develop regional plans so money can flow.

Claim 5: That the Sustainable Cities program is worth $24.2 million

The Facts: It is actually worth $40 million:

Claim: That there have been cuts to Murray Darling Basin funding

The Facts: The Murray-Darling 2001 program, along with all the original 21 NHT1 programs, was restructured into the four new programs (Bushcare, Landcare, Coastcare and Rivercare) of NHT2. Regional communities in the Murray-Darling Basin will be able to access Trust funding through the regional stream and the Envirofund. It could be confidently expected that the combination of NHT and NAP will deliver more than the previous allocation to the Murray-Darling Basin program ($35 million per year) into Basin communities.

Claim: That funding for world heritage programmes has been cut in half from $5.5 to 2.4 million.

The Facts: Funding for world heritage is set out on page 47 of the Environment Budget Statement. A note to this funding states: "the process by which corporate overheads are attributed to Divisional outputs was changed for the 2003-04 Budget. This has resulted in a lower level of overheads being applied from 2003-04." This accounts for $2.3 million of the reduction and is purely an accounting change that will have no effect on actual world heritage activities.

Claim: That there is no new money for the Antarctic programme, Bureau of Meteorology or National Oceans Office.

The Facts:

Media contact:
Catherine Job (02) 6277 7640 or 0408 648 400

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