This month, we saw the release of the Federal Budget for 2022-2023, which demonstrated the first budget in years that plans to take the environment seriously. The Budget has shown a number of important transport commitments from the Government, such as further funding for the Canberra Light Rail. Things are also heading in the right direction for Australia’s biodiversity with the Federal Government’s recent commitment to zero new extinctions.
However, the Government is still lagging on its responsibility to ensure that these new expenditures can have a tangible effect on the state of Australia’s environment going forward. It was disappointing to see that the Government has continued to spend public money on supporting fossil fuel industries via some pretty hefty subsidies, including the Middle Arm project in Darwin Harbour. Read more about this project here.
We do commend the overall commitment of $1.8 Billion funding for the environment sector, particularly the commitment of $224.5 million to assist threatened species recovery. However these figures are far from the amount required to genuinely conserve our nature; especially when compared to other budget commitments such as $39.4 billion to subsidise the fuel bills of big mining companies. When examining these vastly contrasting figures, it calls into question the priorities of this Government.
Without the funding, law reform and policy to back it up, these commitments to the environment are almost ineffectual. The federal budget was a step in the right direction for addressing the threats of climate change and the nature crisis we are facing but it does not go far enough in taking ambitious action for the future of our environment.
Here is a further rundown of significant highlights:
- $7.8m to respond to the Samuel Review and start the process of reform Australia’s ineffective biodiversity conservation laws.
- $670m over six years to protect Australia’s iconic species and landscapes, help conserve World Heritage listed properties and wetlands and expand funding for Indigenous Protected Areas.
- $90m for Landcare rangers.
- $91.1 million for clean-up and restoration of urban river and water areas, local species protection.
- Greening the Government’s fleet by 2025, committing to ensuring 75% of new Commonwealth car purchases and leases are electric;
- Super-charge the electric vehicle market, the $500M Driving the Nation Fund will include electric vehicle charging infrastructure at 117 highway sites, hydrogen highways for key freight routes, co-investment by ARENA in clean transport
- $125m towards electric bus charging infrastructure in Western Australia;
- $8.1 billion in new money for infrastructure projects including the suburban rail loop in Melbourne, high-speed rail between Sydney and Newcastle, and Canberra’s tram; and
- $14M to establish a real world vehicle testing program for fuel efficiency and emissions.