Media Releases - 10 May 2023

Federal budget only scratches the surface of Australia's environment needs

While tonight’s federal budget announcement is a small step in the right direction for nature, there is still a long way to go if we have any hope of turning the tide, says conservation organisation The Wilderness Society.

Despite investments in a new Environmental Protection Authority ($121 million over four years) and National Parks ($355.1 million over four years), the budget still falls short of the significant resources required to protect nature, rein in climate change, and stop biodiversity loss. Glaring under-funded exceptions include a lack of new funds for addressing the current backlog of endangered species recovery plans and World Heritage nominations.

Many of the Labor government's promises remain in limbo without adequate funding committed to turn them into tangible action. Despite coming out strongly against the previous government’s environmental performance at the release of the State of the Environment report in July last year, we have yet to see any significant investment at the level that would indicate the 2026 State of the Environment report will be much better.

Sam Szoke-Burke, biodiversity policy and campaign manager at The Wilderness Society, said, “While we welcome the seed funding for a new environmental regulator and data office, overall we remain concerned that the Albanese government is still allocating clearly insufficient resourcing to nature protection. Climate change and biodiversity loss are twin crises for Australia, requiring urgent action—in laws, in practice, and in budget lines.

“It is disappointing to see, at this crucial moment, that key conservation functions, such as those needed to protect World Heritage and foster species recovery, are once again underfunded and deprioritised. We’ve heard this Government bemoan a “lost decade” under the former coalition governments, yet looking at this year’s budget, we fear nature risks losing so much more. The overall level of funding is still broadly consistent with that of previous governments.

“On paper, the Labor government has committed to a number of encouraging policies for the Australian environment, but actually realising a credible broader agenda—including their commitment to no new extinctions—will take significantly more financial resources, which the Treasurer has simply not allocated.

“This government may have delivered a surplus budget, but it has left nature’s recovery dependent on unreliable market-based approaches. Unless this situation changes, Australia’s next State of the Environment report may not be any better than the last.