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(Image via Environment Victoria / @EnviroVic)

The Turnbull Government has officially eradicated the environment from the 2017-2018 Budget and from policy. 

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the only time the word "environment" appeared in the speech was in the context of “streamlined environmental processes” in relation to the acquisition of the Snowy Hydro.

According the article, leader of the Greens Richard Di Natale's main concern was that the budget

“... doesn’t do enough to assist young people, particularly those wrestling with housing affordability.” 

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson Young at least mentioned on her website that Turnbull

“... had his priorities wrong by cutting $3.8 billion from universities while planning to loan $1 billion to Adani for a useless coalmine.” 

In the 'Environment and Energy' Budget measures, we have $25.9 million for gas supply and affordability. $0.6 million for 'Adaption partnership' whatever that means, and ... wait for it … $1.7 million for 'National Emissions Standards for Non-Road Spark Ignition Engines and Equipment – cost recovery'. There’s no definition for this item. The Bureau of Meteorology gets $0.6 million for 'improved security and resilience'.

A closer scrutiny of the Budget measures reveals that an "Adaption partnership" apparently means that the Government will provide $0.6 million in 2017-2018 to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and the National Climate Change Adaption Research Facility.

According to the paper:

'... this measure supports existing online platforms that inform decision makers seeking to adapt to changes in climate.' 

Really?

This measure will be offset by redirecting existing funding from 2016-2017 from within the Department of the Environment and Energy.

The National Landcare Programme continues, with $1.1 billion over seven years from 2016-2017 from the National Heritage Trust, including $100 million provided in the 2016-2017 Green Army Program, which has been terminated but redirected to

'... natural resource management, local and long term environmental, sustainable agriculture and Indigenous outcomes.'  

Funding allocations to be determined by the Natural Heritage Ministerial Board. The program intends to plant 20 million trees by 2020 under one of its major projects.

Any tree planting program funded by the Federal Government makes a mockery of the looming promulgation of NSW's inappropriately named Biodiversity Conservation Bill and Local Land Services Amendment Bill, both of which are due to come into law in July. An analysis commissioned by World Wildlife Fund of the potential vegetation clearing under NSW's proposed Local Land Services Act by Ecological Australia demonstrated that over 2.2 million hectares of woody vegetation that has been identified as either known or likely koala habitat could be potentially cleared under the new equity code.    

The Biodiversity Bill will allow land clearing on the basis of self-assessment. This Act will repeal the Threatened Species Conservation Act, the Native Vegetation Act, Nature Conservation Trust Act and sections of the National Parks and Wildlife Act.

Queensland land clearing continues. The Palaszczuk Government's support for the Adani Carmichael Mine Project and the opening up of the Gaililee Basin will ensure massive increases in Australia’s carbon emissions.

There’s abundant evidence from state governments that the environment is a non-issue. The 2017 Federal Budget underlines an appalling and irresponsible neglect of this ancient land and its unique species. 

The sum total of the Turnbull Government’s recognition of the importance of the environment and climate change is zero.   

In The Australian newspaper’s budget report, the environment fails to make a mention. No doubt a reflection of the influence of Rupert Murdoch’s best mate, America’s most anti-environmental president ever, Donald Trump. Mainstream media has also joined the News Ltd crowd in ensuring the environment has no place in public concern. An article written by Stephen Long for the ABC, which mysteriously disappeared from the internet [but was reported by IA HERE], reports on a poll by market research company ReachTel for the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), that found more than two thirds of Australians want a share of company tax imposed on polluting companies to protect reefs, rivers, forests and wildlife.

According to the article, nearly 3,000 people were interviewed for pre-Budget opinions. Six out of ten said the environment should receive a bigger share of the Federal Budget, while nearly three-quarters said they would support a political party with a policy for 'a national plan where nature thrives'.

According to the ACF, the environment budget has declined by 20% since the Coalition came to office and is projected to decline by 38% on 2013 levels through to 2019. Chief Executive Kelly O'Shannasy says the failure of the Turnbull Government to take heed of the State of the Environment Report 2016, which found resources for environmental management and protection were “insufficient” was indicative of Turnbull’s attitude to the environment.

The Report also stated that Australia lacks

'... an overarching national policy that establishes a clear vision for the protection and sustainable management of Australia’s environment to the year 2050.'

At a time when the Government’s webpage Biodiversity hotspots declares Australia is one of 17 countries described as being "megadiverse", supporting more than 70% of the biological diversity on earth, the lack of policy and consideration of the environment is irresponsible. These identified countries represent more than two thirds of all (known) life forms and the majority of tropical rainforests, reefs and other priority systems.

Australia is home to between 600,000 and 700,000 species, many of which are endemic — that is, they are found nowhere else in the world. These include, for example, 84% of our plant species, 83% of mammals and 45% of birds.

Australia's biodiversity – the plants, animals, micro-organisms and their ecosystems – is threatened from the impacts of human activities. Since European settlement, more than 50 species of Australian animals and over 60 species of Australian plants are known to have become extinct.

The Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area is in need of urgent attention and a downgrading to a World Heritage "in danger" listing, which would ensure much greater protection. Koala populations in New South Wales and Queensland are suffering catastrophic collapses in their numbers as habitat continues to be cleared for development and mining operations. 

As the State of the Environment Report says:

'... other pressures have increased, those associated with coal mining and the coal-seam gas industry, habitat fragmentation and degradation, invasive species, litter in our coastal and marine environments, air quality, poor agricultural practices, all resulting in cumulative impacts on the environment.'

Unfortunately, the Report failed to identify the most pressing issue, political apathy and irresponsibility.

You can follow Sue Arnold on Twitter @koalacrisis and Koala Crisis on Facebook here.

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