Environment Victoria has described this evening’s Federal Budget as permanently damaging, both to the environment, but also to the Coalition’s environmental credentials.
The Budget proposes to scrap important institutions like the Australian Renewable Energy Agency which the Coalition repeatedly promised to retain in the lead up to the 2013 Federal Election, raising serious questions about whether Coalition promises on environment protection made while in Opposition can be trusted or taken at face value.
Environment Victoria Acting CEO Mark Wakeham said today:
“Last week in Victoria we saw the Napthine Government slash environment funding in the State Budget, after having scrapped all climate programs in the past three years on the basis that we have a national carbon price.
“In Opposition Greg Hunt made a very clear commitment days before the 2013 Federal election to retain the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA). Now we find ARENA will be axed along with the carbon price. Similarly the Coalition promised to maintain Landcare funding. Tonight $484 million has been cut from Landcare and the Caring for Our Country programs. These decisions are extraordinarily damaging to both the environment and to public confidence in the Coalition’s commitment to the environment.”
“The Coalition promising environmental protection and climate action in Opposition, then slashing it in government is starting to look like a pattern.”
“Over the past 30 years national governments of all persuasions have at least had some credible environment policy. That record of bipartisanship appears to be drawing to a close.”
Mr Wakeham said that the proposal to scrap the carbon price would undermine pollution reduction efforts but also hurt Australians financially with foregone government revenue of $24 billion from polluters through to 2020.
“Instead of polluters paying taxpayers as happens under the carbon price, taxpayers will hand over billions to polluters for questionable environmental benefit if Direct Action passes through Parliament.
“Meanwhile, despite claiming all Australians needed to share in the Budget pain, polluting industries have again managed to hang on to around $10 billion in annual fossil fuel subsidies including discounted diesel for mining companies, accelerated depreciation for oil, gas and petroleum industries and reduced excise for aviation fuels.
“It’s deeply disappointing that the Treasurer has prioritised continuing the Fuel Tax Credits scheme for mining companies which will see taxpayers pick up the fuel bill for some of the world’s most profitable and polluting corporations. This will cost taxpayers $7 billion in just the next three years. Meanwhile the Coalition’s one million solar rooves election promise did not receive a cent in this budget. It’s clear with this Budget that the Coalition is siding with polluters and against clean energy.”
Mr Wakeham said that any possible environmental benefit that might have resulted from reintroducing indexing of fuel excise for motorists would be negated by the proposal to use all revenue raised to build new roads.
“Make no mistake, this budget is a freeway builder’s dream and a public transport commuter’s nightmare. The Budget provides $1.5 billion for the East-West Link freeway, yet not one cent for the Napthine Government’s proposed new train lines. The Napthine Government’s Melbourne Rail Link looks like a mirage in the desert while their freeway plans are well underway with Federal funding.
Finally Mr Wakeham said any benefit from a new $1.0 million program over four years to clean up the Yarra River was dwarfed by cuts to national bodies and programs that have played a key role in beginning to restore the Murray-Darling Basin to health.
“We’re particularly disappointed to see the National Water Commission being axed after all its good work, and also to see the Government proceed with a cap on water buybacks that limits the use of the most cost-effective way of getting water back into our rivers.”