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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 04 Hansard (Thursday, 22 April 2021) . . Page.. 1043 ..

The environment is an issue that we are all passionate about, as Canberra is the place we call home. The environment should be a particular concern for all 25 members in this place, given that we have been elected as caretakers of the territory.

While the recent budget offered little for Canberra’s vital small business sector, as I pointed out on Tuesday, there were several big-ticket items that the government says will improve our environment. I refer to measures such as $150 million for zero interest loans for rooftop solar panels and zero emissions vehicles, $100 million for the Big Battery scheme, and $50 million to improve energy efficiency in our public housing. While the government trumpets these spends, I want to highlight a number of areas where the government has dropped the ball on its environmental record.

Given the government’s constant green talk, it is hard to understand why Greens leader Shane Rattenbury has snubbed Canberrans by failing to commission a major climate change review when legislation demanded that it be done by last October. Mr Rattenbury’s response to me at estimates about why he had not commissioned a review of the Climate Change and Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act 2010, which was passed in the Assembly on 26 October 2010 and requires a review after five and 10 years, was simply that “we need to get onto it”. Still we have heard nothing except that the directorate is examining how it can be done.

These are important climate change laws that the Labor government introduced. The Greens leader was a member of the Assembly when the legislation was passed, but the government has yet to even announce the review. One can only wonder why, but it certainly does raise concerns about the government’s genuine commitment to climate change action.

Another concern is that the government’s funding for Canberra’s army of environmental volunteers has dried up. Despite the environment minister, Ms Vassarotti, waxing lyrical about the value of environmental volunteers, funding for volunteer action will dry up after this financial year.

Budget statements E reveals that $475,000 will be spent on environmental volunteers in 2020-21, but no money has been allocated for 2021-22, 2022-23 or 2023-24. The budget describes volunteer activation as “getting more people more active in caring for nature”. That is something that we all support. So much for Labor and the Greens valuing the knowledge and expertise of the thousands of Canberrans who do volunteer so many hours as land managers and stewards of our environment. Minister Vassarotti told estimates:

… in the parliamentary and governing agreement there is a strong commitment to environmental volunteers … We are not quite there yet … it is about us working with our government colleagues in terms of … stability, and recognising what is required in order to deliver that value to the territory.

The minister’s statement is of concern, given that the parliamentary agreement notes the importance of environmental volunteers, but they were left high and dry in the budget.

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