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The Government’s War on the Environment

Joe Hockey’s first budget dealt not only a threatening blow to millions of struggling families, but the fragile face of the Australian landscape was similarly threatened, writes Kate O’Callaghan.

On Tuesday, the Abbott government delivered their much anticipated budget, putting an end to the age of ‘reckless spending’ and ‘entitlement’ and saving Australia from its path to economic destruction.

There were some winners. The mining industry was generally happy with budget, finally rid of that pesky stamp duty and useless environmental regulations. They even got to keep their much needed tax breaks and fuel subsidies, because paying tax can really eat into their billions of dollars of profits which is no good. White Australia lovers also won big, with hundreds of millions of tax dollars committed to defending our borders, keeping those menacing asylum seekers from clogging up the highways of Western Sydney.

However, the budget delivered little good news for the young, poor, homeless, unemployed, disabled, indigenous, sick, refugees . . . pretty much everyone else.

Nor was it kind to the environment sector. This was expected, with the budget reflecting the Abbott government’s relentless attack on science and the environment, raising legitimate concerns for the health of our most precious ecosystems.

Green groups have been united in criticising the deep cuts to funding and staff, and the removal of green tape, serving only to enable big business to pollute and destroy. As Greens Leader Christine Milne says, “There is no plan for renewable energy jobs, just a tunnel vision for motorways and stranded fossil fuel assets that will be worthless to our economy within decades.”

Budget Losers

Amongst the environmental agencies abolished were the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and the National Water Commission. ARENA was created in July 2012 to support and boost clean energy production. Legislation will now be introduced to dissolve it as an independent agency.

The National Water Commission will be closed in December 2014, with future cuts to the Murray-Darling Basin Authority flagged. Chief executive of the Australian Water Association Jonathan McKeown says, “in a nation where water scarcity needs to be well managed, (the cuts) will reduce Australia’s ability to maximize the productive use of water.”

Many more agencies have had their funding slashed including carbon capture and storage programs, Landcare and the CSIRO. The government’s $500 million plan for ‘One Million Solar Roofs’ was dumped.

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Image courtesy of katesenviroblog.com.au

The government cut funding to its own, and already watered-down, ‘Direct Action’ plan from $3 billion pre-budget to $1.1 billion. They have instead assigned over $2.5 billion to their Emissions Reduction Fund, helping businesses to reduce their emissions which Greg Hunt says, “reaffirms the Government’s strong commitment to reducing Australia’s emissions by five per cent below 2000 by 2020.”

Any action on climate change is going to be rolled out even more slowly than expected. Luckily, the world doesn’t need urgent action to avoid climate disaster. Oh, wait . . .  And with the abolition of the carbon tax, the cost of emissions reduction is being shifted from big polluters to the taxpayer. Nice one.

The Great Barrier Reef will receive the $40 million promised in the election. It will be invested in a new reef trust which will guide the management of the reef. Together with the Queensland Government and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, the reef trust will implement the government’s Reef 2050 plan.

With the Queensland Government being advised by the coal industry and the GBRMPA granting approval for industry to dump dredge spoil in reef waters, I am 100% content that our reef is in good hands. In fact, the water will probably be in better nick than it was before mass industrialisation.

A small grant fund, a tiny but crucial $1.3 million program which supports over 150 enviro groups, was axed. There was no warning about the cuts, which have left some small conservation groups facing closure. “In effect, the cut undermines the effectiveness of grassroots, community-based conservation groups to engage with people where they live and to work with local councils and state governments.” These groups are being silenced.

Most overwhelming is the 16,000 public service jobs expected to be axed following this budget.  The devastating losses flagged for environmental staff have left many wondering how the government expects it will effectively enforce environmental regulations. With less resources to monitor industry, ensure compliance, report infringements and to punish offenders, it will be extremely difficult to keep the self-serving resources industry in check.

Numerous large scale mining projects have been approved by the government in the last six months. It’s imperative that these dirty industries are rigorously scrutinised given their history of negligence and ecological damage.

A Repeat of the Gladstone Disaster?

Without adequate staffing and resources, experts are concerned that we are leaving Australia open to another Gladstone type ecological disaster.

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Image courtesy of katesenviroblog.com.au

The Gladstone community has demanded answers ever since an outbreak of dead and diseased fish, dugongs and turtles occurred following industrial dredging in the harbour. Greg Hunt commissioned an independent review into Gladstone, which was released last Friday. It exposed extensive negligence, and contained a series of recommendations to ensure that the disaster is never repeated in Australia.

Of particular interest in light of the budget, is the finding that there was insufficient allocation of government resources to adequately monitor the strict environmental conditions applied to the dredging project:

  • Finding 30:Insufficient resourcing for Department of the Environment monitoring compromised the Australian Government’s ability to adequately ensure compliance with its conditions of approval.”

The report continues to recommend:

  • Recommendation 14: “Resource levels within the department of the environmental should be sufficient to ensure adequate monitoring capacity, including for active participation in post-approval technical committees.”

Given these findings, why has the government slashed so many crucial environment jobs?  As Chief Research Scientist at JCU John Brodie asks, “On paper at least, numerous, stringent conditions have been set for environmental management at Abbot Point by our governments and GBRMPA . . . But will the Australian or Queensland governments have the skilled staff to adequately oversee all those conditions?”

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Image courtesy of katesenviroblog.com.au

We all knew it would be a tough budget, but the cuts have been extreme. The government continues its war on the environment, but with every crooked decision they make or dodgy deal they sign, more and more Australians are galvanised into action.

This article was first published on “Kate’s Enviro Blog” and reproduced with permission.

20 comments

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  1. lawrencewinder

    This Liarbril rabble will be remembered as being environmentally and energy-wise, criminally negligent.

  2. Kaye Lee

    Budget papers show funds for climate change-related programs will shrink from $5.75 billion in the current fiscal year to $1.25 billion by 2014-15 and to $500 million by 2017-18. The government will spend more on its national blood program than climate change on all but the first of those four years.

    They also cut their own emissions reduction fund. The budget committed only $1.14 billion over the coming four years, well shy of the $2.55 billion pledged by Environment Minister Greg Hunt three weeks ago.

    As well as wanting to scrap ARENA and the CEFC, there are cuts that include $111 million to CSIRO’s overall budget, $10 million from the Bureau of Meteorology, and the merger of the Australian Climate Change Science Program with another unit.

    Graeme Pearman, a scientist who led CSIRO’s atmospheric research team for a decade until his retirement in 2002, said the government had adopted an “extreme” ideological approach in all but rejecting global warming as an issue despite ever-mounting evidence of the threat posed by more frequent extreme weather.

    “There’s a hope that the problem will go away, that someone else in the world will actually fix it,” Dr Pearman said. “The approaches now are pretty mindless … They’re not concerned about our children’s and grandchildren’s futures at all.”

    http://m.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/tony-abbotts-extreme-climate-stance-sets-back-policy-decades-critics-say-20140514-zrcpg.html

  3. bobrafto

    Has there ever been a govt. that has been blatantly pro business over the general populace?

    I think Lying Tone has set the benchmark for fraudulent deceit over the electorate.

  4. scaper...

    Oh no, because this government will not waste money on something we can not control we are all going to cook!

    Climate alarmism is so passé.

    Here’s a heads up to feed your anger. This government has cancelled the pledge by the previous mob to give $3B to the UN to fight so called ‘global warming’. Funny how the left believe they are the protectors of the environment.

    The jig’s up…socialism masquerading as environmentalism.

  5. Kaye Lee

    Tell that to your grandkids scaper. This neglect is a crime against humanity that future generations will rightly condemn flat earthers like you for. You will excuse me if I choose to believe the scientists in front of corrupt governments and greedy corporations.

  6. Michael Taylor

    Scaper’s motto: “Here there be dragons”.

  7. Möbius Ecko

    scaper just geeing us up Kaye Lee, it’s what he does. Throw out deliberately provocative statements to get a reaction and pick a fight. I guess it’s some kind of power trip for him.

  8. scaper...

    Nothing wrong with the environment that can’t be repaired. In fact, it is healthier now than when I was a kid.

    The children and grandchildren guilt trip is becoming pathetic in the extreme.

  9. mars08

    Nothing wrong with the environment that can’t be repaired.

    I’m sure nature agrees with you. It just needs to remove the source of attack… and it will.

  10. Stephen Tardrew

    This denialist stupidity started over twenty years ago when the writing was on the wall. The real dilemma was not if – but when. True we lacked sufficiently complex models however the build up was inevitable. It was possible that the increase in green house gasses could have occurred earlier or later due to any number of contributing factors however, even with limited modelling, it surely was going to happen. Personally most of my science literate friends, at the time, agreed.

    Stupidity that destroys the environment is stupidity and these individuals are stupefied by magical delusions lacking the necessary thinking to predict consequences. Surely this is an evolutionary dead end winch leads to extinction therefore it is not adaptive or rational. Religion need not be a problem if it seeds the territory of factual experimentation over to science while keeping belief in a caring and loving God. Nothing too cause angst here.

    At issue here is the twenty year or more lag time before there was any real universal response to global warming. We just cannot afford such delays in future. In their book “Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think”Peter Diamandis And Steven Kotler demonstrate we can effectively manage resources because there is an abundance of strategies we can utilize. It is how we are managing the resources that matters.

    Yet for governments today it is no use deferring to democracy because there is nothing democratic that lets us willingly destroy our ecosphere. This is not a matter of choice it is a fact, and to deny it is undemocratic oligarchical uneducated dictatorial ignorance and stupification by primitive minds infected with the virus of magical an mythical tradition replete with illogical and unsustainable assumptions.

    This is a critical point. Though we need to develop practical strategies to change minds, and much work is being done in this area, this type of thinking is actually a conceptual virus born of minds compelled by narcissistic self-interest. In evolutionary terms we must find ways to dampen fight flight imperatives and enhance pleasure imperatives while reducing pain realizing that a society that has less suffering and pain is inevitably a much healthier society.

    The implications of global warming are really profound because it is simply the tip of an irrational iceberg of victim blame and unsupportable irrational thinking that causes unnecessary pain and suffering.

    Science really has to come to the fore and challenge these self-destructive tendencies. The rate of technological development, and the diverse numbers of ways to cause massive numbers of deaths, demands a critical response. It is not just about resource depletion or global warming but a undeniable case of species masochism.

  11. RedCedar

    Regarding “scaper’… why are you people wasting your time even responding to him? He’s obviously just another representative of the generally low-IQ redneck far-right. I wouldn’t insult myself by even acknowledging his mere existence. He’s a classic human-chauvinist, nature-hater…. as most of the far right are. Thanks to his type we have the worst extinction rate in the modern world. Not that he’d give a shit…..

  12. scaper...

    Hey, that’s a funny post by someone that does not want to acknowledge me. I bet I’ve rehabilitated more native habitat than you’ve destroyed by your consumption, you Toona ciliata!

  13. Michael Taylor

    Scaper, the writer of that piece will be unavailable for two weeks. She has more important things to do than get into a fight with you, which is obviously what you are after.

  14. scaper...

    I was referring to Toona, not the writer of this thread.

  15. Tim Prater

    scaper I’ll give you a target to achieve since your childhood environments have improved for you. Prove it to us post before and after photos or links that show some proof to your statements. Or go away and find some right-wing Facebook site to play with your own kind or better go comment on Murdochs media circus and let those with positive comments get on with saving the planet for you.

  16. Bob Kledge

    Scaper claims the environment is more healthy now than when he was a kid. Funny, I remember when I was a kid there was prolly about 100,000 hectares more eucalypt forest, woodlands and wetlands in south-east QLD than there is now. Forests that had stood here for millions of years. Brisbane was ringed by a large belt of natural bushland to the north, south & west. Where is all that bush now? Well, it’s been bulldozed into permanent oblivion by developers to provide housing for the millions of people pouring into this state. A veritable plague of people. So apparently destroying ancient forests & replacing them with endless dreary suburbs makes for a “healthier” environment… according to “scaper”. I doubt if the native wildlife which once lived in those forests are “more healthy”… more likely just more dead. And what’s left of the bush in south-east QLD is highly fragmented and infested with weeds. I care about the nature of this country “scaper” so apparently that makes me a socialist. I’m sorry but I remember a healthier environment when I was a kid, before the plague of people came. I remember miles of ancient natural forest full of wildlife where now there are miles of suburbs, shopping malls and industrial estates.And I know which I prefer.

  17. corvus boreus

    Scaper, Toona ciliata was reclassified as Toona australis last century, get with it. You may have observed an improvement in the environment in your lifetime(you may have observed a limited sample), but in my lifetime I have observed almost every area I have repeat visited undergo significant decline in terms of health and resilience. Those small scale areas I have seen ecological improvements occur in have largely been due to large investments in time, energy and often money in terms of rehabilitative works.
    The reported picture of the global situation(in peer reviewed science mags) reflects a similar trend. My lifetime has seen a global halving in multi-strata vegetation(forests), and a drastic decline in oceanic life(except for jellyfish) with plastic pollution escalating rapidly, a measured increase in temperature and Carbonic acid, and recent irradiation from the Fukushima reactor(ongoing). I have also(coincidentaly) witnessed a doubling of the human population, and increased individual consumption of resources.
    Without going into the complex science of the effect of the alteration of composition of atmospheric gases on the climate of the biosphere(I’m nowhere near smart enough for that gig), let me put it in terms you might understand. If you cut down a tree you lose it’s shade(their leaves absorb heat) making it hotter on the ground. You also lose a large reservoir of stored water (trees, like us, have a large component of water). If you cut down a forest you dry and heat the area where it stood. If you deforest a planet it will be hotter and have wilder weather.
    Half a lifetime in ecological restoration have also shown me that it is harder(fossil fuel mechanical assistance is of little use here), and takes much longer, to grow a forest than to destroy one.
    I suspect, though, that I am wasting my time responding to your wriggling worm on a hook as some of your other posts have shown such naked antipathy to your fellow citizens that I suspect the well being of the community and larger environment is not a priority for you.

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