30 May, 2012

Green Tape Reduction Surgery

The Queensland Government is undergoing Green Tape reduction surgery.

Just how small is Campbell Newman's Green Tape?

As you may recall, the Environmental Protection (Greentape Reduction) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2011 was introduced into parliament in October 2011. The Bill lapsed when the Queensland state election was called.

On 13 April the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) released a communiqué announcing its intention to implement changes to environmental laws across Australia. The changes are directed at both Federal and State laws with an emphasis on ‘streamlining’ environmental assessment processes.

The new LNP Queensland Government is also committed to reducing regulation and red tape by 20% and has adopted most of the initiatives that were proposed by the previous Labor Government.

While there is a strong case for reducing duplication and unnecessary paper work, many folks from the conservation and/or environment movement have grave concerns about the compromising on Environmental Protection and fast-tracking development.

The Newman Government's commitment includes the introduction of the Environmental Protection (Greentape Reduction) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2012 into the 54th parliament on 29 May 2012.

As well as contributing toward cutting red tape and regulation by 20%, the Government are claiming that the Greentape Reduction Bill will result in savings of $12.5 million per year, of which $11.7 million will be saved by business and industry.
Alleged benefits of the Bill include:
  • an integrated approval process for all environmental authorities;
  • a more proportionate licensing framework, including standard applications for alleged low environmental risk activities;
  • a simpler and quicker process for amending and transferring licenses;
  • corporate licences that allow an operator to have one approval for multiple activities across multiple sites;
  • removal of the need for an environmental management plan for resource activities.
The introduction of standard applications alone has the potential to save each applicant an average of $20 000 in application preparation costs, 150 pages in application materials and 68 days in processing time. This will cut Queensland's green tape burden by approximately 62 000 pages per year.
Further information about the Greentape Reduction Bill, including updated
frequently asked questions, can be found on the Greentape Reduction website.
Following machinery-of-government changes (chopping up of the Department of Environment & Resource Management), the Greentape Reduction project will now be managed and delivered by the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection.

As the Greentape Reduction Bill is debated in parliament, the Green Tape Reduction Team will be working on the implementation phase of the Greentape Reduction project.

The three key components of the threatened wind back of Federal regulations are anticipated amendments to the Federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (possibly scheduled during the winter session of Federal Parliament this year), subsequent negotiations of bilateral arrangements between the Commonwealth and State Governments and thirdly changes to State and Territory laws.
This could all occur in the next 12 months.
To put it mildly, environment groups are alarmed at this attack on environmental protection laws. These laws protect our way of life.

26 May, 2012

Fast Track

Fast tracking Significant Projects

The Qld Government has started the fast tracking of significant projects and has granted significant project status to the Yarwun coal export terminal in Gladstone. This is a new paradigm with a Co-ordinator General with the unprecedented ability to fast track development.

The Qld Coordinator-General has also given the green light to Rio Tinto’s $1.45 billion South of the Embley bauxite mining extension on Cape York, but the project still needs Federal Government approval. 

Environmental groups such as the Wilderness Society say that the Qld Government's approval of a bauxite mine expansion on Cape York is at-odds with the World Heritage process. Environmental activists have slammed the change, saying it reduces the amount of time given to considering environmental impact or community input.

The project is still subject to Federal Government approval. Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke says he is concerned about the impact of extra shipping on the Great Barrier Reef & wants to make sure there is a proper environmental assessment.

The Qld Government has called on Mr Burke to detail how long he intended to delay the process and make a decision.

The following consultations provide an opportunity for the public to comment or make a submission on significant project proponents' environmental impact statements (EIS) and other initiatives:

·       Arrow LNG Plant                  28 May
·       Central Qld Rail Project        4 June
·       GasFields Commission        25 May
·       Nathan Dam and Pipelines   5 June
·       North Surat-Collingwood Coal Project            28 May
·       North Surat-Taroom Coal Project       28 May
·       Wongai Project                    12 June

Red Tape

One may recall that late last year, Federal Labor received the final report of Dr Allan Hawke’s review of the EPBC Act.  Amongst other things, this report recommended divesting responsibilities to the State Governments, with the action (RHETORIC) of cutting red tape & increasing certainty for business.  

Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney says the cutting down the red tape will mean Qld can take full advantage of the resources boom.

Divesting of Coal Fired Power

The Qld Government has withdrawn its financial support for the Cloncurry Photo Voltaic Solar Farm to achieve savings for the state’s taxpayers of about $5.6 million.  Large-scale solar farms are proven technology and the Qld State Government believes it is up to the private sector to decide whether to invest in, build and operate such projects in Qld.

Should Premier Newman sell Stanwell Corporation and CS Energy to the private sector, for the same reasons that AGL has bought Loy Yang A in Victoria?

The purchase of Loy Yang A will make AGL the equal largest generator of electricity in the Australia.  Up until recently, AGL have pursued a strategy of developing the nation’s lowest carbon intensity in its energy assets, this purchase nearly triples its intensity.

Loy Yang A will act as a “cash cow” for the company, despite the introduction of a carbon price.  AGL propose to use the substantial cash flows to help fund its renewables investment, which it estimates at around $4-$5 billion to meet its share of the renewable energy target. It expects to meet 60-80% that capital cost itself. When one considers the transition from fossil fuels to renewables – taking the cash from an older asset like Stanwell & Tarong Power Stations & reinvesting it in renewable makes sense.

Government supports Surat Basin resource sector growth

The Minister for Natural Resources & Mines: Andrew Cripps has outlined the Qld Government’s plans to support economic growth in the Surat Basin Energy Resources Province.

The Qld Government are looking to the significant thermal coal and coal seam gas (CSG) resources in the Surat Basin to play a critical role in reining in Queensland’s $2.8b budget deficit and reducing the state’s unemployment to 4%.

Conversion of that CSG into liquefied natural gas (LNG) to export from Gladstone is set to make Qld one of the principal suppliers of LNG to the Asia-Pacific region. By 2018 Qld will be the third largest LNG exporter in the world.

Mr Cripps believes the State Government’s role is to strike a policy balance in regions like the Surat Basin that supports growth in the coal & gas sector, protects the environment and respects other land uses like agriculture.

The Minister emphasised however, that rapid growth in the Surat Basin, particularly in CSG production, is not without its challenges.

There is a need for CSG companies particularly to show a commitment to improving their relationship with the agricultural sector and securing the trust of the broader community,” he said.

The Qld Government’s newly established Gasfields Land and Water Commission will play a key role in ensuring CSG companies earn their social licence to operate by respecting landholders and the environment.

Mr Cripps said the introduction of Statutory Regional Plans, especially on the Darling Downs, should also ensure that controversy is replaced by clear planning. 

25 May, 2012

Toilet 2.0

Today I had the pleasure of talking about the exciting potential for the next generation of Toilet technologies, to my colleagues at work.  I work for a water and sewage treatment utility.

Our current Toilets are connected to a grid in a way that is analogous to a landline telephone connected to copper wires, telephone exchanges and data centres.  The toilets in my community, are dependent on a reliable water supply, sewer pumping stations and sewage treatment plants.  The floods in Brisbane in January 2011 and the subsequent earthquake in Christchurch and the Tsunami in Japan, demonstrated the vulnerability of these systems.

My ambition (which is shared by many others) is to see the development of the next generation of toilet which are "off the grid".

The imperative is providing services for 2.6 billion people in developing communities, who lack a sustainable place to poo, wee and/or change sanitary pads.

In the developed world, the cost of living pressures, the cost of water, electricity and the cost of running sewer networks and sewage treatment treatment plants are all on the radar.

The regulating authorities in the Qld State Government have capped the price one can charge for water and sewage treatment.  The price of raw water is under review.  All indications are, that Water Authorities are going to be under significant political pressure to reduce the cost of delivery of services.

Climate change, peak oil, peak phosphorus are all driving the need for change, to reduce the energy intensity of water and sewage treatment services and recover energy, nutrients and/or water from the process.

There arises a need for a next generation of toilets.  Yet the toilet is really just a user interface.  We need a whole new "back end" to the process.  

The first distinction between 1.0 series toilets and the 2.0 series is the separation of one's Number Ones from one's Number twos.

Our Number One's a choc full of nutrients: Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium....

One person's urine contains enough nutrients to grow enough cereal to feed one person.

In my community, our number twos are not nearly as interesting (or valuable).  We tend to eat too much processed food.  However, the poo from a Vegetarian could be highly valuable. The dry solids can be combusted, digested or under go pyrolysis to generate electricity, heat, light, gas or compost.

The process engineering aspects of Toilet 2.0 are really very straight forward.

The complexity lies in the social engineering.  Some of the greatest resistance to change comes from within the water/sewage treatment industry.  Today I had the opportunity to make a case for change.

I was hoping someone would say: "It cannot be done!".  I was hoping someone might say: " You're crazy!"

However, the questions and discussions were actually intelligent and provocative.  There maybe some who want to work on intermediate technologies.  Perhaps there is still a need for Toilet 1.1.   

My ambitions are still quite modest.  Toilet 2.0 is not a silver bullet.  Toilet 2.0 is the next generation of toilets.  It is time to get Toilet 2.0 out of the laboratories and into your lavatories.

24 May, 2012

Divesting of Coal Fired Power

Divesting of Coal Fired Power

The Qld Government has withdrawn its financial support for the Cloncurry Photo Voltaic Solar Farm to achieve savings for the state’s taxpayers about $5.6 million.  In it Media statement, the Government noted that large-scale solar farms are proven technology & the Qld State Government believes it is up to the private sector to decide whether to invest in, build & operate such projects in Qld.

Should Premier Newman sell Stanwell Corporation & CS Energy to the private sector, for the same reasons that AGL has bought Loy Yang A in Victoria?

The purchase of Loy Yang A will make AGL the equal largest generator of electricity in the Australia.  Up until recently, AGL have pursued a strategy of developing the nation’s lowest carbon intensity in its energy assets, this purchase nearly triples its intensity.

Loy Yang A will act as a “cash cow” for the company, despite the introduction of a carbon price.  AGL propose to use the substantial cash flows to help fund its renewables investment, which it estimates at around $4-$5 billion to meet its share of the renewable energy target. It expects to meet 60-80% that capital cost itself. 

When one considers the transition from fossil fuels to renewables – taking the cash from an older asset like Stanwell & Tarong Power Stations & reinvesting it in renewable certainly makes sense.


Following is the Media Statement from the Qld State Government:

Minister for Energy and Water Supply
The Honourable Mark McArdle

Thursday, May 24, 2012
Cloncurry Solar Farm closure
24 May 2012
Government withdraws its funding from Cloncurry Solar Farm
The Queensland Government today withdrew its financial support for the Cloncurry Solar Farm as part of its campaign to achieve savings for the state’s taxpayers.
Minister for Energy and Water Supply Mark McArdle said the Cloncurry Solar Farm was at a very early stage and withdrawing from the project now would save Queenslanders about $5.6 million.
“These are savings which will benefit all Queenslanders rather than localised climate initiatives,” Mr McArdle said.
“The government’s withdrawal from the project now minimises the cost to taxpayers.
“I want to stress that the Queensland Government’s decision to exit the Cloncurry Solar Farm is not due to concerns about the proponent or their ability to deliver. This is about getting the state’s finances back on track.
“Large-scale solar farms are proven technology and it is up to the private sector to decide whether to invest in, build and operate such projects in Queensland.
“The government is working to establish a stronger renewable and alternative energy sector with a targeted focus on practical research and development of Queensland’s abundant renewable energy resources.
“We are also supporting Queensland businesses to access funding from Commonwealth programs to develop Queensland-based clean energy projects.”
Mr McArdle said the government had informed Ingenero Pty Ltd, which was named preferred tenderer in December 2011 to design, build and operate the 2.128 megawatt solar farm, and the Cloncurry Shire Council.
“The Queensland Government had an option in its contract with Ingenero to cancel the contract at any time for any reason. The government has chosen to exercise this option to save money for Queensland taxpayers.”
Mr McArdle said most of the funds would have been spent on the purchase of photovoltaic panels and racking, but these costs would be saved because the project was at such an early stage.
The government’s financial withdrawal from the solar farm will have no impact on the reliability of electricity supply in Cloncurry as the project’s main aim was to test the performance of a solar farm in north-west Queensland.

22 May, 2012

the sky is falling

The following press release is Qld Government sponsored scaremongering about the imminent introduction of the Carbon Tax.

Nothing creates greater business uncertainty, than State Government Ministers and the Leader of the Federal opposition, repetitively telling us that the Carbon Tax is going to shut down industries, impoverish families and increase greenhouse gas emissions.

So I went online to see if I could find a calculator to work out how much Carbon Tax I am going to pay:

I have not found a definitive answer.  It turns out, to be swings and round abouts.

Instead I found a calculator telling me how much compensation I might get in a Household assistance package.

The Australian Federal Government released Liable Entities Public Information Database: the official list of the 248 carbon liable companies.  There is no ranking of scale of emissions, but it does provide a who’s who in paying for carbon emissions.

The Federal Government will spend that revenue on household assistance packages and a whole bunch of Programs and Initiatives.

The closer I look, the better off I seem to be. I wonder why this message is not getting through!!???

How does this appease my irrational sense of guilt, at how good my life in Australia is?


Minister for Energy and Water Supply
The Honourable Mark McArdle

Monday, May 21, 2012
carbon tax will cost jobs, raise greenhouse emissions

Key investor says carbon tax costs jobs, raises greenhouse emissions

One of Australia’s key alumina industry investors, Russian giant Rusal, a 20% partner in Rio Tinto’s multi-billion dollar Boyne Island refinery at Gladstone, has backed criticism of the carbon tax by Queensland Energy and Water Supply Minister Mark McArdle, saying the tax will leave industry “confused and aggrieved”, cost jobs and reverse its intended result by raising global greenhouse emissions instead of lowering them.

Minister McArdle raised Federal Labor hackles last week when he quoted a leading Australian advisor at an international energy forum in Canada who predicted the tax would have “unexpected and undesirable consequences”.

Federal energy advisor John Pierce told the Canadian forum the global market was also spooked by Labor uncertainty about its carbon tax position which gave the policy an “uncertain future”.
Federal Energy Minister Greg Combet responded that the Queensland Minister’s criticism was a “distortion” but has not responded to parallel criticism of the tax from Rusal’s Australian Chairman, John Hannagan who echoed the Minister’s concerns about its fall out.

Mr Hannagan told The Australian today that Australian producers and investors were right in feeling “confused and aggrieved” by the carbon tax which overturned “forty years of government policy” and would actually cause global greenhouse gas emissions to rise.

He said the carbon tax jeopardized our “unrivalled comparative advantage that drove Australia from new entrant to world leader,” but said the tax will actually increase global emissions by undermining Australia’s efforts to curb emissions over the next decade as “new capacity is added in competitor countries and Australia’s share of global production falls.”

Directly contradicting Greg Combet, the Rusal Chairman said Australia already led the world in carbon emission reductions. “Australia has led the world on research into alumina refining over the past four decades and has long been regarded as the world’s most efficient producer. Despite this world-leading performance, the federal government has determined that the industry must sacrifice its position as the world’s most competitive and energy efficient producer to our global competitors.”

Mark McArdle said the Rusal Chairman’s comments showed Federal Labor was delusional. “When you have not just a world authority but now also the Chairman of a key investor in Queensland’s billion dollar alumina industry contradicting you, you know you’re in trouble. Is Greg Combet going to dismiss it all as distortion? Who does he believe, apart from his Prime Minister?

18 May, 2012

cutting unnecessary environmental red tape and ideology.

Here is a snap shot of a few things I have gleaned from Hansard...concerning Environmental Law & Sustainability.  Some of this may end up in my "Sustainable Business Weekly" newsletter.

Cutting Green Tape

During the recent election the Liberal National Party made five pledges to:

1.   Lower the cost of living for families by cutting waste;
2.   Deliver better infrastructure and better planning;
3.   Revitalise front-line services for families;
4.   Restore accountability in government,
5.   Grow a four-pillar economy to provide better opportunities for all Queenslanders in all walks of life.

The Qld Treasurer Tim Nichols believes that, the Qld Government needs to cut back on the red and green tape.  In removing the regulation that he believes has at times strangled industry and endangered Qld’s reputation as a safe place to invest (particularly in reference to Coal Seam Gas Development).  He is adamant that in simplifying and or removing regulation (green tape) the Qld Government will not do so at the risk of endangering our most productive farmland and our most valuable environmental assets. Mr Nicholls introduced the Treasury (Cost of Living) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill to Parliament, to give effect to a number of key election commitments including:

     Increasing the payroll tax exemption threshold for businesses  to $1.1m,
     Freezing the standard electricity tariff (Tariff 11);
     Abolishing Sustainability Declar-ations when selling houses
     Introducing an Office of Best Practice Regulation to save unnecessary red tape.

In his opening speech to Parliament, Premier Campbell Newman spoke of his plan that will free Qld of debt, red tape, impractical ideology and indecision.  As a foot note, the Premier says will protect Queensland’s environment by raising the bar on environmental performance and by cutting unnecessary environmental red tape and ideology.  There is anecdotal evidence of a recent increase in enforcement activities by the regulators.

The Premier reiterated his ambition to build a broader, stronger Queensland economy based on the four key pillars of agriculture, resources, tourism and construction.  

We have seen some of this in action with the split up of DERM  into the:

·       Department of Environment and Heritage Protection
·       Department of Natural Resources and Mines
·       Department of National Parks, Recreation, Sport and Racing
·       Department of Energy and Water Supply
·       Department of Science, Information Technology, Innovation and the Arts

Don’t forget the move to abolish the waste levy in Queensland from 1 July 2012, which will undoubtedly attract large amounts of waste from NSW.

In agriculture, the Premier has set a target to double Queensland’s food production by 2040. He aims to do this by improving education, skills, technology and practices.

ASBG members involved in food processing industries may be interested to know that the Premier has promised to protect strategic cropping land through statutory regional planning and he declared that he will go further to identify and develop new areas for intensive food production.

Those involved in mining, minerals or hydrocarbon processing should note that the Premier claims he will deliver investment certainty and he will facilitate major projects instead of impeding them.

In her maiden speech the incoming Shadow Minister for Shadow Minister for Transport, Environment and Heritage Protection, Small Business, Consumer Affairs and The Arts: Ms Jackie Trad said: “we will ensure that our environment is protected for future generations. The Labor Party is part of a political movement that is acutely aware of its responsibility to this state and this nation.”

The Member for Gympie, David Gibson noted in his speech that his electorate has a particularly special environmental area, the Mary Valley and the Mary River. He reminded Parliament of the previous Government’s failed plans for the Traveston Crossing Dam.

Bill Byrne (ALP – Rockhampton) "We have been resoundingly defeated at the polls. ‘Belted’ is a more accurate term. However, it would be a factual misrepresentation to condemn every facet of Labor’s record. Labor made some very substantial investments and progress in areas such as education, disabilities, child protection and environmental protection. These achievements were before my time so I will not be dwelling further on the past. As we have already seen this morning, I am sure that the government will be reminding us enough over the next 12 to 18 months about their recollections and, I dare say, interpretations of the legacy of this period."

Links between CSG and Bore Depletion

The Queensland Water Commission’s (QWC) independent scientific study of underground water supplies found that there would be impacts on the Great Artesian Basin. The Deputy premier Jeff Seeney is downplaying these impacts.

The Queensland Water Act 2000 requires petroleum tenure holders to carry out baseline assessments of water
bores before commencing production, and to make good impairment of bore supplies now and into the future.  With the Surat and southern Bowen Basin undergoing a major expansion in CSG production, the region was declared a Cumulative Management Area (CMA) under the  Water Act which gave the QWC the responsibility of preparing an Underground Water Impact Report (UWIR).

The draft report found some across the Surat Cumulative Management Area would be affected by the CSG industry in the next three years.  The report states that in the longer term bores will be affected.  Laws will require the CSG companies to “make good” & the Gasfields Commission will be an important part of making sure that those laws are enforced.

The QWC’s independent scientific study of underground water supplies found relatively small impacts on the Great Artesian Basin. Its draft report released found just 85 of some 21,000 bores across the Surat Cumulative Management Area would be affected by the CSG industry in the next three years.  The CSG industry and the State Government are assessing options for treatment and reuse for irrigation or other agricultural purposes.  Reinjection of treated CSG product water into the groundwater systems might be cost prohibitive.

The new State Government wants to work on all of these issues in cooperation and consultation with those involved.  The report is open for public comment until 22 June 2012.

14 May, 2012

Bat guano crazy

Our planet is populated with plenty of Bizarre and astonishing creatures. 

Here are some examples from the Bat Family, without the need for resorting to fiction. 

Sucker footed bat

Red Winged Fruit Bat

Home Insulation batt

Today the new Qld Environment Minister, Andrew Powell, says the kill permits will only be issued as a last resort.

ANDREW POWELL spoke today on ABC radio: Flying foxes are native fauna that are protected under Queensland legislation and it's about getting that balance right so that we can continue to have a sustainable flying fox population but also agricultural production. 

Farmers will need to demonstrate that they have tried more humane methods of relocating or moving on flying fox communities from their crops. But in instances where those have been tried and failed, limited lethal DMP, or Damage Mitigation Permits, will be provided.

12 May, 2012

Fair Go for the planet?

This week Wayne Swan released the so called #FairGo budget.

My concern is that future generations, developing communities and the other species that we share the biome with, are not getting a fair go.

The Government has decided to defer the achievement of providing 0.5 per cent of Gross National Income to official development assistance by one year.

Australia's Official Development Assistance (ODA) will increase to $5.2 billion in 2012-13 – an increase of $2 billion, or 60 per cent more, since the election of the Labor Government in 2007.

"The allocation in the 2012-13 Budget to ODA will increase by over $300 million from 2011-12 and maintain ODA at 0.35% of Gross National Income (GNI)," Senator Carr said.
"Funding for ODA will continue to grow each year; it will, however, grow at a slightly slower rate so that 0.5 per cent of GNI is achieved in 2016-17.
"Funding for the important work of Australian non-government organisations (NGOs) will also continue to increase with the expansion of the AusAID NGO Cooperation Program to $110 million in 2012/13 and $165 million by 2015/16.
"Consistent with the Government's aid policy 'An Effective Aid Program for Australia: Making a real difference—Delivering real results', announced in July 2011, the Australian Federal Government has now set out a plan which outlines how we will deliver real results for the poor by 2015-16.
The 2012-13 Budget will implement this plan, and over the next four years the plan will:
  • enable 4 million boys and girls to enrol in school and improve the quality of education for 20 million poor children;
  • vaccinate 10 million children and provide access to safe drinking water for over 8.5 million people;
  • provide over 2.3 million poor people with access to financial services; and
  • provide assistance to an estimated 30 million people in crisis situations.
The Federal Government remains committed to achieving the Millennium Development Goals and the aid program will continue to grow in dollar terms.
The 2012-13 Budget implements the Government's new aid policy and will achieve widespread results for the world's poor. 
This aid spending will emphasise our focus on our neighbours, with over 70 per cent of Australian aid delivered in the Asia- Pacific region.
New aid initiatives for Asia and the Pacific in the 2012-13 Budget include:

Closing Development Gaps in East Asia

Australian interests are inextricably linked to a stable and prosperous East Asia.
The Gillard Government will increase assistance to the poorest countries of East Asia, with $208.6 million over four years being invested to improve agricultural productivity and boost health and education services in Burma, Cambodia, and Laos, and to improve resilience to floods and other natural disasters in Vietnam.
This assistance will help over 250,000 students to attain a better education and 60,000 farmers to free themselves from poverty.

Overcoming Poverty and Building Stability in the Pacific

The Federal Government will extend Australia's efforts to overcome poverty and build stability in the Pacific by investing $384.5 million over four years for health, higher education and the particular needs of the micro-states of Kiribati, Nauru and Tuvalu.
Over the next four years, this assistance will result in vaccinations for 41,000 children, strengthen around 60 higher-education institutions across the region to deliver high-quality education, and support 4,000 young people across the Pacific to graduate with recognised qualifications and skills for the workforce.

Continuation of the Pacific Police Development Program

The Federal Government will invest $97.1 million over four years through the Australian Federal Police and Attorney General's Department to assist policing agencies across the Pacific to improve security in our region. This assistance will improve policing skills and leadership, implement community policy projects and communication campaigns, upgrade national police headquarters and academies, and strengthen legal frameworks.

Extension of the AFP commitment to the United Nations Mission in East Timor

The Federal Government will provide $3.5 million in 2012-13 to enable the Australian Federal Police to continue their 50 officer deployment in East Timor as part of the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste.

Continuation of Australia's Aid Program in Afghanistan

The Federal Government will invest $190.3 million over two years to continue its aid program in Afghanistan. This funding will put more than 30,000 additional boys and girls in school and build over 100 kilometres of rural roads to provide farmers with better access to markets.
This recognises that strengthening the capacity of the Afghan Government, economy and institutions is essential to ensuring that the gains made to date are not reversed.
Australia will also invest in our global and humanitarian responsibilities:

Strengthening Preparedness and Response to Humanitarian Crises

The Federal Government will invest $435.6 million over four years to strengthen developing countries' preparedness for natural disasters, enhance Australia's ability to respond to disasters in our region and internationally, and build our partnerships with organisations such as the World Food Programme, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
Natural disasters have an acute impact in developing countries. A person is 25 times more likely to die from a disaster in a low-income country, and countries and communities recovering from disasters and conflict suffer setbacks in economic and social progress.
This is a critical investment in the stability and prosperity of our region, which has suffered 85 per cent of global deaths from natural disasters over the last three decades.

Australia's Development Partnerships with the United Nations

The Federal Government will invest $154.3 million over four years to expand Australia's engagement with UNICEF, UN Women, the UN Development Program, World Health Organisation, UN Population Fund and UNAIDS.
Australia's increased contribution to these organisations will accelerate gains towards the Millennium Development Goals. For example, in 2010 UNICEF responded to 290 humanitarian situations in 98 countries and supported an estimated 573,000 schools in 89 countries.
A recent comprehensive assessment of multilateral organisations (the Australian Multilateral Assessment) determined that these humanitarian and development organisations were performing well, and that Australia could have confidence in their effectiveness.
Australia's investment will multiply the reach and influence of our aid program, enhance our standing as a good international citizen, and help these organisations focus on the needs of poor people in our region.

Development Banks

Consistent with the intent of Australia's new aid policy 'An Effective Aid Program for Australia', Australia is deepening its engagement with effective multilateral organisations including the Development Banks.
During 2012-13, Australia will enhance its role in the Asian Development Bank (ADB) – one of our most important partners in the Asia-Pacific region, and rated in the top tier of multilateral organisations under the Australian Multilateral Assessment.
Australia's pledge in March this year to the ADB positions us to become the second largest donor to this organisation, and will have far reaching results across Asia and the Pacific, including benefitting 1 million students through school improvement programs, and supporting 450,000 households to become connected to water supply.
The Federal Government will also pursue membership of the African Development Bank, signalling Australia's commitment as a long term development partner to Africa, and of the UN's International Fund for Agricultural Development to reduce rural poverty and hunger.

A colleague of mine has trawled through the budget papers to assess the impact of the Federal budget on the environmental agencies and policy in general from a business perspective.

After the pre-budget leaks, it comes as no surprise, that the Federal Climate Change agencies have all faced severe cut backs.

The Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency’s (DCCEE) departmental budget is to be reduced from $145.6m to $104.4m.

More problematic is the cut in appropriations by the DCCEE dropping to $114m next year from $289.5m this year. Key program changes include:
       • Energy efficiency Programs cut from $6.2m to $650K;
       • Solar hot water cut from $42.8m to $500K;
       • Home Insulation Program cut from $170.8m to zero;
       • National Climate Change Adaptation Centre $22.5m to $3m;
       • Natural resource management for climate change new allocation of $7.6m.

With the dissolution of the Office of Renewable Energy Regulator and the creation of the Clean Energy Regulator (CER) and the Climate Change Authority (CCA) the budget allocation is not so straight forward.

However, the CER receives a $92.3m allocation for departmental work and $666.3m for administered appropriations. The CCA has a total allocation of $6.2m.

From a revenue view the Clean Energy Regulator will receive a $75m operational budget from 2013–14 for two years.

My colleage suspects that a large amount of this will be to pay for consultants to review carbon liable companies. Already there is anecdotal evidence of a random audit on compliance with the measurement requirements under NGERS which will set their carbon bill for next financial year.

The budget paper also state that non-transport LPG and LNG will be carbon liable from 1 July 2013. We assume that like liquid fuels an equal drop in excise will apply.

Other key climate change initiatives include:
    • $2.8 million over four years for the Commonwealth's contribution to COAG's building energy
       efficiency activities including:
                                 o $0.8 million for the Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning High      
                                    Efficiency Systems Strategy (HVAC HESS)
                                 o $1.6 million for the National Australian Built Environment Rating System
    • $3.0 million in 2012-13 to continue a range of climate change adaptation activities.
    • $37.1 million over four years to assist in establishing a nationally consistent legislative
       framework for Greenhouse and Energy Minimum Standards to replace the existing patchwork
       of inconsistent laws

For Tony Burke's Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities changes include:
• $13.2 million cut over seven years to the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office, which will leave it with $126.1m over this period.
• $37.8 million over four years to implement reforms to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
• $35.6 million over four years to continue the operation of the National Water Commission.
• $61.2 million cut over two years (for the Driving Reform in the Murray-Darling Basin program leaving $234.2 m to work with.