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Suggestions to scrap the Abbott Government’s successful Green Army program should remain in the realm of suggestions. The policy of Direct Action, championed to a landslide coalition victory in 2013 is an example of what successful environmental policy looks like – a concept previously unknown to the Australian political scene.

Unlike most environmental policies, wishy-washy targets and the like, the Green Army proposed a return of focus to conservation. We now know from lived experience, that this has delivered tangible results. Change you can actually see.

From cleaning up riverbeds and parklands to planting new native vegetation, the Green Army embodies the environmental ethos to “start local”. 500 of these localised projects have been funded until 2019 costing the Commonwealth $360 million.

The real genius of Green Army is that the funding transcends the realms of environmental policy and is also a great social services policy. Job-seekers including high-school graduates and those on welfare were given real skills and qualification by participating in the program, leaving them more employable as a result.

Welfare should always be temporary, a ‘hand up’ as opposed to a ‘hand out’. Abbott’s Green Army was as successful a welfare policy as it was an environmental one.

This possible $360 million not only undoes a highly-effective environmental policy but it would also run in contradiction to the Turnbull Government’s much-spoken mantra of “jobs and growth”.

It’s rare in public policy that government sponsored programs create such synergies and real value for the taxpayer. With such a rare fusion of benefits, in meeting environmental goals and also delivering employment demands, the idea that such a policy would be scrapped, only to be quickly replaced by a taxpayer funded review to appease the United Nations, means we must defend the program and dispel suggestions to scrap it.

Then there’s the elephant in the room – what policy will fill the void? Those of you right of centre may ask is it a void that needs to be filled? It may seem appealing from a classical liberal standpoint to cut expenditure, but will the bureaucratic circus which will be the review proposed by the Government be a suitable enough answer?

If the Green Army is scrapped, the outcome will be a real loss in environmental terms, not to mention the hundreds of otherwise employed people who may return to the dole – an ever-accelerating expenditure item for Canberra.

The Government has passed some key legislation in the last session before Christmas and was beginning to show signs that it may have turned the corner. To cut the Green Army would only open a Pandora ’s Box for the Left to exploit.

As conservatives, we can’t fight tooth and nail against a Carbon Tax and then turn our back on the one policy which made a real difference to improving the natural environment. We not only lose the debate, but we also lose the trust of the electorate in proving that grassroots environmentalism can trump redistributionist climate politics.

Our failure in this space will see a return of a Carbon Tax under any future Labor Government.

The Green Army is a visionary policy with an Australian focus, as opposed to the globalist approach to “climate change”. Most importantly it’s a policy which puts people first not a questionable globalist agenda. Whether you accept the premise of human-induced climate change or not, everyone can get behind the basics: planting more trees and cleaning-up natural ecosystems.

The Green Army is more than a target, more than a tax – it’s environmentalism in action, conservationist at its core with the added benefit of placing job seekers into a meaningful job.

Let’s keep a policy which works not only for the environment but for the taxpayer and for the job-seeker. Keeping the Green Army is worth fighting for.

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