ABC Online Thursday, 13/04/2006
The Federal Government's plan to pay farmers to better manage the land has been labelled a "veiled production subsidy" and a "pork barrel" by a Canberra think tank.
Agriculture Minister Peter McGauran wants to give farmers cash payments to better protect the land and lift their productivity.
He believes farmers are carrying an unfair share of the costs of managing the environment and should be rewarded for carrying out projects which benefit the entire community.
But the Australia Institute's Andrew Macintosh says the Government has a poor record of delivering environmental projects and in allocating funding to regional areas.
"What we've seen with the Natural Heritage Trust is that the program's turned into a massive pork barrel that's dressed up in green clothing and that's my big fear with this," he said.
Mr McGauran says the program will not become a spending black hole and denies the proposed payments would become production subsidies.
While welcoming the plan, green groups are also worried the Government will simply redirecting taxpayers from existing programs, rather than allocating new money.