The upcoming budget will slash $100 million from the Department of the Environment over the next three years. An internal government review has indicated that 670 jobs will be shed, equating to a quarter of the Department’s workforce, with 250 voluntary redundancies expected by Christmas of this year. In addition to job cuts, the government is looking at “alternative funding models” to save $100 million, including activities in Parks Australia and the Antarctic Division.
Parks Australia manages six of our most precious and internationally recognised natural areas, including Kakadu, Uluru and our marine reserves. Environmental groups have raised alarm at the review, claiming that “alternative funding models” could open up these natural areas to large resort development or activities like mining, which has until now been banned in Antarctica. Whether the Traditional Owners will be properly consulted over any plans to develop their land for government revenue is to be seen.
The review is particularly worrying given the absolute disregard for the environment shown by the Liberal government since being elected in late 2013. They approve industrial dredging in the reef, remove Heritage Listings, cull threatened species, ignore climate science and dismantle any progress made on environmental issues by his predecessors. This blind focus on short term economic gain means that our environment is not safe – everything has a price.
On a more promising note, the review indicated that the government was preparing for the many legal challenges against them from community and environmental groups. These include the two legal challenges being fought by the Queensland Environmental Defenders Office against the Abbott Point decisions, and the recent win in the Land Court against Gina Rinehart’s Alpha Coal Mine. These cases are empowering everyday Australians to take the fight into their own hands and we are seeing a surge in the numbers engaging in protests, blockades and gatherings.
The legal challenges continue to stack up. If the government continues to disband national environmental regulations, give power to States to engage in damaging industrial activity, and sell out our environment to line the pockets of mining magnates, they should expect many, many more.