News - 10 March 2023

National Reconstruction Fund focus welcome, more funding needed to protect and restore nature

The Pilliga Forest. Image: Hugh Nicholson.
  • Focus on investment in renewables helps bring some integrity to the National Reconstruction Fund as it heads towards the Senate

  • Reducing subsidies for industries that harm the environment is essential, investing in protecting the environment is also required

  • With multiple state governments phasing out native forest logging, supporting the sector through inevitable change, and investing in forest protection, is the better focus for investment

The Wilderness Society welcomes the Greens amendments to the National Reconstruction Fund that prevent any of the $15 billion program from supporting the coal, gas and native forest logging industries.

“Compatibility with climate and biodiversity action must be a key criteria for recipients of National Reconstruction Fund support. This is essential for Australia to reach net zero emissions and reverse the biodiversity crisis on this continent,” said Wilderness Society National Campaigns Director, Amelia Young.

The Wilderness Society has been calling on the Albanese Government to discontinue Federal government finance for fossil fuel projects, including public funding of infrastructure, like pipelines.

“It’s good that the National Reconstruction Fund is on track to avoid investments in exploration for gas in places like the Pilliga Forest in NSW, or Munga Thirri / Simpson Desert, or in the catchments of Martuwarra / Fitzroy River. For climate and biodiversity reasons, expanding fossil fuel activities in special places like these cannot continue.

“We urge the parliament to look for opportunities to deliver substantial funding directly into environmental protection and restoration. A $15bn reconstruction fund that can't be used on nature destruction is great. A $15bn nature reconstruction fund would be amazing,

“Wilderness Society has called for a proportion of GDP to be invested in ensuring a healthy environment—something in the order of 0.5-1% of GDP at a minimum is required to address 230 years of underinvestment and exploitation of Australia’s natural resources.

“With multiple state governments phasing out native forest logging from parts of WA's Northern Jarrah Forests and from Victoria's Tall Forests, workers and their families need to be supported through an inevitable transition. However, the funding for this should come from elsewhere and not the National Reconstruction Fund.

“The National Reconstruction Fund must reflect the Australian government’s international commitments, like the Glasgow Declaration and the commitment to protect 30% of Australia’s land and sea by 2030. The Federal Government has an obligation not just to avoid environmentally harmful subsidies and expenditure, but to undertake immediate investments required to restore and protect biodiversity,” said Ms Young.

The National Reconstruction Fund must ensure projects actively avoid impacts on natural and cultural values, including World Heritage Areas and places of outstanding universal value. This includes large, intact and functioning ecosystems, and critical habitat for species facing extinction. All projects must ensure community rights to participate in decision making are implemented and upheld.
END Background story in Guardian Australia