With massive cuts to environmental programs and a failure to honor its 2010 election commitments, Environment Victoria has described today’s State Budget as backwards looking and damaging for the state’s environment.
Despite a budget surplus of $1.3 billion for 2014-15, environment programs have had their funding slashed in the budget, and key Coalition environment election promises will not be delivered in this term of government, leaving the Coalition with a poor story to tell on the environment in the lead up to November’s election.
Environment Victoria Acting CEO Mark Wakeham said today:
“Unfortunately this Budget confirms the Napthine Government’s negligent approach to environmental protection. The departmental budget for environmental policy has been cut by $19m, or 34%, while the budget for environmental programs has been cut by $46m or 25% on last year’s budget. These cuts will damage community conservation and environmental protection efforts across the state. The 34% cut for environmental policy is the single largest cut to any departmental output across the whole of State Government.
“In 2010 the Coalition made an explicit election commitment to improve the average efficiency standard of Victorian homes to 5 stars, from a current average of 2 stars. For the fourth successive budget the Coalition has ignored its pre-election commitment, consigning Victorians to higher utility bills and less comfortable homes.
“Meanwhile the Coalition is pouring public money into propping up industries which damage Victoria’s environment, with a $4 million coal development fund to pursue brown coal exports, and $15 million to co-fund mining exploration activities. This means that for the first time taxpayers are actually footing the bill for drilling rigs and excavators to conduct mining exploration across the state.
“The Coalition has failed to recognize that a strong economy is entirely dependent on a healthy environment, and this is starting to cost Victorians. The budget shows that the Hazelwood mine fire will cost Victorians $15.4m in clean-up costs, dwarfing new environmental expenditure in this budget. The Coalition scrapped plans to begin the retirement of Hazelwood power station in their first weeks in Government.
“Similarly, costs to fight bushfires and floods escalated in this budget, yet the Treasurer failed to mention climate change, a significant contributor to escalating disaster relief costs, in his budget speech.
Mr Wakeham acknowledged however that there were some useful, if small, areas of new environmental expenditure.
“Funding of $3.2m to establish the Yellingbo Conservation Area, $5.5m for Landcare, $3.4m to monitor for marine pollution and a $9 million contribution to the Murray Darling Basin Authority is all welcome. However in the context of major cuts to environmental budgets these initiatives are a weak antidote to a deeply disappointing budget for the environment.
“This is the fourth consecutive budget with poor environmental outcomes from the Victorian Coalition. Given that commissioned opinion polls show that Victorians expect all governments to protect our environment and clean up our energy supply, the Coalition is embarking on an environmentally and politically damaging pathway.”
For more information contact Holly Crocket 0413 343 329