Back in mid-June, environment and community groups were sweating over applications to the Biodiversity Fund for scarce funding for essential projects to continue sustainable management of precious environmental resources. By late July, newly returned Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was announcing ‘savings’ from uncommitted funds in the Biodiversity Fund which would pay for his other campaign promises. So the funding process was abruptly truncated after more than three months of effort by committed groups with worthy projects, and the money was swiped out of the environment portfolio into the ‘political promises’ portfolio.
Budget cuts elsewhere and re-structuring have left many project officers in natural resources management facing the end of their contracts if they can’t find alternative sources of funding. This is just more of the stop/start funding scenario which undermines all attempts at long-term, large-scale sustainable management of Australia’s precious natural resources, such as clean air, clean water and healthy soils, which underpin our economy.
We need leadership which recognises that Australia’s ecosystems underpin its prosperity and future well-being, and invests in sustaining the environment to the same degree as in economic growth. Emeritus Professor Robert Douglas puts the argument eloquently, when he says ‘our next prime minister must be ecologically footprint literate’.
As he notes, more and more Australians are recognising the impossibility of continuing with business as usual, and are seeking leadership that will place population health and well-being at the heart of the national enterprise, instead of economic growth.
All Australian voters need to challenge their representatives to assign permanent recurrent funding for sustainable management of our natural resources, and to stop the funding merry-go-round which wastes time and energy which should be securing those resources for our national future.