What are political parties bringing to the table?

Foreign aid cuts to pay for infrastructure, Coalition reveals

5 September 2013 — Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey, releasing the Coalition’s costings, has revealed his government will pay for its infrastructure commitments by cutting planned foreign aid spending by $4.5 billion.

“Reductions in projected aid spending of $4.5bn will be allocated to other Coalition policy priorities, including productive infrastructure such as Melbourne’s East West link ($1.5bn), Sydney’s WestConnex ($1.5bn) and the Brisbane Gateway Motorway upgrade ($1bn),” a Coalition document said.

Coalition won’t submit Direct Action for independent costing

5 September 2013 — The Coalition’s climate change policy was not included as part of the independently costed policies released by shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey this afternoon.

The policy, as well as the Coalition’s broadband and asylum seeker policy, were not delivered to the Parliamentary Budget Office, with a spokesperson for Mr Hockey saying the PBO would not have access to “input from a range of external sources”, The Age reported.

The uncosted policies would be given to the Coalition’s “eminent persons” panel, comprising former bureaucrat Peter Shergold, former Queensland auditor-general Len Scanlan and economist Geoff Carmody.

Mr Abbott, campaigning in Brisbane, said the Direct Action policy was costed in 2010, calling it “bullet-proof”, even though modelling commissioned by the Climate Institute found the policy would not be able to reduce emissions by five per cent without an extra funding injection of between $4 billion and $15 billion.

Under the current plan, the Climate Institute’s modelling, perfomed by Sinclair Knight Merz-MMA and Monash University’s Centre of Policy Studies, found emissions would in fact increase by nine per cent.

Mr Abbott this week confirmed a Coalition government would not increase funding if targets could not be met.

Uphill battle to stop CEFC, says advice from Senate clerk

5 September 2013 — The Greens have released advice suggesting an incoming Abbott government would face an uphill battle to stop the Clean Energy Finance Corporation from funding renewable projects.

Christine Milne, speaking at the the National Press Club, released advice from Senate clerk Rosemary Laing, which stated: “The specific funding arrangements made for the CEFC suggest that it would be difficult to prevent the operation of the arrangements without legislative action.”

The advice from Laing said an incoming Coalition government would face “serious legal consequences” if a minister prevented the CEFC from carrying out its work by failing to authorising payments.

Legislation would be “more likely and necessary under a system of responsible government” to stop the CEFC functioning, the advice said.

However, if it does not gain control of the Senate, the Coalition may not be able to pass legislation to rescind the CEFC, as the Greens and Labor have both stated they will not repeal it.

“Mr Abbott and Mr Robb are arrogantly assuming they can usurp the role of the parliament to direct the CEFC to halt its legislative function,” Ms Milne said.

“They can’t. Only the parliament can repeal the carbon price and only the parliament can stop the roll out of renewable energy by the CEFC.”

Coalition reveals Great Barrier Reef plan

2 September 2013 — The Coalition has announced it will create a $40 million trust to reduce crown of thorns starfish, and improve water quality and coastal habitat, as part of its Reef 2050 plan.

”I hope that in 2050 we look back and note that this was a turning point in how we addressed the threats to the Reef in a focused and strategic way,” a statement by shadow Environment minister Greg Hunt said.

It has pledged to keep the $200 million in existing funding for programs.

Labor last week promised $137 million in additional Great Barrier Reef protection programs:

  • $64 million for landholders to reduce the sediment, nutrient and pesticide discharge
  • $26.3 million over five years for to protect and restore wetlands, mangroves and riparian areas
  • $21 million over five years to identify strategies to improve the water quality into the barrier reef “lagoon”
  • $26 million over five years to support the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority

The Greens have announced a $176 million Great Barrier Reef protection package.

UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee is deciding whether to place the Great Barrier Reef on its “World Heritage in Danger” list, with concerns that development along the coast is impacting on the site.

Environment Victoria warns of payday for dirty coal

2 September 2013 — Environment Victoria has warned that the dirtiest coal generators would be the largest beneficiaries of a carbon tax repeal.

The Federal Government is to today give free carbon permits to Australia’s dirtiest power stations. Environment Victoria analysis has found that Hazelwood Power station, one of Australia’s most polluting power stations, is set to receive $267.8 million worth of permits, followed by Yallourn with $259.3 million. In total, over $1 billion of permits are today being handed out.

The permits can be sold back to the Federal Government any time from today, though Environment Victoria says it is likely generators will seek to sell these free permits back to the government straight away to ensure a cash benefit and avoid uncertainty regarding the value of permits under an Abbott government.

“Compensating coal generators for the carbon price was always poor policy,” said Environment Victoria safe climate campaign manager Victoria McKenzie-McHarg. “However, making billion dollar compensation payments and then removing the carbon price would be a public policy disaster.”

“Any climate policy that actually makes our most polluting power stations more profitable is not credible. This issue highlights that removing the carbon price is likely to be fraught with complexity, and extremely costly to taxpayers who’ll lose out three times over; they’ll foot the bill for compensation, lose carbon price revenue and then have to pay more again for emissions reduction under Tony Abbott’s plan.

“We urge the Coalition to reconsider its plans to remove the carbon price which has been operating effectively to reduce emissions.”

Cities minister on the agenda, at last

30 August 2013 – Prime Minister Kevin Rudd promised to install a minister for cities after the 7 September election, after years of lobbying from a host of associations in the built space.

All will be bound to welcome the signal but the Planning Institute of Australia called on the Opposition to match the promise, given it’s favourite to win government.

Cuts and more cuts

28 August 2013 — The Coalition has confirmed cuts to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency if elected.

In a leaked document by shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey, it was announced there were around $7.5 billion of proposed cuts “linked to the carbon tax”, including:

  • Discontinuing the business compensation measures introduced to provide partial relief to selected sectors and industries for the hit from the carbon tax ($5.1 billion) – including:
    • Removal of the increase in the instant asset write-off threshold to $6,500 ($0.2 billion)
    • Discontinuing the Jobs and Competitiveness Program ($4.0 billion)
    • Discontinuing the Steel Transformation Plan ($0.1 billion)
    • Discontinuing the Clean Technology Program ($0.4 billion)
    • Discontinuing the Coal Sector Jobs Package ($0.3 billion)
    • Discontinuing other small Clean Energy Future business compensation measures including the Energy Efficiency Information Grants, the Clean Energy Skills package, and the Clean Technology Focus for Supply Chain programs
  • Discontinuing energy market compensation measures which will no longer be needed once the carbon tax has been scrapped ($0.5 billion)
  • Discontinuing various land sector initiatives which Labor has already slashed, as well as bureaucracies like the Climate Change Authority ($0.4 billion)
  • Abolishing other measures linked to the carbon tax that are wasteful or will no longer be required once the carbon tax is abolished ($1.5 billion)

Climate Spectator confirmed that the $1.5 billion that was “wasteful or will no longer be required once the carbon tax is abolished” included cuts to ARENA, though a Coalition spokesperson could not give a breakdown.

Coalition, Katter and Wilkie gain climate policy ground

27 August 2013 — New policy announcements have caused the Climate Institute to update its “Pollute-o-meter”, which is measuring the political parties’ climate policies ahead of the election.

The Coalition has moevd from one star to one-and-a-half stars after announcing funding for the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility, which is designed to coordinate and disseminate adaptation research to help manage climate impact risk.

Andrew Wilkie leapt from one-and-a-half stars to three-and-a-half stars after releasing a comprehensive climate policy that includes a 60 per cent reduction in carbon emissions by 2030, ratifying the second Kyoto target, ongoing support for the carbon price, a 30 per cent renewables target by 2020 and for government projects to be planned to comply with climate risk scenarios.

The Australian Katter Party moved up from its 0-star rating to a princely half a star in reflection of its support for extending the renewable energy target.

Labor still remains on two-and-a-half stars.

Climate Institute chief executive John Connor welcomed the announcements, but said there was much more movement needed in the climate policy space.

“Climate and carbon policy has flared occasionally into this election campaign but policy movement has been mostly glacial,” he said.

Labor commits to high-speed rail

26 August 2013 —  Labor has committed to buying a corridor of land for high-speed rail if re-elected.

In the announcement, Labor said $52 million would be committed over the next four years to buy up land for a Sydney-Canberra-Melbourne line.

“This is an exciting project for Australia’s future,” said Prime Minister Rudd.

The project would be completed by 2035, and would be cheaper than the Opposition’s paid parental leave scheme, Mr Rudd SAID.

“If we were to build this entire 1750-kilometre high-speed rail project from Brisbane to Melbourne by 2035, it would cost less than Mr Abbott’s unaffordable, unfair paid parental leave scheme for the same period of time,” Mr Rudd said. “Put that into context. What is more necessary for the nation’s future?”

Infrastructure minister Anthony Albanese said each dollar spent on the high-speed rail line would lead to a return of $2.10.

A high-speed rail authority would be set up within six months to manage the project.

Consult Australia welcomed the news.

“Prime Minister Rudd’s high speed rail announcement represents a 21st century vision that will see huge benefits for businesses, community and the wider Australian economy,” said Consult Australia chief executive Megan Motto.

“High speed rail needs bi-partisan support and it is critical that the issue does not become a political football in the lead-up to the election.”

The Greens, however, weren’t so impressed.

Australian Greens Leader Christine Milne and Deputy Leader Adam Bandt said Labor was playing catch up and has failed to commit to the investment needed to get high speed rail moving.

“Labor’s belated commitment to high speed rail is welcome but shows why you need the Greens to inject future thinking into government,” Senator Milne said.

“The Greens have been driving this process, through the agreement with former PM Gillard, and we were the first out of the blocks to commit $664 million over the forward estimates to high speed rail this election campaign.”

Greens launch community renewables plan

21 August 2013 — The Greens have launched a $100 community renewable energy project plan.

“The Greens will give local communities the power to generate their own power,” Greens leader Christine Milne said.

“Communities across the country want their own clean energy generators, but setting them up, planning and applying for funding takes time, money and technical expertise.

“While the old parties want to find ways to help the big polluters pay less, the Greens are helping locals take control by giving them the resources they need to properly plan and find funding for clean energy projects.”

The program will allocate funds to the existing Australian Renewable Energy Agency to run a competitive tender program supporting the development of community-owned renewable energy projects through feasibility grants, project management and specialist expertise.

UDIA asks: “Where are the housing policies?”

21 August 2013 — The Urban Development Institute of Australia NSW has deemed the absence of housing policies by the major political parties as “alarming”.

UDIA NSW chief executive Stephen Albin said putting affordable housing at the top of the election agenda was critical.

“Home ownership is out of reach for too many NSW families and young people,” he said. “Federal candidates need to recognise that and put pressure on their parties to release their housing policies.

UDIA NSW called on federal political parties to:

  • Conduct a bi-annual audit of all Commonwealth-owned land in order to regularly update its register of surplus land
  • Establish a national strategic plan, requiring cities such as Sydney to maintain a specified rolling supply of development-ready land to meet demand
  • Provide funding that is linked to states that establishes comprehensive land-use plans aligned with detailed, costed infrastructure plans and underpinned by delivery timeframes

Pirate Party backs Beyond Zero Emissions plan

21 August 2013 — Pirate Party Australia has released its energy policy, with a large-scale renewable energy rollout to provide Australia with 100 per cent renewable energy within 10 years.

The policy is based on Beyond Zero Emissions stationary energy plan, as well as a renewable fuel levy and stopping new thermal coal exploration.

“Taken together, these steps will drive change in the necessary magnitude to reduce carbon emissions in the timeframe scientists claim must be met to avoid climate change tipping points,” said Pirate Party NSW senate candidate David Campbell. “While curbing thermal coal exports may result in fewer mining jobs being created in the future, adoption of the BZE plan allows for creation of far more jobs in the long run.”

The first Pirate Party was formed in Sweden in 2006 in response to toughening copyright laws.

The Australian offshoot was founded in 2009 and has as its core tenets: freedom of information and culture, civil and digital liberties, privacy and anonymity, government transparency, and participatory democracy.

ASBEC calls for energy efficiency policies

20 August 2013 — The Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council has called on political parties to outline policies on energy efficiency, saying it is the most rapid and economical way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The collective of industry organisations committed to a sustainable built environment today proposed a framework to achieve a more efficient and productive building sector by:

  • Tax incentives for green building retrofits
  • A national white certificate scheme
  • Public funding of building retrofits
  • Modernisation and updating of higher standards in the Building Code of Australia
  • Enhancing Minimum Energy Performance standards

“We call on all parties to strengthen their energy policies by adopting ASBEC’s framework,” said ASBEC president Tom Roper.

“The built environment sector is uniquely poised to cut greenhouse gas emissions at the least cost, but the potential for abatement will not be realised unless we take decisive action.”

ASBEC pointed to a recent ClimateWorks report, which found that Australia’s commercial and residential buildings account for around 113 megatons of CO2 – 20 per cent of national emissions – and that uncaptured efficiencies accounted for 30 per cent of those emissions – 35 megatons of CO2.

“The way forward is clear and it’s up to Australia’s next federal government to unlock the full potential of this sector,” Mr Roper said.

ACF, WWF and AMCS endorse the Greens

20 August 2013 — The Australian Conservation Foundation today announced that the Greens have the strongest set of policies to protect the natural environment, joining the World Wildlife Fund and the Australian Marine Conservation Society.

“We welcome this recognition of our strong environment policies from the Australian Conservation Foundation, which follows endorsement by WWF and the Australian Marine Conservation Society for our Great Barrier Reef policy,” Australian Greens environment spokesperson Senator Larissa Waters said.

The Greens attacked the policies of Labor and Liberal, saying they could not be trusted.

“If Tony Abbott cared about the environment at all, he wouldn’t be champing at the bit to leave our most precious places and wildlife in the hands of the very state premiers who are allowing logging, shooting, grazing and mining in national parks,” Ms Waters said.

“And if Labor had any credibility on the environment, they wouldn’t have halved the Biodiversity Fund and they would have backed Greens legislation and amendments to Abbott-proof national environment law so that it couldn’t be handed over to the states.”

Overwhelming business support for carbon price

19 August 2013 — Contrary to Opposition insistence that business wants nothing more than to repeal the carbon tax, a new AECOM report shows overwhelming business support for a price on carbon.

The report, commissioned by Businesses for a Clean Economy, found that 88 per cent of the 180 businesses surveyed wanted a price on carbon to address climate change, with 65 per cent favouring an emissions trading scheme, and 29 per cent favouring a fixed price.

Only seven per cent supported or strongly supported the Coalition’s Direct Action plan.

Coalition climate plan would harm private investment

19 August 2013 — Confidential data obtained from banks and financial analysts show that under a Coalition government, around $4.1 billion in private investment would be diverted from large-scale renewable projects.

Four billion dollar black hole found in Coalition climate policy

15 August 2013 — A Climate Institute analysis has discovered the Coalition would have to spend an extra $4 billion on its climate policy to reduce emissions by five per cent by 2020.

The Climate Institute said this was the most detailed independent assessment that had been done on the policy, and was based on modelling by Sinclair Knight Merz-MMA and Monash University’s Centre of Policy Studies.

“Even with conservative assumptions, the Coalition’s policy as it is currently defined would see Australia’s emissions rise about nine per cent by 2020,” said Climate Institute chief executive John Connor.

“To achieve their promised range of 2020 carbon cuts of 5 to 25 per cent below 2000 levels, the Coalition would need to spend at least an extra $4 billion to $15 billion by 2020.

“Policies that demonstrably cannot meet our own targets do nothing for Australia’s credibility and will get short shrift overseas.”

Greens launch national rental health survey

15 August 2013 — The Greens have launched a national survey to determine where and to what extend people are struggling with rent.

“With escalating rents and the shortfall in available rental properties, more and more renters are competing with each other for what can be substandard, overpriced, insecure or inappropriate housing,” Greens housing spokesman Senator Scott Ludlam said.

“Despite renters making up one third of all Australian households, housing affordability debates focus solely on home ownership. That has to change.”

The Greens said they wanted to know what portion of incomes were going to rent, whether rental properties were being adequately maintained and whether people were being locked into higher utility bills due to poor maintenance or lack of insulation or other energy efficiency measures.

  • The Rental Health Check survey can be completed here.

Rudd announces National Centre for Extreme Weather

14 August 2013 — Prime Minister Kevin Rudd today announced $58.5 million for the Bureau of Meteorology to improve their ability to warn Australians before and during extreme weather events, including floods, bushfires and cyclones.

“We need to be in a better position to respond to these events to ensure people can make decisions to protect their lives, their homes as well as community infrastructure,” Mr Rudd said in a joint statement with Environment Minister Mark Butler.

“Our investment of $3.7 million in vital infrastructure repairs this year and increasing frontline forecasters, including 42 meteorologists and 23 hydrologists, will mean better outcomes through improved emergency planning, response strategies and management systems.”

The centre will use flood forecasting technology used in the US and UK, and will develop a storm tide prediction system.

WWF-Australia calls on leaders to make environment a priority

14 August 2013 — WWF-Australia has called on political parties to make the environment a top policy priority.

CEO Dermot O’Gorman said polling day would coincide with National Threatened Species Day, and that maintaining a strong economy without destroying the environment was critical.

“Australia is a diverse land that is rich in environmental wonders, unique wildlife and natural resources,” he said. “It’s our responsibility as Australians to protect our environment, and we can’t take it for granted.”

WWF policy priorities are:

  • Protect the Great Barrier Reef: invest in cutting pollution, prohibit dumping of dredge waste, protect its coast, ensure safer shipping and create Reef Bank
  • Tackle climate change: secure stronger emissions reduction targets, maintain a price on carbon, support renewable energy, ratify Kyoto2 and provide long-term climate finance
  • Protect the places we love: retain federal approval power for federal matters under the EPBC Act and increase the protection for the places and species we love
  • Recognise traditional and cultural knowledge: support the Working on Country program by appointing more Indigenous rangers, male and female
  • Keep the Heart of Borneo pumping: support sustainable livelihoods and conservation, and build local capacity

Planning Institute releases election call to action

14 August 2013 — The Planning Institute of Australia has released its federal election platform, with a four-point call to action designed to align productivity, liveability and sustainability.

“[T]he Federal Government has a role to play in supporting good planning at a national level and ensuring that Australia’s resources are utilised appropriately and our tax dollars spent well,” the statement said.

“We call on all parties and candidates to commit to planning for the future of Australia’s cities, towns and regions – it is too important to leave to chance.”

GBCA call for green building policy: politicians silent

13 August 2013 — The Green Building Council of Australia has called on all major political parties to commit to greener federal government buildings as a way to lift productivity that could add up to $2 billion a year to the economy.

In a three-point plan the GBCA has urged a focus by the federal government to green its own buildings, rate them with Green Star and to embed the Green Star — Communities rating tool into local, state and federal government policies for neighbourhoods and cities.

 State of Australian Cities report

The federal government’s newly released  State of Australian Cities 2013 report had a strong focus on sustainability. It said Australian cities could face up to a fourfold increase in heat-related deaths by 2050, thanks to climate change, population growth and an ageing.

Surveys

9 August 2013 – Surveys ranking the electoral significance of political issues consistently find economic issues are ranked first, followed by health and education. Population issues and asylum, along with the environment, rank as second level issues, The Conversation says.

One of the most recent surveys, conducted in July 2013 by Essential Research, asked respondents for the “three most important issues” in deciding their vote at the federal election. It found just 9% indicated “managing population growth” and 14% rated “treatment of asylum seekers” as important, up from 6% in November 2012 and 11% in June 2013.

Peter Beattier to stand in Forde

8 August 2013 – Former Queensland Premier Peter Beattie announces he will stand for the seat of Forde in Queensland.  Mary Crawford, who won the seat in 1987, said in The Conversation that key issues in the electorate are “jobs, transport, health and education”.

“The last major public transport infrastructure was the Gold Coast rail line, built by the federal government and opened in 1994. Access to jobs is a big issue. While there are industrial estates, with only patchy public transport coverage, these can only be accessed by private cars if work times are irregular.

“The area also has a Griffith University campus and a TAFE college. While these provide education services, transport access is also a problem for many students.

“Local unemployment is higher than the national average, and the cuts to public sector jobs under the Newman state government may help in swinging some support over to Beattie.”

Christine Milne interview

8 August 2013 –Christine Milne told The Conversation that “the issues playing for the Greens on 7 September will be climate change (“the Greens are seen as the party that you can absolutely trust to go out there hard on emissions reduction and to be internally consistent”), the major parties’ lurch to the right on refugees, and “the transition of the economy from the old resource-based economy to the new diverse knowledge and service and brains based economy.

She believes she has been able ‘to pick up a lot of credibility with rural and regional Australia and also with progressive business. When I set out with the leadership I said there were two areas where I thought we could add to the Green vote and that’s because I am from rural and regional Australia, have got a big commitment to the bush, and people know that’.

“I’ve been out there campaigning hard on coal seam gas, and on looking after agricultural land and taking on the supermarkets and local food policies and the like”.

What will the major parties bring to the table for the 7 September election in in terms of environment and sustainability?

Climate Change

Climate change action, which unfortunately isn’t set to be a major issue for the general public, is nonetheless extremely important in terms of carbon competitiveness and preparedness for increasing climate impacts, says the Climate Institute’s chief executive John Connor.

“The next Government will determine whether Australia will help or hinder global solutions to climate change as we enter 2014’s ‘year of ambition’ and 2015’s deadline for a global agreement on seeking to achieve the agreed goal of avoiding two degrees warming above pre-industrial levels,” he said.

“Since both parties share the goal of up to a 25 per cent reduction of Australia’s 2000 emission levels by 2020, a key test is whether their policies are capable of achieving this.”

Labor’s climate policy still adheres to the polluter pays principle. Its climate pledge includes amending the Clean Energy Act to move to an emissions trading scheme a year earlier than scheduled. It says this will still provide strong incentives to cut pollution while providing on average $380 a year extra to households.

While it has committed to a minimum five per cent reduction in carbon emissions by 2020 (based on 2000 levels), a recently leaked Climate Change Authority report said Australia should aim to 15 per cent by 2020, and 40 per cent by 2030.

The Coalition will repeal the Clean Energy Act.

“If we are elected the Carbon Tax will be gone by the 1st of July next year,” Shadow Minister for Climate Action, Environment and Heritage Greg Hunt recently said, though his aim is to repeal it by 1 April 2014.

It has touted a taxpayer-funded “direct action plan” as a replacement for years. Hunt, speaking at a Grattan Institute event on the party’s plan last month, elaborated by saying “direct action is at its heart a carbon purchasing fund”.

“We find all of the emissions reduction, all of the abatement that people want to offer up, and then we have a reverse auction,” he said.

The Coalition has allocated funding caps – $300 million in the first year, $500 million in the second and $750 million in the third – to reach its target.

The Greens want the fixed carbon price to stay to its original timeframe. They also want to increase emissions reductions target from the other parties’ 5-25 per cent up to between 25-40 per cent. Their vision is to create a net zero emission economy within a generation.

Renewable Energy

The creation of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency has already seen significant investment in renewable energy projects across the country. The renewable energy target of 41,000 gigawatt hours (around 20 per cent) by 2020 is also a major driving force for renewable energy investment.

Labor’s renewable energy plan involves keeping the RET in its current form, and also eliminating the 2014 RET review to increase investment certainty. It also established the $10 billion CEFC, which invests in renewable energy and energy efficiency projects.

The Coalition will seek to abolish the CEFC and replace it with a $1 billion solar roofs plan. Tony Abbott this week called on the CEFC to stop making payments and investments.

Abbott to scrap CEFC

7 August – Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has again called for the $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation to stop making payments or investments, as parliament enters into caretaker provisions ahead of the September 7 election.

“As the government has now entered the caretaker period, I have requested that the CEFC immediately ceases to make any further payments,” Mr Abbott said in a media release. See the full story Abbott calls for CEFC to stop investing in renewables, again

Greg Hunt has stated he supports the currently legislated 41,000GWh hour RET target for 2020, as did Coalition spokesperson Simon Birmingham at the recent Clean Energy Week conference. However, the party will instigate a review of the target in 2014.

The Greens want to triple the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to $30 billion, with $3 billion to be spent every year for ten years. The party has also stated it would increase the RET to 90 per cent renewable energy by 2030.

“As carbon prices rise the emissions trading scheme will displace the Renewable Energy Target as the driver of renewable energy investment, but in the meantime it is in the national interest to have a 90% renewable energy target for 2030,” the Greens’ policy statement says.

Infrastructure and transport

Labor says it will continue to support public transport infrastructure, having invested a record $9 billion in rail over six years. It has pledged $3 billion for the construction of the Melbourne Metro, $715 million for Brisbane’s Cross River Rail and $500 million for the Perth Light Rail project or a new rail link to the airport.

Labor also recently released a policy statement on encouraging active travel.

The Coalition has stated that it believes that urban and commuter rail is not the Commonwealth’s responsibility. It will instead focus on “reducing bottlenecks on gridlocked roads and highways”. It has: promised to contribute $1.5 billion to the construction of Melbourne’s East-West Link and committed funding for the WestConnex Project in Sydney, the Gateway Motorway in Brisbane, the Midland Highway between Hobart and Launceston, the Pacific Highway between Newcastle and Queensland, the Perth Gateway project and the Toowoomba Second Range Crossing.

Labor has not committed to Toowoomba, is seeking an alternative funding model for the Pacific Highway, and is awaiting Infrastructure Australia’s assessment of the East-West Link. It will also spend $525m to complete the widening of the Melbourne’s M80.

The Coalition will also develop a 15-year infrastructure plan of national projects and work with Infrastructure Australia to establish priorities and timelines. Its policy statement says the party will look at ways to encourage more private investment in infrastructure, by examining an Infrastructure Partnership Bonds Scheme.

The Greens say they will stop funding new private urban motorways, and prioritise spending on public transport services, including trains, buses and light rail, while also promoting active travel.

Greens want high speed rail

7 August – The Greens have said they would construct high speed rail along Australia’s Eastern Seaboard.

Labor earlier this year released a report saying it would cost $114 billion to construct the rail between Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne.

Greens MP Adam Bandt said that Australia was falling behind the rest of the world regarding transport.

“Australia and Antarctica are the only continents without high speed rail underway and I’m worried if we leave it up to Labor and Liberal the penguins will beat us to it,” he said.

“The Greens want to put high speed rail on the fast track. Well one of the most important questions we face as a country is how we will move people between our cities and how we will support growth in our regional cities.”

The party said it would provide 200,000 jobs and take 365,000 cars of the road each year.

NSW happy for no Fed public transport funding

6 August – NSW Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian came out in support of Opposition Leader Tony Abbott’s rejection of federal government funding for public transport projects in Sydney, saying it provided “certainty”.

Mr Abbott said national governments should fund motorways and highways but not major public transport projects.

The NSW government’s north-west rail link is estimated to cost $8 billion and the second rail crossing of Sydney Harbour $10 billion.

“In contrast, federal Labor says it supports national funding for urban public transport projects. But its argument has been dented by having failed to fund one in Sydney.” From Fairfax Media

Built Environment

Labor has announced $58.5 million for the Bureau of Meteorology to improve their ability to warn Australians before and during extreme weather events, including floods, bushfires and cyclones.

The Greens have a policy to cut housing waiting lists, which aims to create 122,000 new social housing homes over 10 years, which they say will halve the waiting list of 225,000 nationally.

There will be 12,200 new homes a year, with a third to be fast build, modular or prefab housing.

They would increase annual funding for natural disaster preparation such as building flood levees, permanent fire breaks and coastal protection works by around $350 million. The plan will be funded by a $2/tonne levy on thermal coal exports.

Habitat

Labor has cut into its Biodiversity Fund to fund the early transition to an ETS. The fund now stands at $600 million.

The Coalition last month released its “Green Army” policy – a 15,000-person strong environmental workforce that will “provide real and practical solutions to cleaning up riverbanks and creek beds, re-vegetating sand dunes, re-vegetating mangrove habitat, and a host of other environmental conservation projects”. It will scrap the remaining Biodiversity Fund.

The Greens have a three year, $120 million plan that will fund studies to identify and map important habitat nationally; protect that habitat through bioregional plans that guide development and establish clear no-go zones for different activities within each region across Australia; support the rapid listing of all species and ecological communities which belong on the threatened list; develop and resource the implementation of recovery plans and threat abatement plans for listed species and ecological communities; restore Labor’s $470 million cut to the Biodiversity Fund; and make sure federal veto powers remain.

They would also protect farmland and water with no new CSG approvals, and farmers and other landholders would have the right to say no to CSG on their land. There would be no new gas ports along the Great Barrier Reef.

General

The Greens will stop the supermarket duopoly from squeezing farmers and small business. It will place a temporary ban on expansion by Coles and Woolworths while the ACCC carries out an ex-post assessment into their decisions relating to the grocery market and stop the supermarket duopoly from purchasing agricultural land to ensure they aren’t able to completely control the whole supply chain.

See the Climate Institute’s “Pollute-o-Meter”, which rates the political parties’ environmental policies.