Dec 15, 2004

More Government mismanagement of environmental programs


MEDIA RELEASE: Anthony Albanese – 15 December 2004

An Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) investigation into the administration of the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality (NAP), released today, has once again exposed the Howard Government’s mismanagement of programs tasked with tackling environmental degradation – this time in the case of salinity and water quality.

The Howard Government’s mismanagement of the NAP is symptomatic of its approach to addressing the many environment challenges confronting Australia – it sets deadlines it is has no intentions of fulfilling; it is incapable of building strong partnership with other levels of government; and it allocates funding it is unable to spend effectively.

The Howard Government talks about the environmental problems confronting Australia, but when it comes to action it lacks the vision and conviction to deliver positive outcomes.

The ANAO report exposes three fundamental areas of mismanagement.

1. Failure to meet set timetable for action:

“Assessing the achievement of targets concerned with ‘preventing, stabilising and reversing trends in salinity and improving water quality’ is a long-term exercise. The consensus from consultations during the course of the audit, indicates that this will not be possible within the eight-year timeframe originally envisaged for the NAP.” (Page 18, paragraph 24)

2. Failure to deliver positive environmental outcomes:

“From the survey conducted by the ANAO of regional bodies, only eight per cent of regions agreed with the statement that, ‘decisions on funding for regional plans and investment strategies are timely and address the needs of the regions’.” (Page 16, paragraph 16)

3. Significant underspend:

As at 30 June 2004, the halfway point of the program, only 23.75% of the $700 million committed to the program had been allocated to projects. (Page 85, Table 4.1)

According to the CSIRO, nationally the cost of lost agricultural production and environmental damage attributable to salinity alone is estimated at $1 billion a year, and rising.

If we are to improve the quality of drinking water in many of our towns and cities, particularly Adelaide, the productivity of our farmlands and the survival chances of many of our unique plants and animals, then the good intentions underpinning the NAP need to be quickly realised.