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Minister for the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts 2001-2004

The Hon Dr David Kemp, MP

 

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

The Morning Show
630 ABC North Queensland
Thursday, 8 July 2004

Green protection zones on North Queensland fishermen and issues relating to renewable energy


Presenter:

The parade of federal politicians continues in North Queensland. Perhaps it is something to do with our nice weather. Yesterday Opposition Leader Mark Latham was around and about and today Federal Environment Minister Dr David Kemp joins us in the studio. Good morning Dr Kemp.

David Kemp - Federal Environment Minister:

Good morning Tracy.

Presenter:

Now, we will talk about electricity policy and that sort of thing coming up but first, let's about the reef and the impact of the green zones. They've been in force for eight days now. There's been lots of talk about it and we've done numerous stories here on 630 ABC North Queensland.

Fishermen say ... some fishermen say that the green zone maps are confusing and claim that the government, through the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, is in denial over the real impact it will have still at this late stage. Are you happy with the way that the green zones were introduced?

Kemp:

I'm very happy. There was, of course, a very long process of public consultation before the green zones were introduced. I think the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has done an excellent job in preparing the community, putting out really good information about the green zones. It is going to take time for some people to get used to them, there's no doubt about that but this is a wonderful thing for the Great Barrier Reef. It's going to really through, I think I read, I think, in the press yesterday, a blanket of protection over a very large part of the reef, thirty-three and a third per cent of the whole marine park. This is making the Great Barrier Reef the best protected reef in the world.

It's absolutely essential that we do this because not only is the biodiversity of the reef unique and people come from all over the world to see it, but it's also the foundation for a huge tourism industry here in North Queensland and the basis for very successful fishing industries and communities along the coast, so I'm delighted with the way it's done.

Peter Lindsay, of course, here in Herbert has been a tremendous supporter of this whole process and we're both thrilled with the way it's now coming together.

Presenter:

Now, you mentioned tourism, of course that is a big industry for the reef, but the other one that you also mentioned is the fishing industry and a lot of them are hurting very much. In the past eight days their income has halved or in some cases disappeared altogether. There was the announcement yesterday that access to financial counselling has been brought forward so there is a fair bit of pain out there. Do you acknowledge that?

Kemp:

I certainly acknowledge that if you're going to undertake a huge exercise like this it is going to impact adversely on some people. It's fair to say that the whole process of rezoning was undertaken in a way to minimise the impacts and there has been very little impact very, for example, on the offshore trawling. I think the major impacts are falling on the in shore netting and crabbing. We recognise that and the government has brought down what I believe is a very generous structural adjustment package.

Presenter:

There are some concerns about access to that though. We've ... you know, we've heard that it could be hard to access and, you know, we've had the financial counselling brought forward already. Is that an acknowledgment that this going to be tougher on some people than initially thought?

Kemp:

I don't think it is going to be hard to access. We're involving the fishing industry, QFA will be quite heavily involved in aspects of this package and certainly in making sure that immediate social assistance goes through to fishers who are adversely impacted.

But of course, we've got the Queensland Rural Adjustment Authority responsible for the administration of this package. They're very well experienced. They've already advertised in the press so I think the licence buy-back should go through very smoothly and the support of up to two hundred thousand dollars for business adjustment assistance has been very much welcomed by the fishing industry.

We're also providing a thousand dollars to every fishing industry person who believes they're affected, whether they're onshore or offshore, to undertake business planning so they can make an assessment of the impact of the RAP (ph.sp.) on their business. So I think that this is package that is really setting a standard for such packages and I'm very proud that the Australian government has been able to bring a package like this forward and I think it's entirely just and fair and we want everybody who has been impacted by the RAP to be treated fairly and to feel that they have been treated fairly and to feel that they have been treated very justly.

Presenter:

It may be a bit premature to talk about this now but you mentioned that the figure of thirty three percent earlier the reef now closed to fishing, is there any more in store? Do we plan to have even more of the reef closed to fishing in future years?

Kemp:

Well, I think that is very premature. We need to evaluate the impact of this particular set of closures and that will be some years down the track. We won't know what the impact of these marine protected areas will be, although science tells us that we're going to see more fish, we're going to see bigger fish on the reef, we're going to see the coral being more resilient in the face of the various pressures that it faces. So this is a wonderful investment in the future and I know that it has been very widely welcomed up and down the coast.

Presenter:

And just on reef matters, you were talking in far north Queensland yesterday about reef water quality and your ... have you finished the ... is the draft plan now been finished for reef water quality? You're rolling out the actual plan, is that right?

Kemp:

Well, what we're doing now is rolling out funding for particular aspects of it. The major priorities of the water quality protection plan have been identified and in particular, of course, they involve working with the land based industries because ...

Presenter:

Farming.

Kemp:

Farming particularly, sugar cane growers, pastoralists further inland. We want to encourage some of the high priority catchments to proceed rapidly with their water quality plans themselves. We see that it's very important to involve the communities along the coast here because it's really the impact on the Great Barrier Reef lagoon from onshore activities that this plan is directed to.

It's a joint plan between the Australian Government and Queensland and this announcement of ten point eight-five million dollars is on top of the money which has already been given to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to monitor water quality and on top of the money that's been given to the regional catchment groups to undertake activities in their own catchment that contribute to water quality like revegetation along the riparian zones. This is additional funding which will help us to work very closely with the industries and to provide incentives for good practices.

Presenter:

You announced a land buy back yesterday as well in the far northern region. Any similar plans for this region of the north Queensland coast?

Kemp:

Well, this was a particular opportunity that came up in the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area which is an area near Russell Heads. It was some ninety eight ...

Presenter:

(indistinct)

Kemp:

... a lot of it would have been marked out in the nineteenth century. They've never been developed but it was a very important area for us and I must say how thrilled I am that we've been able to make this acquisition because it really now protects a very rare fresh water catchment area, it's a very complex dune system which will be the basis for a good deal of scientific research in the wet tropics area. So this is a great step forward and it was a great thrill to be able to announce that as well.

Presenter:

Do you see that this type of issue, the buy back of land and the setting aside of areas for preservation as an important role of government? That this is the next step, that we need to do more of this?

Kemp:

I think it is, and we're seeing this in many parts of Australia. In fact, through the National Reserve System of course the Australian Government is consistently involved in these kind of activities, working again with state and conservation groups to buy back and put into the national reserve areas which have got real biodiversity importance and this is an example of this kind of process.

We're going to see more of it, we're seeing some of it of course on Cape York. We want to see a whole integrated strategy rolling out to Cape York which involves property management plans as well. They've been very slow to come through and we want to see a balance there between acquisitions and property management plans. But that's very important for us and we will see more of this of course around the Daintree.

Presenter:

Lets talk about ethanol. We had Mark Latham, the federal opposition leader, in the studio yesterday morning and the question was put to him about an ethanol mandate. He suggested that they didn't support a ten percent mandate in fuel. Now, we know that the government ... that's also a similar position to the government. There are lots of working parties going on at the moment looking at the issue and I know it's not exactly your portfolio but can you bring us up to date on where that working party is at all on looking into a possible mandate or availability mandate for ethanol?

Kemp:

Well, as you know, the Australian government is not supportive of a mandate because this is very difficult to implement right around Australia. But what we are supporting is a whole range of actions to rebuild consumer confidence in ethanol and I think that is really the critical step now that needs to be taken. We are seeing quite successful trials undertaken by Caltex in Cairns ...

Presenter:

And they're (indistinct).

Kemp:

Yes, and here in Townsville and elsewhere in Australia through Bogas. We are seeing ethanol blends now being marketed quite actively by companies. Now, that's very important. Unfortunately, a lot of the ethanol blended petrol has not been marketed as such particularly when you get down to around about Sydney and consumers haven't been sure what they're actually buying.

Now, ethanol blended petrol's a very good product and it's a cleaner product and I certainly encourage people to look very seriously at it and think about putting it in their cars. It's important that we do rebuild consumer confidence and I think the when the market has got that level of confidence, we will see a great expansion in demand for these ethanol blends and that, of course, will be very encouraging for all those who want to take part in the ethanol industry.

Presenter:

We're talking about issues green. The government recently released the White Paper for energy, a continued reliance or ... and criticism from some areas that it's a continued reliance on traditional sources of fuel, that it wasn't green enough — the White Paper wasn't green enough. How do you respond to that criticism?

Kemp:

Well, it a very environmentally conscious White Paper and it's also realistic. I mean, it recognises that Australia is going to have to rely on fossil fuels for several decades to come. The fossil fuel economy will eventually pass into history. We will see hydrogen fuel cells powering our motor vehicles. That is going to come but it's going to be some decades away. We're going to see those vehicles coming through.

But we do need to clean up our coal. It's an important export for us. We have many power stations which are going to be around for a long time which will be driven by coal and we need to make sure that we bring forward technologies to really clean up the emissions from these power stations.

But it's not just that. We are also, of course, encouraging renewable energy. The five hundred million dollar fund for major new technologies is also available to renewable energies. It's not a question of choosing one technology over the other. It's really a matter of reducing Australia's emissions. A big gap has opened up here between the Opposition and the government on this issue because it's quite clear now that Labor is going down a very high cost pathway that's going to have very damaging consequences for the Australian economy.

Presenter:

You're talking particularly about electricity generation?

Kemp:

I am talking particularly about the impact of policies like signing Kyoto, having a national emissions trading scheme. Labor is also advocating a five per cent compulsory buy by electricity retailers of renewable energy.

Presenter:

And you don't support that?

Kemp:

Well, these policies are hugely costly. For example, the five per cent target for renewable energy would cost the economy something like a loss of eleven and a half billion dollars. The National Emissions Trading Scheme is similar to a scheme that's been introduced in New Zealand. The New Zealand government has estimated that it's going to raise electricity prices perhaps by up to sixteen per cent. We're going to see petrol prices go up by six per cent. Diesel prices up by seven per cent.

Now, these sort of cost impacts and lost economic growth would impact very, very severely on a city like Townsville. We would see here, for example, it would be pretty well impossible for the second stage of the Korea Zinc project to go ahead. We would see every household, every family impacted by increases in electricity prices around about two hundred dollars and more a year. Now, this is absolutely unnecessary. Australia is going to reach its greenhouse target.

Presenter:

Will we?

Kemp:

We're going to reach that. We certainly will.

Presenter:

Will we sign Kyoto?

Kemp:

Well, there's no point in signing Kyoto and implementing this National Emissions Trading Scheme because we don't need to slow down economic growth in Australia. We don't need to impose these costs on our economy and the extraordinary thing about Labor's policies is that there is absolutely no explanation given as to why we need to impose these heavy costs.

And, of course, if you think about it, there's only one reason why Labor would have these policies and that is to try to buy extreme green preferences in any election that might be coming up later on in the year. This is not a policy for Australia. It's not a policy for Queensland or Townsville. It's a policy to buy green preferences and the government is absolutely opposed to these policies which undermine Australia's national interest and damage families and industries in our regional communities.

Presenter:

Sounding more and more like a politician coming up to election mode, Dr David Kemp.

Kemp:

Well, these are important issues to raise.

Presenter:

They certainly are and you're in Townsville today getting around and about visiting a few places. What's your schedule for today?

Kemp:

Yes, I'll be meeting with business groups in Townsville because I think they will be very concerned about these policies that Mark Latham's pursuing here. People want to see Townsville go ahead.

I think we're in a remarkable period in Australia at the moment. Peter Lindsay and I were just discussing this earlier. When you look around at the mood in the country, people want to get on and do the job. There is a feeling that Australia's moving ahead. There's a feeling that we are quite a remarkable country. There's a very positive air of optimism out there and we don't want to start adopting ideological policies which are going to undermine us, put the brakes on unnecessarily when we can keep moving ahead as we are.

Presenter:

Thanks for your time this morning. Dr David Kemp, Federal Environment Minister, in Townsville this morning and with us in the studio.

End of Segement

Commonwealth of Australia