Page 2137 - Week 07 - Wednesday, 22 June 2005
a God-given right to government funding. If government priorities change, governments have a right to not continue to fund. Every government in this place has funded and then, from time to time, reduced or taken away funding from community organisations and institutions in this territory.
I recall an occasion, when I was the adviser to the environment minister, when the conservation council for Canberra and the south east region was not funded by the ACT government. They were not funded to provide policy advice and advocacy but they were, in fact, funded to undertake projects. They always received some funding but that funding was for practical things, rather than advocacy, and what might be called policy advice. It is difficult for governments when you pay people to do work and, in return for that, they spend their time bagging the life out of you. It is a reasonable thing to say, “If I give you money to do a particular thing for the good of the community, I don’t expect that you would use some of those funds to make my life difficult, rather than work for the community, which is what we pay you to do.”
Grants to voluntary environmental heritage organisations from the federal government are quite substantial. I understand that there were 164 applications received, mainly from environment groups, and that there were 128 organisations funded in 2004-05. Ninety-seven of them were environment groups, 38 were heritage groups and there were three environment and heritage groups. For the most part these groups were members of state and territory conservation councils.
We have to remember that conservation councils are peak bodies. We all know this is the case with the Canberra and south-east region conservation council. It has a vast number of members who come together to create a peak body. It has, in the ACT, a whole range of things. There is the solar energy society, friends of the grasslands, the ornithologist group, herpetologists and the save the ridge group. There is a huge number, a whole range of people. I could list them at great length. All of those people come together to create the conservation council, and it is a peak body.
It has been the practice of Liberal governments, both here and in the commonwealth, and in other states, rather than to fund the peak body to fund the people who actually do the work—to fund the ornithologists who go out and do the bird counts; to fund the land care groups who dig the weeds, plant the trees and address erosion, salinity and things like that; to fund the grass groups and the native plant groups who go out and collect the seeds and propagate them. There were a number of organisations that did receive funding in previous rounds that did not receive it this year. They were not eligible because they did not undertake current on-the-ground projects.
The criteria for the funding of the grants for voluntary environment and heritage organisations from the federal government include that they must be currently undertaking on-ground projects. So there were organisations which were not funded—they included the conservation councils of Western Australia, Queensland, New South Wales, the south-east region and Canberra, the Environment Centre of the Northern Territory and a couple of other organisations—because they did not meet the criteria.
The criteria were to fund people to do on-the-ground work—to collect the seeds, to propagate the plants, to address salinity, to count the birds and to run projects like Cool Communities. They get funding for that but they do not get funding for advocacy. It is