Australian opposition announces plan to protect environment

CANBERRA, May 5 (Xinhua) — The opposition Australian Labor Party (ALP) revealed a billion-dollar plan on Saturday to protect the environment if it wins the general election on May 18.

The ALP released its full plan for the environment, pledging to spend 50 million Australian dollars (35.1 million U.S. dollars) to establish the National Environment Protection Authority (NEPA) in what would be a first for Australia.

The party will also spend 100 million Australian dollars (70.2 million U.S. dollars) in protecting native species.

The ALP said in a statement that the suite of new measures would cost 1 billion Australian dollars (702 million U.S. dollars) and would “reshape Australia’s approach to caring for our unique natural assets.”

“Labor will call on all states and territories, business and civil society to join in a national effort to protect our iconic animal and plant species.”

The native species fund will be tasked with prioritizing the restoration of plants and animals facing “the most pressing” extinction issues.

A Senate inquiry into Australia’s faunal extinction crisis in April warned that Australia’s current approach to conservation is “incapable” of stopping the current rate of extinction, calling for a “complete overhaul” of legislation.

“We’re the extinction capital of the world,” Tony Burke, Labor’s environment spokesperson, told Fairfax Media on Saturday.

“This plan would see us start to turn the corner rather than accelerate towards a cliff. When a species is gone, it’s lost forever.”

Many of the initiatives will be funded by the ALP’s pledge to recover a controversial 443.3-million-Australian dollar (311.3-million-U.S. dollar) grant given to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation by the LNP.

The grant has come under scrutiny since it was revealed that the foundation, which had only six full-time staff and annual revenues of 10 million Australian dollars at the time it was awarded, did not ask for the funding and that it was not subject to the usual open tender process for government grants.

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