News | 29th Jul, 2011

Vic Oppn says Govt has forgotten environment

Friday, 29 July 2011
Liz Hobday, PM ABC News

MARK COLVIN: The Victorian Labor Opposition is accusing the Coalition Government of watering down environment policy and backing away from commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

And the state's peak environment body says that almost eight months since it took office, the Government hasn't developed a comprehensive environment policy.

Victoria's Minister for the Environment and Climate Change has been defending his Government's record.

Liz Hobday reports.

LIZ HOBDAY: The Shadow Minister for the Environment and Climate Change, Lisa Neville, says, now the Baillieu Government is in power, it's no longer interested in reducing carbon emissions.

LISA NEVILLE: What we've seen is that Ryan Smith and the Baillieu Government that when in opposition supported the 20 per cent emissions reduction which we introduced last year to now be talking about that as being aspirational rather than being a target.

LIZ HOBDAY: The state's emission reduction scheme recently became law. But, information about the scheme has been removed from public view.

Lisa Neville.

LISA NEVILLE: That plan and also the climate change white paper have been removed from the website which again is very concerning, is this an indication that they are really walking away completely form the commitment that they made in opposition and which is currently the law in Victoria.

LIZ HOBDAY: The Victorian Minister for the Environment and Climate Change Ryan Smith is on the record supporting a price on carbon, but he's made himself scarce during the carbon tax debate, as the Premier and Energy Minister criticise the Federal Government's policies.

But, Ryan Smith has told 730 Victoria, no one has directed him to let others do the talking.

RYAN SMITH: Absolutely not. I’ve been working very hard to implement our pre-election commitments, making they’re across all the details of my portfolio. And really just trying to get across the various aspects of that portfolio.

But since the debate’s gone on of course Minister O’Brien and the Premier have said a lot. I am in complete agreement with their view of the world, is that the carbon tax is going to hit Victoria the hardest.

LIZ HOBDAY: And he says, while the climate change white paper is no longer accessible to the public, the Government is addressing the issue.

RYAN SMITH: The white paper was on the former premier’s website which obviously is not there anymore.

We are working through the various policies and we’ve got a number of them that are addressing climate change, we have got policies that encourage people to use energy-efficient whitegoods and other appliances, we’ve got policies that give money to groups, community groups around Victoria to go down a sustainable line.

LIZ HOBDAY: There are also fears the Baillieu Government wants to redirect more than $100 million in funding earmarked for community climate change initiatives, by calling for comment on a new Sustainability Fund Priority Statement.

The state’s peak body on environment issues, Environment Victoria, had its funding cut in the last budget, but it says its concerns about the Government extend to a lack of interest in environmental issues in general.

The Coalition won office without a comprehensive environment policy, and the CEO of Environment Victoria, Kelly O'Shannasy says almost eight months later, the Government has failed to develop one.

KELLY O'SHANNASY: They don't have a plan for the environment they did say that they would pull one together for election but they in fact never delivered that or released it publicly so we don’t have a plan for Victoria’s environment for the next four years 1

LIZ HOBDAY: The Government's recent statement on its achievements during its first six months in office covers all the major portfolios, but doesn’t include a single listing under the heading, "environment."

But the Minister Ryan Smith says the Government is limited in the changes it can implement, because of uncertainty about the carbon tax.

RYAN SMITH: Well I think we’re constrained a little by what’s happening at the moment on a federal level, until we work out what goes through the Parliament I think we are going to be in a bit of a holding pattern but we are very committed to implementing the policies that we went to the election on.