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Transcript
Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage
The Hon Dr David Kemp, MP

Interview
ABC Radio National - Background Briefing
Friday, 11 April 2003

Subject: Impact global warming could have on Great Barrier Reef


Journalist:
Federal Environment Minister, David Kemp, refuses to be drawn into the argument about what's the best level of protection to guard against future shocks. However, he does acknowledge that global warming is looming as a significant threat to the Reef.

Dr Kemp:
Yes, I do. I think that the Reef is already showing significant stress from global warming. We've seen two significant bleaching events within the last four years on the Reef. It's always difficult to say that any particular event is due to global warming, whether it's the drought or a bleaching event on the Reef. But there's no doubt that as the world warms and the temperatures of the oceans rise that there are likely to be more such bleaching events.

Journalist:
Scientists like Terry Hughes are arguing that if you're going to provide that maximum protection for future shocks you need more than 25%. You need from 30 to 50%. What he's saying is that if you adopt the 25% figure, you'll be providing only the most basic bare-bones insurance policy. Like in medical terms you might have got a bed in the hospital but you aren't covered for surgery, physio and rehabilitation. What happens if we get the level of cover wrong? What happens?

Dr Kemp:
Well, I'm not a scientist. I can just go on the advice of scientists. And I don't know what level of the Reef zoning would be in the no take areas that the Great Barrier Reef Park Authority might actually recommend to me.

Journalist:
By all reports it's going to be 25%. I mean that's the figure that everybody has been talking about, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has been...

Dr Kemp:
Yeah, well I know that that figure has been commonly used. It might be more than 25%.

Journalist:
Would you like to see more than that?

Dr Kemp:
They may come to the - well, I'm not a scientist, Gerald. I can only go on the scientific advice. My concern is that the level of protection which is recommended must be a level of protection which is going to make sure that the biodiversity of the Reef is adequately sustained into the future.

We've got 70 bioregions on the Reef. There's a tremendous amount of diversity within the Marine Park. It's just vitally important that we put the Reef on a sound and sustainable basis for the future. And I can assure you that when the recommendation comes forward I will be pushing the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority very hard to justify the level of protection which they have recommended.

Journalist:
But the Authority isn't about to start arguing for more than 25% green zones. Or, looked at another way, it's actually arguing that it wants the least possible scientifically recommended amount of protection for the Reef. Virginia Chadwick again.

Virginia Chadwick:
I'm well aware the conservation groups are now pushing 30 to 50% instead of 20 to 25%. I am standing by the scientific advice I was given at the time that this program started.

Journalist:
Where is that report? Has that report been published? It hasn't seen the light of day. We've seen the 11 principles come out of it, but where's the actual report?

Virginia Chadwick:
The work - I don't know that we have published it, but I can certainly check. But it was synthesised in the biophysical principles.

Journalist:
Again, though, if you're talking about preventative principle you've given yourself - I mean there isn't any leeway there. I mean you're still coming in at the bottom end of the recommendations that your own committee made. I understand that that was the minimum protection that they were putting forward.

Virginia Chadwick:
M'mm, that's right.

Journalist:
I mean if you're still at the bottom of that level. And if you're going for this big change right now, why don't you fight the battle a little bit harder and go a little bit further to give yourself a little bit of fat in the system, so to speak?

Virginia Chadwick:
Well, we'll see what happens when we bring the draft zoning plan out. Clearly what we have had to achieve, as we work to prepare the zoning plan, is to balance. And I unashamedly say that, because in the same way that we have a duty to protect and conserve the Great Barrier Reef, our legislative charter also says that we must allow for wise use.

And it is that balance between the social and economic needs of the community, balancing that with the necessity to conserve and protect for current and future generations, that's the interface. That's where the rubber hits the ground.

Journalist:
And that's the political pay off, so to speak. I mean if you're going for a politically acceptable outcome you take into account, you know, fishermen's favourite spots when you're drawing up the green zones.

Virginia Chadwick:
No, no, can I answer that? I do not regard this as a political matter. Why is it political to say that there is an industry here that is worth several hundred million dollars a year and somehow, if you choose to conserve the Great Barrier Reef and, at the same time, allow an industry to continue, I would have thought that was a matter of social and economic consequence to the State? I don't necessarily see that as a political matter.

End

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