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Environment Department head Allan Holmes has lashed out at local media for the “pathetic” quality of debate on environmental issues.

Defending his department’s actions monitoring water flows into the Coorong, Holmes used an ABC Radio interview Monday morning to call for more emphasis on the environment and less on the economy.

The interview followed the release of an letter from David Paton,Professor of Ecology, Evolution and Landscape Sciences at the University of Adelaide, criticising State Government funding of Holmes’ department.

“The South Australian Government has been reducing the budget for the environment sector over the last few years,” the Paton letter claimed.

“I reckon the share of the state budget that the environment area has been provided with has dropped from around 3 per cent to about 1.7 per cent of the state budget with barely a murmur of concern from the public or the media.”

Holmes backed Paton’s concerns when he told ABC Radio’s David Bevan the media should lift its game.

“Let me get on my soapbox just for a moment,” Holmes said. “You pay more attention to the economy than you do to the environment – I’ve only got to listen to your radio show before seven o’clock in the morning to see that.

“The reason the environment isn’t getting the attention that it deserves is that most people think: ‘how much money we make is the important driver when perhaps we should pay’… it’s a philosophical viewpoint about what we do with our time on radio and what we say to the community more generally, so yeah, there’s no doubt that the environment has gone off the agenda.

“The quality of the debate that we have in this state and this country about environmental issues is pathetic.

“I’m having a crack at you, I’m having a crack at the way the media doesn’t pay attention to some of the issues that really matter. You’ve only got to read our local newspaper to see that.”

Holmes may have a point – when the Environment Protection Authority released its most recent State of the Environment (SoE) Report in September, it barely caused a ripple in the media.

The report is issued every five years; the 2008 version was given prominent coverage and sparked wide debate.

The SoE report details the current state of the environment and gives an assessment of efforts to deal with significant environmental issues.

The report can be found here.

What do you think? Has the environment fallen from the public agenda in South Australia?

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