Bill Shorten flanked by Senator Kristine Keneally delivers Labor's $1 billion election commitment to the environment at Australia Zoo.
Bill Shorten flanked by Senator Kristine Keneally delivers Labor's $1 billion election commitment to the environment at Australia Zoo. Patrick Woods

Shorten makes billion-dollar environment pledge at zoo

LABOR leader Bill Shorten has chosen the Sunshine Coast to launch his party's $1 billion election commitment to the environment.

The Bill Bus rolled into Australia Zoo today where Mr Shorten said urgent action and overdue leadership was required to step up the fight to protect Australia's environment and hand on a better environment to the next generation.

The visit caught local campaign teams by surprise.

Bill Shorten's election campaign at Australia Zoo.
Bill Shorten swapped the Bill Bus for an Australia Zoo buggy to inspect the wildlife. Patrick Woods

Labor has committed to invest more than $1 billion in new environment programs to tackle the extinction crisis, cut single-use plastics, protect beaches and coastlines, clean up the nation's rivers, double the number of Indigenous Rangers caring for country, and protect the Great Barrier Reef.

In a joint statement with shadow Environment and Water Minister Tony Burke and shadow Energy and Climate Chaneg Minister Mark Butler, Mr Shorten said drought across eastern Australia, reef bleaching events, fires in Tasmania and thousands of fish deaths in the Murray Darling system all spoke to the scale of the environmental challenge facing Australia in the 21st century.

"In February the Liberals confirmed Australia has suffered the first global mammal extinction directly as a result of climate change," the statement said.

"It is time to fundamentally change our approach to addressing the environmental crisis.

"A Shorten Labor Government will reshape Australia's approach to caring for our unique natural assets, reform Australia's environmental laws and create a new, independent Environment Protection Agency - if we get the entire framework right, we will protect our environment for our children and grandchildren."

Labor's Protecting the Environment plan would include a $100 million Native Species Protection Fund, $62 million for a Beaches and Coastlines Climate Adaptation plan, to build climate resilience, bringing together local and state governments, community groups, the business community, researchers and relevant Commonwealth agencies and departments.

The national framework will provide the leadership that has been lacking under the Liberals to develop plans to adapt to climate impacts.

It would also refund the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility with $3m for research into local climate change impacts and introduce a $50 million Coastal Rehabilitation Fund, to work with communities, local governments, and the Australian Coastal Council Association to directly support coastal rehabilitation projects that restore beaches and adjacent coastal environments, and improve their resilience.

Another $50 million of the commitment would drive environmental law reform and a new Environment Protection Act and where possible harmonise state and federal laws to minimise duplication and obligate the Australian Government to both protect and restore Australia's environment.

A new Environment Protection Authority would be established with the mission to protect Australia's natural environment and deliver rigorous compliance.

The statement said it would be informed by the best available scientific advice, manage development approvals, ensure compliance with environmental law, collect data and evaluate progress.

The announcement was in addition to commitments to a $200 million Urban Rivers and Corridors Program, a $90 million Plastics and Recycling Package, more than $200 million to double the number of Indigenous Rangers over five years, more than $400 million through the return of Great Barrier Reef Foundation grant, to be reinvested through public agencies and $30 million for Reef HQ.