The Murray or the MCG? Where Will the Money Come from for Land-Use Reform, and How Could the Returns on Such an Investment Be Calculated? (the Wentworth View)

Ecos, April-June 2003 | Go to article overview

The Murray or the MCG? Where Will the Money Come from for Land-Use Reform, and How Could the Returns on Such an Investment Be Calculated? (the Wentworth View)


Implementing the reforms outlined by the Wentworth Group will be expensive. Studies commissioned for the Business Leaders Roundtable and others suggest that a public investment of $20 billion is required during the next 10-20 years. If such costs are put into perspective, however, they are decidedly achievable.

'It should be possible to fence off most of the 20 000 kilometres of rivers in the Murray-Darling Basin for less than a quarter of the cost of extending the Melbourne Cricket Ground for the 2006 Commonwealth Games,' WWF environmental policy specialist, Peter Cosier says.

'If we can spend $400 million on a sporting complex, we should be able to find the money to fix our environment. It's a matter of Australians identifying priorities.'

The Wentworth Group says an investment of an average of $2 billion a year for the next decade represents less than 2% of the federal budget and less than 0.5% of Australia's Gross Domestic Product. Such an investment would provide an average of over $30 million a year per region. So how will the money be raised?

'The Wentworth Group is not advocating another new tax, but we are arguing that a major investment of public capital is needed if we are to restore the degraded parts of our landscape,' Cosier says.

'We've identified a range of sources for such an investment, but it is up to others to work out the details.'

The investment options include: consolidated revenue; the full sale of Telstra; an environmental levy; incorporating hidden environmental subsidies into the cost of food, fibre and water; state and local government taxes and charges; and/or government bonds.

The Wentworth Group advocates a public inquiry to identify the cost of land management reform, and to recommend options for funding. But how would such an inquiry estimate the returns on such investment? …

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