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The Federal Budget: what’s in it for the environment?

Last week’s Federal Budget has sadly only paid lip service to environmental protection, falling short on measures to address climate change – the words not even uttered by Treasurer Scott Morrison in his Budget speech – and ignoring the need to preserve and expand protected areas. 
 
The Budget’s environment funding has been criticised not only by fellow independent advocacy groups such as the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), which says it “funds pollution over people and nature”, but also Queensland’s Minister for National Parks and the Great Barrier Reef. 
 
The Minister, Steven Miles, has blasted the Turnbull Government for failing to fund environmental initiatives – including ignoring the much-maligned Reef, despite the devastation caused by Cyclone Debbie and the second consecutive major coral bleaching event. The Minister has noted that historically the ratio of investment between the federal and state governments for Reef programs was 2:1, but now the spending is split 50-50. 
 
The ACF’s chief executive Kelly O’Shanassy says Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull “seems determined to continue Tony Abbott’s environmental negligence”, comparing an overall $1.2 billion allocation for the environment – amounting to a 14% budget cut since the Coalition formed government in 2013 – to subsidies for big polluters totalling $7.6 billion. 
 
“Public spending to address climate pollution and safeguard the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the places and wildlife we love, will continue to endure brutal cuts. Meanwhile, billions in public funds are being handed to big polluters like coal companies,” Ms O’Shanassy says. 
 
The expansion of the Snowy Hydro scheme is generally seen as one bright spot in the Budget, providing it is powered by only renewable energy. Opportunities for further hydro-electric and pumped energy storage in Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania are being considered. 
 
Meanwhile, although funding has been maintained for Indigenous rangers and Indigenous Protected Areas, there is no additional allocation. 
 
Caption: Coral on the Great Barrier Reef, which has been overlooked in the Federal Budget as spending cuts for the environment continue. Photo: Toby Hudson