Looking for colour and life, Great Barrier Reef (and Fed's budget 2016)

Here’s our assessment of the federal budget 2016

Losses for the susty sector

$247.2 million over five years from 2015-16 will be cut from the annual funding under the Industry Skills Fund. The fund provides support for training needs of small and medium enterprise that cannot be readily met by the national training system. Only $206.9 million over five years will now be provided.

Money to be cut from the CRC program, with the government slashing $20.2 million over two years from 2015-16 from reduced funding to CRCs and reduced funding to the communications campaign for the National Innovation and Science Agenda package and the Entrepreneurs’ Programme (sic) , in order to extend funding for the Australian Astronomical Observatory and partially fund a communications and compliance campaign for the new Country of Origin [food] Labelling framework.

A pittance for Cities Taskforce

A tiny $4.6 million in 2016-17 to “continue and expand” the Cities Taskforce – supposedly to “drive implementation of the Government’s agenda for Australian cities”.

ARENA – “While ARENA is apparently not on the shopping block anymore, there will be no restoration of funds cut from its budget, instead the government plans for it to continue to manage its existing portfolio of grants within the $1 billion envelope of funding from the 2014-15 Budget.”

 Winners – and winners of a kind

National Water Infrastructure Loan Facility to be funded by a $2 billion in concessional loan for a 10 year period from 1 July 2016. Provides loans to the states and territories to support major water infrastructure projects. Applications for loans will be assessed against projects’ cost effectiveness and financial viability. The loan recipient will make interest-only payments for up to the first five years of the loan term and will then have a further 10 years to repay the principal and any additional interest. The government plans to offset the cost through interest revenue from the loans.

Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency retained, and will “refocus part of their activities towards the government’s innovation agenda”. The CEFC’s investment mandate will be revised to allocate $1 billion in existing CEFC funding over 10 years to establish a Clean Energy Innovation Fund under the CEFC, to be jointly managed with ARENA to provide debt and equity financing to assist emerging clean energy technologies to make the leap from demonstration to commercial deployment. ARENA will also continue to manage its existing portfolio of grants within the $1 billion envelope of funding from the 2014-15 Budget. Both the fiscal and underlying cash impacts progressively improve over the medium and longer term due to increasing net investment earnings.

A tiny slice of pie for environment protection – $22.6 million over three years from 2016-17 (including $4 million in 2018 -19) to the Natural Heritage Trust component of the National Landcare Program to support activities under the Plan for a Cleaner Environment. The measure will “address priority areas and projects supporting environment protection and natural resource management”.

$27.4 million will be saved over two years from 2015-16 by reducing funding for the Carbon Capture and Storage Flagships Programme and the National Low Emissions Coal Initiative

Win-Lose –

Water Infrastructure Fund at expense of Rural Research and Development for Profit program

* an additional $9.5 million in 2016-17 for the National Water Infrastructure Development Fund for funding additional water infrastructure feasibility studies in northern Australia. The cost being offset by redirecting funding from the Rural Research and Development for Profit program.

Trees sometime later this decade at the expense of Landcare

* An additional $20 million over two years from 2018-19 to support planting native trees and understorey for green corridors and urban forests. The money is being taken from existing funding commitments to the National Landcare Program – which did NOT get increased in this budget. The “new” funding extends the 2014-15 20 Million Trees budget measure.

Marine reserves sugar-coating at the expense of Natural Heritage Trust funding

$56.1 million over four years from 2016-17, and $5.3 million annually from 2020-21, to implement management of the Commonwealth Marine Reserves. The funding includes money for fisheries adjustment assistance, marine user engagement and the ongoing management of the reserves. The funding of $5.3 million ongoing from 2020-21 will be offset by an equivalent reduction to the Natural Heritage Trust component of the National Landcare Program

Money for the Great Barrier Reef at the expense of other Landcare projects

$171.0 million to the Reef Trust and Reef 2050 Plan. The measure includes: $101 million over six years from 2016-17 (including $32.7 million in 2020-21 and $32.7 million in 2021-22) to support the implementation of the Reef 2050 Plan; and $70.0 million contribution over three years from 2019-20 (including $15.0 million in 2020-21 and $15.0 million in 2021-22) to the Reef Trust. The cost of the Reef 2050 Plan component of this measure will be met from the existing resources of the National Landcare Program. Provision for the Reef Trust component has already been included in the forward estimates. This measure extends the 2014-15 Budget measure titled Reef 2050 Plan establishment and the 2015-16 Budget measure titled Reef Trust —additional contribution bringing the Government’s investment in the Reef Trust to $210.0 million since establishment.

Handouts to benefit the mining and fossil fuels sector

$43.8 million over five years (including $11.7 million in 2020-21) to establish the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility as a corporate Commonwealth entity. The NAIF will deliver up to $5 billion in financing over five years (from 2016-17) to support economic infrastructure in northern Australia. The NAIF will be administered by a board which will be guided by an investment mandate to be issued by the Minister for Resources, Energy and Northern Australia.

$100.5 million over four years from 2016-17 to produce geographical modelling of mineral, petroleum and groundwater resources in targeted areas across northern Australia and South Australia. “This program of data acquisition and analysis will allow Australia to identify new greenfield exploration sites for future development”.

$15 million to give carp in the Murray Darling River system a special form of the herpes virus (like we need another biological program let loose on the environment). It’s assumed that this is designed to kill them, which will mean that on top of the current blue-green algae issue, water quality can be further compromised with tens of thousands of dead and dying fish between the Victorian border and Adelaide’s catchment.

Roads, roads and more roads

  • $2.9 billion for infrastructure – the majority for roads including:
  • $350.0 million for Melbourne’s Western Ring Road
  • $500 million for the Monash Freeway
  • $345 million for Victorian rural and regional highways,
  • $75 million for “urban congestion” in Victoria
  • $260.8 million for the tunnel section of Stage 2 of the Perth Freight Link, bringing the total Government commitment to the project to $1.2 billion
  • $200 million for the Ipswich Motorway in Queensland to be funded on a matching basis with the Queensland Government
  • $400 million to increase and extend the Roads to Recovery program
  • $60 million for the Black Spots program, $40.0 million for the Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity program
  • Of the infrastructure funds, some is being given to rail including:
  • $220 million for the Murray Basin freight rail upgrade
  • $10 million to progress the business case for the Melbourne Metro;
  • $26.2 million for concept design for rail services at Badgerys Creek Airport [out of $115.1 million over two years from 2016-17 to progress preparatory works on the airport
  • $490 million in 2015-16 for the Forrestfield Airport rail link in Western Australia.
  • Up to $593.7 million in additional equity over three years from 2017-18 to the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) to progress the Inland Rail project including land acquisition, the continuation of pre-construction, and due diligence activities. The funding will be subject to an equity funding agreement to be developed between the Commonwealth and ARTC. This will bring the Government’s commitment to the project to a total of $893.7 million.