Queensland premier to abolish AUD$350 million of environment funds

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Newly elected Queensland state premier Campbell Newman is rapidly moving ahead with his decision to abolish eight of Labor’s environment funds worth AUD$350 million. The affect of the state election could be seen as devastating, more so because Prime Minister Julia Gillard intends to make headway on climate reform.

However, critics of her government have claimed she has underestimated the Queensland electorate because their vote could be a reflection of the entire country. “I think the prime minister is still in denial about the scale of the defeat in Queensland,” federal opposition leader Tony Abbott said. “The Queensland election result is a verdict on governments which don't tell the truth and I think that's a real problem for the prime minister.”

Premier Newman has already divided the department of environment and resource management. He has eradicated the word “environment” from the title and created the departments of resource management and mining and energy. Furthermore, in addition to Labor’s environment funds, other programs on the hit list to lose its funding include Queensland Smart Energy Savings Fun, The Queensland Future Growth Fund, The Solar Initiatives Package, The Waste Avoidance and Resource Efficiency Fund and Local Government Sustainable Future Fund.

According to Reneweconomy, Newman’s Liberal Party issued a statement describing the schemes as “redundant and a waste of taxpayer’s money. Any state-based scheme will simply mean Queenslanders will be paying for other states to emit more. The carbon tax schemes are a luxury Queensland just can’t afford.” However, Newman claims his party will retain the state’s feed-in tariff with a net, rather than gross, tariff.

Newman is also petitioning Prime Minister Julia Gillard to drop her plans to impose a carbon tax. Newman told radio station Fairfax, “They [the government] proceed with this at their peril.” The cost will initially be set at AUD$23 per tonne and is set to increase gradually until 2015.

The Liberal Party have not disclosed whether money already committed will be reclaimed when not all of it has been spent, for example, AUD$9 million for Mackay Sugar’s co-generation project, AUD$15 million to the University of Queensland geothermal energy’s centre of excellence and up to AUD$4.3 million for the new geothermal power station at Birdsville.

There are also concerns that the AUD$75 million funding put towards Solar Dawn may also be withdrawn. A statement from the company said it “appreciated the commitment of the State of Queensland which has signed a AUD$75 million conditional agreement with Solar Dawn for project assistance” and it looked forward to “continuing its relationship with the government” and briefing personnel on progress in the project.

The state of New South Wales’ government has also brought its solar tariff to an abrupt end, believing renewable energy development is a national issue and not a state one.

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