Former prime minister Tony Abbott has lashed out at the prospect of the Turnbull government scrapping one of his signature programs, the Green Army.
The Australian Financial Review has reported that the Green Army will be abolished in the December 19 budget update after getting A$360 million over the forward estimates in the May budget to support 500 projects a year.
Some of the savings will offset the $100 million the government promised for the Landcare program in the deal it did with the Greens last week to get its backpacker tax through parliament.
The Green Army program has young unemployed people aged between 17 and 24 working on local environmental projects.
Abbott said he was dismayed by reports the program might go. “Not only has it been good for grassroots conservation but it got unemployed people working too.
"It’s a bad principle to axe your own policy for the Greens policy because it means that their priorities are more important than ours.
"That would hardly be a smart move for a centre-right government.”
Asked whether Abbott has been spoken to about the abolition of the program, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said he would not foreshadow what would be in the budget update.
“I would simply say we have a very strong commitment to environmental programs. Landcare is a very good program. It is very much admired and very effective. It is a very effective use of funds. It has enormous community support. But I am not going to be drawn on the report in the press today.”
Labor quoted various Coalition backbenchers’ praise of the Green Army. It said news of its end “comes as concerns build about the Turnbull government’s abysmal management of the Work for the Dole program – where nearly 90% of its participants are without full-time work three months after finishing the program”.
Authors: Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra