In his first budget, Malcolm Turnbull has chosen the interests of big polluters over those of the community, the Australian Conservation Foundation said.

Under the Turnbull government, spending on the environment is forecast to fall by 17 per cent by 2019-20.

“Prime Minister Turnbull has missed the opportunity to show leadership on nature and climate action in his first budget,” said ACF’s CEO Kelly O’Shanassy. 

“This is not a Budget that will lead Australia out of a climate and extinction crisis.”

Fossil fuel subsidies

  • No reform of the Fuel Tax Credit subsidy, which will cost Australians almost $26.5 billion over the next four years.
  • No change to aviation fuel excise concessions which subsidise the fuel of the aviation sector; will cost Australian taxpayers $5.4 billion over the next four years.

“Motorists will continue to pay almost 40 cents in tax on every litre of fuel they buy, while some of the world’s largest mining companies, such as BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Glencore Xstrata, pay no tax at all on the fuel they use,” Ms O’Shanassy said.  

“By giving public money to big polluters, the Fuel Tax Credit subsidy takes away money from health, education and protecting our environment.”

Great Barrier Reef

  • Government has announced $171 million for the Great Barrier Reef
  • Majority of this spending occurs not until 2019
  • There are two streams of funding – $101 million reallocated from existing environment funds and $70 million in new funding for the Reef Trust

“The Government has allocated $35.6 million of existing environment funds to the Great Barrier Reef over four years. While desperately needed, this should be new money, rather than come at the expense of other environment programs.

“New funding of $40 million for the Reef Trust doesn’t flow until 2019-20.  The bulk of the Government’s announced spending for the reef ($95.4 million) occurs after the forward estimates – in other words, in two election’s time.

“While the Great Barrier Reef suffers its worst bleaching event ever, the Government has failed to commit substantial funds in the coming financial year,” Ms O’Shanassy said.

Water

A year after abolishing the National Water Commission, the Government has announced a $2 billion subsidised loan facility for the development of new dams.  At the same time the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder faces an uncertain future with funding for its operation drastically reduced by 91 per cent from 2017-18 onwards (from $11.7 million in 2015-16 to $1.4 million in 2017-18).

Similarly the Murray-Darling Basin Authority faces uncertainty, with federal funding for the MDBA halved from 2017 (from $84.7 million in 2016-17 to $37.3 million in 2017-18).

Indigenous Rangers

  • Disappointedly, there is nothing clear in the budget on Indigenous Ranger programs.

Energy transition

  • There has been no commitment to supporting an energy transition away from coal. The Government has not provided any vision in this budget and no major commitment to renewables.

“This budget could have been used to articulate a plan for a clean energy transformation for Australia – one that will see our country get off coal, get into renewables, help workers with the transition and make our energy systems much more efficient.”

Invasive species

  • The government has committed $15 million over three years for development and early implementation of a National Carp Control Plan.  ACF welcomes this funding.

Protecting nature

  • National Reserve System and threatened species. There is no new money for protected areas or threatened species recovery.

“Despite recently appointing Australia’s first Threatened Species Commissioner, the government has not dedicated new money to threatened species recovery.  The government continues to rely on broad and imprecise programs, such as the Green Army, to try to deliver these outcomes,” Ms O’Shanassy said.

Overall environment spending

“Under the Turnbull government, spending for the environment is forecast to fall by 17 per cent by 2019-20 (Budget Statement 1-9 – Table 3).  This is hugely concerning at a time when Australia’s reefs, rivers, forests and lands face unprecedented threats.  We desperately need to spend more on our reefs, rivers, forests and lands, not less.”

ACF Media Enquiries

Journalists with enquiries may contact Tom Arup on 0402 482 910, tom.arup@acf.org.au; or Toby Halligan on 0419 403 016, toby.halligan@acf.org.au For all other enquiries please call 1800 223 669 or email action@acf.org.au.