Page 2369 - Week 08 - Tuesday, 28 June 2005

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a very clear separation of roles. The Greens’ view is that policy advice on water issues should sit with Environment ACT as the water resource manager under the Water Resources Act or under the Office of Sustainability. From my observation during the estimates process, this separation does not appear to be that clear cut. I will work to ensure that we have much more coherent management arrangements for the upper Murrumbidgee catchment in the ACT, which includes the Cotter and the Molonglo catchments.

It is very hard to judge how serious the government is about energy efficiency when it has failed to fulfil its election promise to provide $5 million on energy efficiency measures in ACT schools. It has also allocated just $1 million of a promised $4 million strategy for energy efficiency in ACT public housing It is worth noting that the conservation council, in its statement to the estimates committee, said:

We were disappointed with the allocation of funding for the improvement to energy efficiency of public housing. This budget has allocated $1 million. There was a promise of $4 million. That promise of $4 million was welcome but was only a portion of what we have estimated would be required. Our figures show that we would need $30 million in order to bring the current housing stock up to a decent standard of energy efficiency. While the $1 million will translate into real results, we need more money for that sector.

The improvements to energy efficiency will translate into savings to the tenants, but that also helps to address their utility debt, which can in fact translate into fewer rent arrears and therefore increase the return to government in the management of the public housing stock and help to prevent homelessness.

There are other areas of disappointment about funding to the environment section of the Chief Minister’s Department: the overall 6.6 per cent cut; no ongoing funding for the wood heater rebate scheme or the solar hot water rebate scheme and the lack of funding for the review of the Nature Conservation Act.

As I said when the budget was released, the government was elected on a strong environmental platform. The government knew that people in the ACT think about the environment and care about it when they vote. It was willing to come up with promises then, but is disappointing to see these cuts, these staff losses, these broken promises and minimalist new initiatives. I was particularly surprised that the government did not allocate additional funding to the office of the Commissioner for the Environment, given the independent advice that has suggested that the office is underresourced to meet its statutory obligations. It would seem that the government sees such statutory oversight and advisory bodies as an optional extra, rather than one of the basic building blocks of an environmentally sustainable society.

MRS BURKE (Molonglo) (3.58): I would like to make some comments regarding the women’s portfolio area. Clearly the report identifies not only that there was considerable discussion about the women’s budget statement, but also, of course, that there was confusion amongst members about the capacity of the Minister for Women to comment on areas noted in the statement. To that end, I note that the committee agrees with the minister’s suggestion that, “It may be useful to cross-reference programs mentioned in the statement to the relevant area in the budget papers where more details, particularly funding levels, are included and trust that this will be addressed in future budgets.”

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