Thursday, 4 April 2019
New South Wales: Environment
New South Wales has now become the only state without an environment department. Having talked a lot about environment during the election campaign, one of the first acts of Premier Berejiklian in the new parliament has been to abolish the Office of Environment and Heritage. Environment ends up in the planning department, which is exactly where it shouldn't be. The environmental problems facing the state include more than a thousand plant and animal species threatened with extinction; an 800 per cent increase in land clearing during the past three years; waterways like the Darling that are in crisis; and those in my electorate of Macquarie that are neglected. It means that, on major development projects, there is no unconflicted voice in the New South Wales government for the environment—no voice for habitat under threat by the proposed raising of the Warragamba Dam wall, no voice for the koalas that populate the mountains when more housing is planned, no voice for the environmental impacts of major projects like a second Sydney airport.
Moving Heritage to the Arts portfolio shows how little they care. Heritage isn't just a block of sandstone in Macquarie Street. In the Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury, it is all around us and it is disappearing. The Aboriginal heritage that will be flooded if the Warragamba wall goes higher is part of who we all are, and deserves a strong voice to protect it. As the community who have for 2,084 days kept a 24-hour vigil in Thompson Square in Windsor know, heritage is already too easily sacrificed by this Liberal government. I pay tribute to the CAWBies, as they let the RMS take over Australia's oldest public square. New South Wales now has even less chance of anything from Aboriginal or colonial past surviving the rampaging and vandalism of the New South Wales Liberals, doing the bidding of developers with a grotesque conflict of interest embedded in their new bureaucracy. We need Labor's strong federal environmental laws more than ever.
The government continues to let down parents and educators of preschoolers. This week's budget has no long-term funding for four-year-olds—just a one-year extension. There's no guarantee that the essential subsidy which helps cover the cost of a preschool program, whether it's community preschool or a long day care centre, will continue beyond that. Now, how do you plan to expand child care or keep staff if you've only got one year of subsidy? We know that every dollar invested in early education pays huge dividends, and 15 hours of subsidy for four-year-olds is a minimum. Fantastic preschools in my electorate in the Hawkesbury and the Blue Mountains know this, and all they've got after six years of a Liberal government is uncertainty. Labor will extend the subsidy to three-year-olds and make it permanent, fully funded and fully costed. We're the only ones who will invest in this country's future leaders.