27 July 2012 ­ – First Queensland Premier Campbell Newman ditched his own literary award, not long after ditching a bunch of green programs, leaving the Brisbane writing community dumbfounded.

Then, on Wednesday this week, the Federal Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities – pity the receptionist who has to spout that mouthful all day – has scrapped the 2012 Banksia Environmental Foundation’s Prime Minister’s Environmentalist of the Year and The Environment Minister’s Young Environmentalist of the Year awards.

It was The Fifth Estate’s turn to be dumbfounded to receive the short and sweet media release. It must have been a quick decision because there’s still no mention of it on Banksia’s website – although the Australian coat of arms, with the words “Caring for our country” still has pride of place as a sponsor.

The media release from Banksia said it was with “regret that the Banksia Environmental Foundation announces that the Federal Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities has withdrawn funding from Australia’s Environmentalist of the Year Award and Australia’s Young Environmentalist of the Year Award for 2012”.

“This withdrawal of funding is due to financial constraints being experienced by the department who have sponsored this award for the last 10 years. In the meantime Banksia is working with the department to conduct the Banksia Indigenous Award for 2012.”

A call to the department had them asking for a copy of the release and emailed questions.

Two hours later a spokesperson replied, again via email, that “recent Federal Budgets have required tough decisions across all facets of government”.

“Like all departments, the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities has had to reassess and prioritise all spending. The priority being to achieve the best environmental outcome for the money spent.

“The department had foreshadowed to the Banksia Foundation over a year ago its intention to decrease its future sponsorship support due to fiscal constraints.

“Australia has many hard working and dedicated environmentalists. In recognition of this, the department provides direct financial support through grants programs like Caring for Our Country and the Biodiversity Fund.”

Asked the cost of sponsoring, the spokesperson said in the last financial year, the department paid out $65,000 for the two awards.

And with the Banksia Foundation confirming the awards will be back in 2013, would that mean the department is checking the back of a few couches for some coin?

“In 2012/13 the department continues to support the Banksia Foundation through its sponsorship of the Caring for Country Indigenous award in keeping with the government’s clear priority and commitment to working on country and closing the gap,” the spokesperson said.

“The department commends the environmental recognition the Banksia Foundation promotes.”

Meanwhile, for individual entries in 2012 the Banksia Foundation is inviting Australia’s environmental innovators and leaders to consider entry in the inaugural GE Eco Innovation Award giving them a chance to spend time at the GE Research Laboratories in New York.

Details: www.banksiafdn.com Entries are now open and submissions close – 24 Aug at 5pm.