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Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage
The Hon Dr David Kemp, MP
15 May 2003
There was no cut to funding for the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality (NAPSWQ) in the 2003-2004 Budget, Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp said today.
Dr Kemp said he expected misrepresentation of the Budget by the Australian Labor party and the Greens, but said he was disappointed by yet another gratuitous and poorly founded criticism of the government by Australian Conservation Foundation Executive Director, Don Henry, who had also claimed cuts were in place.
"NAP spending is being held up because it took longer than expected to achieve bilateral agreements with State Labor Governments. While South Australia signed in June 2001, the Labor States chose instead to play politics and refused to sign up in the run-up to the 2001 election. Eventually, Victoria signed in October 2001, Tasmania in February 2002, Queensland in March 2002, New South Wales in May 2002 and the Northern Territory February 2003. Western Australia is still yet to sign," Dr Kemp said.
"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.
"We haven't been able to roll the money out as quickly as we would have liked because this unique partnership has taken more time to develop than we hoped, but the commitment of the Commonwealth and the States to spend the money remains, and is occurring," he said.
The National Action Plan has been extended by one year to 2007-2008 to make up for the slower than hoped start and Dr Kemp said the Commonwealth would spend its entire commitment of $700 million.
Dr Kemp said the Howard Government's $1.4 billion National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality was one of the most ambitious efforts ever undertaken in Australia to combat an environmental, economic and social threat, and was surpassed only by the Howard Government's $2.7 billion Natural Heritage Trust.
"What is being achieved through these two massive programs are both immediate environmental benefits and, as importantly, the establishment of a community based organisational foundation for the long term commitment that will be required to ensure Australia can achieve environmental, economic, and social sustainability," Dr Kemp said.
"This is being done through integrated environmental management plans for the entire Australian landmass in the case of the Trust, and regions worst affected or threatened by salinity in the case of the National Action Plan, that are being developed by the community with the assistance of the States, and under the leadership of the Howard Government.
"These program, and the historic linkages being developed between all tiers of government and the community to deliver them, are globally unique as focused and integrated environmental efforts, and we are treading new ground with their development and their implementation."
Catherine Job 02 6277 7640 or 0408 648 400