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Opinion Piece: The environment and the economy: good bed fellows

First published online by The Australian, September 17 2018

It’s been a tough year for many farmers in Eastern Australia.

Our country has endured one of the worst droughts in recent memory and our regional communities, the backbone of our great country, have borne the brunt.

The dry conditions have placed a great deal of strain on the environment, our farmers, and our economy.

That’s why it’s so important that we have the right policies, and deliver for each and every Australian.

Under the leadership of Scott Morrison, we make no apology for focusing on the needs of Australian families, on Australian small and medium businesses, and on our farmers.

One of my responsibilities as the new Minister for Environment is to ensure Australia remains on track to meet our international commitments.

To be clear on this, Australia will meet our Paris emissions target without comprising the economy. Our approach remains the best way to meet our 2030 target. No country in the world is relying on a single policy. This is the responsible approach to policy, as is reviewing your existing policies to ensure they are meeting your objectives.

The Emissions Reduction Fund – a $2.55 billion investment – is one of the tools we are using to reduce emissions. The ERF has contracted with farmers, landholders and Indigenous communities to deliver practical investment in our helping regional communities while reducing emissions.

As well as helping meet our international obligations, the ERF helps to revegetate degraded land, improve livestock management and reduce high-intensity wildfires in Northern Australia’s savannas. Providing a much needed secondary source of income in times of drought.

Since 2013 we have invested $1 billion in other Landcare initiatives which has helped many farming communities - like removing weeds from more than 1.9 million hectares of country and culling feral animals from 2.2 million hectares, which all improves the health of our land, our people and local economies.

Our $450 million Regional Land Partnership program has engaged 47 community-based organisations across the country to deliver projects that improve the sustainability of our land.

This is about finding ways to better combat drought – not only recognising the hurt right now, but to improve the productivity of land into the future.

Our investment will help farmers and agricultural industries improve soil, biodiversity and vegetation, to increase the capacity of our farms to adapt both to climate change and evolving market demands.

The Green Army is another good practical, successful coalition programme, which delivered over 1,000 projects across Australia, engaging more than 11,000 young Australians in training and employment. These young Australians – aged 17 to 24 – collectively treated weeds over 150,000 hectares, removed 42,000 cubic metres of debris and planted over three million plants.

We need to start seeing our environment as an asset. Managing it and maximising benefits on the ground and for our communities. Good environmental and economic outcomes are not mutually exclusive.

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