Department of the Environment

Archived media releases and speeches

The Hon Tony Burke MP

Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities

Question without notice - Parliament House

21 June 2012

KIRSTEN LIVERMORE (MEMBER FOR CAPRICORNIA): Will the Minister update the House on the latest report released by UNESCO concerning the Great Barrier Reef? What methods of protection is the report proposing for the reef? How is the Government responding to these recommendations and what other recommendations have been made in Australia in the past 24 hours?

BURKE: Thanks very much Deputy Speaker and I want to thank the Member for Capricornia for her long term interest on behalf of her community on the Great Barrier Reef.

The UNESCO report that has come out has not yet been adopted by the World Heritage Committee but it does contain considerable recommendations of which members should all be aware.

In the first instance it distinguishes between port applications and developments that are coming down the pipeline that are already existing working harbours and those from ones in relatively pristine sites.

It's an important distinction and it does mean that places like Abbot Point, places like Gladstone where they are already working harbours are being viewed differently from UNESCO compared to places like Balaclava Island where it's currently relatively pristine.

They also have acknowledged the connection between what happens on land and what happens in the Great Barrier Reef which is an important point and I acknowledge the Member for Capricornia as one of the architects, back when we were in opposition, of the Reef Rescue program.

Through the Reef Rescue program, the Government is working with cane growers, working with graziers in making sure that we reduce the impact of runoff to the reef and this is acknowledged as a significant improvement in the protection of this great international asset.

I'm also asked about other recommendations that have been made in Australia in the past 24 hours.

And for anyone who saw the first two pages of today's Courier Mail, they would have been astonished by comments that were made in this house yesterday by the Leader of the Nationals.

The Leader of the Nationals decided that when it came to the Barrier Reef there are a number of claims of damage to the reef that he could ridicule. And the ones he chose were to ridicule that there is an impact on what happens on land with runoff, that there is an impact on what happens with shipping in the ocean and there are impacts from the Crown of Thorns.

They are the three areas that he decided to ridicule.

I would remind the Leader of the Nationals to go to a very good interview with Fran Kelly that was conducted by none other than his own shadow minister of the environment where it is apparently coalition policy that they have three pillars and I quote.

One is the on land work in terms of incentive to reduce sediment, two is the off shore work in terms of doing our best to protect the turtles and dugongs and three is a real Crown of Thorns eradication program.

On all three issues which are good policy and solid policy put through by the shadow minister for the environment, the Leader of the Nationals stands out on his own wanting to be the last of the environmental vandals.

Well the Labor Party knows we are on the right side of history on environmental protection and wether its the Great Barrier Reef, the Daintree Rainforest, the Franklin River, Kakadu National Park or what we have done with protection on the oceans over the past two weeks, the National Party will continue to be dragged kicking and screaming to important environmental reforms that are only delivered by Labor.