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Green programs to be axed

Date

Josh Gordon

THE  looming carbon tax will be used by the Baillieu government to justify scrapping a raft of state environmental programs as part of a push to end duplication between the Commonwealth and Victoria.

After handing down his second budget this week, Treasurer Kim Wells confirmed the establishment of a special cost-cutting team headed by Department of Premier and Cabinet secretary Helen Silver — known as the ‘‘Better Services Implementation Taskforce’’.

This taskforce will be searching for areas of policy duplication it can  stamp out.

Mr Wells said  it would be searching for spending double-ups between Victoria and Canberra, and between various state  departments. ‘‘We cannot have a situation where the Commonwealth ... is performing a role and it is being duplicated in the state,’’ Mr Wells said.

Victoria is likely to argue that a national target to cut greenhouse emissions by 5 per cent linked to the federal carbon tax, as well as a range of other federal environmental policies, have made a range of state  environment programs redundant.

The programs potentially include  threatened species initiatives, the state’s solar hot water rebate and the Victorian Energy Efficiency Target,  designed to encourage  energy retailers to sell energy-efficient products.

After axing Victoria’s legislated target to cut emissions by 20 per cent by 2020 because of the federal carbon tax, Environment Minister Ryan Smith said he would be talking with federal Climate Change Minister Greg Combet to identify other areas of state environmental policy  no longer be needed because of the 5 per cent national target.

Environment Victoria campaign director Mark Wakeham  warned the cuts would hit programs designed to save on household energy  bills.

‘‘Any program which is designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will go because they now see that as the federal government’s job,’’ Mr Wakeham said. ‘‘They are using this green tape duplication argument as an excuse to make massive cuts to existing programs.’’

Victoria has become increasingly concerned about what is seen as a mismatch between state spending responsibility and its ability to raise revenue. It is arguing for a share of the GST based on population, although federal Treasurer Wayne Swan has suggested the current funding formula is unlikely to change.

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