Statement on Report - Inquiry into Ecosystem Decline in Victoria
I rise to make a statement on the ecosystem decline inquiry report. This report was tabled on 2 December 2021, yet we still have no formal response from the government. It was one of the largest in the history of the Victorian parliamentary committee inquiries and the biggest for the Environment and Planning Committee. It received nearly 1000 substantive submissions and heard from more than 130 witnesses. It builds on the already unequivocal evidence of the Victorian state of the environment report and now the federal state of the environment report that our ecosystems, biodiversity and precious plants and animals are in dire straits.
I will not report all of the evidence which demonstrates the ecological crisis that we face but will share several deep facts highlighted by this inquiry. Victoria has 2000 species at risk of extinction, up from around 700 just a few years ago. Victoria has several ecosystems, including the mountain ash forest and the Murray-Darling Basin, on the brink of collapse. All life has intrinsic value, and we also depend on a healthy environment for our own survival. This report and many others make it abundantly clear that governments need to get their heads out of the sand and act to protect and restore the environment.
Some good news is that this committee report sets a blueprint for doing just that. It is a vital report that needs to be picked up and acted upon, not left on the shelf to gather dust. I am disappointed that we are now past the deadline for the government to respond and so far have heard nothing.
The report made 74 recommendations to the Victorian government. Among many recommendations I would just like to highlight a few key ones: recommendation 27, to allocate adequate resources to administer our state’s nature laws; recommendation 31, to significantly increase funding for habitat protection and threatened species conservation; recommendation 37, to increase funding for Parks Victoria. Instead of a formal government response to the inquiry—beyond the due date—not only did we see no increase in funding for biodiversity in the latest state budget, we actually saw what will be a nearly $1 billion cut to the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning over the forward estimates. I urge the Labor government to respect the enormous effort the committee members, secretariat, submitters and witnesses made on this inquiry. I urge the government to release its response to this inquiry. Further, I urge all political parties, independent MPs, and candidates running in the upcoming state election to take note of this inquiry and to commit to the urgently required nature policy required to secure the future of our state’s environment.