Cuts to environment programs undermines Abbott's pledge

A RAFT of small cuts to environment programs could risk undermining the Abbott government's pledges not to weaken environmental standards.

The Federal Government's first budget has made cuts of $483 million from Landcare, $2.8 million from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and $1.7 billion from clean energy programs.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt has defended the cuts, with the $40 million Reef Trust to boost conservation on the reef and $2.5 billion for carbon auctions to help reduce emissions.

But as the government last week released a key agreement with Queensland and New South Wales to hand over approvals to the states, environmental groups remained concerned.

The budget cuts, which could include 500 job cuts at the CSIRO and further redundancies in the Environment Department, raised the ire of the Australian Conservation Foundation.

While the government has not yet put a figure on the department's job losses, environmental groups have raised concerns any fewer staff could undermine developer's compliance with national environment assessments.

ACF chief executive Kelly O'Shanassy said the government had chosen to forego $18 billion revenue under the previous government's carbon tax, instead paying polluters through the $2.5 billion Emissions Reduction Fund.

However, she said the funds for the Reef Trust were "welcome", and fulfilled an election promise to deliver more money for research on the threats facing the Great Barrier Reef.

Overall, she said the budget cut money from a raft of conservation and anti-pollution measures while "handing billions to wealthy multinationals in discount fuel".

Labor's environment spokesman Mark Butler said the budget ruined "any chance Australia has to prepare for the environmental challenges of the future".

Mr Butler, referring to CSIRO cuts, said it also showed a "disdain for science and research" despite the budget also putting aside an initial $20 million for medical research.

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