By Jim Green
The federal budget has angered environmentalists. Funding for environment programs and groups has been reduced, some funding has been tied to the sale of Telstra and funding for environment groups will be conditional on their activities contributing to government priorities.
Funding for the "Department of the Environment — Administered Programs" falls from $418.1 million in 2000-2001 to $7.7 million in 2002-2003. Most or all of this funding goes to the Natural Heritage Trust Fund.
Australian Greens Senator Bob Brown said, "The budget commits huge amounts to environmentally negative pursuits such as diesel fuel generation and logging enhancement, but a pittance to tackle real environmental problems. There is nothing at all for solar power and ... spending which will increase air pollution is 1000 times spending on air cleaning."
Linking environmental funding to a further Telstra sell-off is a grubby manoeuvre which the government used in its first term. At that time, Scitech magazine quoted a "senior government adviser" that "the linkage to the environment is ... designed to cloud the Telstra sale issue and ... blackmail other parties and the general community into accepting it. Many of the opponents of the Telstra sale have long suggested that the Natural Heritage Trust Fund was a cynical, political intervention and a blackmail device. They have always been correct."
Brown is planning a Senate motion noting that, in order to meet the new criterion of tying their activities to government priorities, environment groups would need to support uranium mining at Jabiluka, logging koala habitat in NSW, woodchipping the tallest trees in the southern hemisphere in Tasmania and allowing an 8% increase in greenhouse gas emissions in Australia by the year 2010.