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The Hon Peter Garrett AM MP
Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts

Funding for Tasmanian convict sites; uplisting of the Tasmanian devil; Tarkine Road proposal; Container deposit legislation; Tasmanian RFA's; NSW forests

Doorstop Interview, Cascades Female Factory, Hobart
22 May 2009

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GARRETT: Thank you very much, and it is a great occasion this morning to be with my state parliamentary colleague, Michelle O'Byrne and others here, to make an announcement of an investment of some $2.5 million in the heritage component of the Jobs Fund that the Rudd Government has brought forward to provide significant investment in the cultural heritage of our country and also a substantial economic driver for employment in the regions in question.

And here we are in Hobart, on this important site of the female factory, and a recognition that this part of Australia's history, the part of Australia's history which was a period of extraordinary penal enterprise quite strongly reflected in a number of sites here in Tasmania, including this one and also Port Arthur, Brickendon, Woolmers, and others is a huge part of our history. And we are absolutely committed to providing the necessary investment that is necessary to make sure that these sites are well restored and appropriately managed and looked after.

It is really important, I think, for us to make the connection between not only our heritage and what it means to us in terms of understanding and appreciating our shared history, but also the contribution heritage can and does make to local, regional and national economies.

And it is the case that tourism, both visitors from within Australia and those who are visiting from outside of Australia, come to Australia because we have a number of important and significant world heritage properties.

We have a nomination that is going to the World Heritage Committee of convict sites - which includes the site where we are today and a number of the Tasmanian sites as well as other convict sites in Australia, including Fremantle Prison, Cockatoo Island and others.

Should that nomination be successful, people will be visiting Australia not only to see our natural world heritage areas, of which Tasmania has some, places like the Great Barrier Reef, Kakadu - but they will be coming here to see our historical heritage, the settler history, the penal history of this country.

So I am really pleased that we are able to make this announcement here today. It will generate jobs in this area. I am sure that we will see the use of materials and tradespeople, local tradespeople, tradies, and others will be working on these sites. And it will additionally provide the opportunity for Hobart to continue to be a place of really important historic significance and for the many Australians and overseas visitors who come here provide the necessary impetus for the local economy as well.

JOURNALIST: How is funding compared for Tasmania compared to other states for the projects?

GARRETT: Today we are providing nearly $900,000 for the Port Arthur historic site, separate prison; $523,000 for the Cascades female factory; $591,000 for the Woolmers Estate; and $500,000 for the Brickendon Estate. Significant investment by the Commonwealth in Tasmanian heritage.

And I think it is fair to say that Tasmania has a pretty good representation of built heritage. You have got precincts here which can effectively take you back to that earlier period and this is a significant investment by the government and I am confident it will provide the necessary stimulus for employment and job creation in this area.

JOURNALIST: Minister, can you tell us what is on the agenda at the environment ministers' meeting today?

GARRETT: Environment ministers are considering a range of matters including national waste policy, matters around heritage, and matters concerning how we would advance the national waste policy; and considering issues of extended product responsibility and the like. We have only just begun to meet and I will have to leave quickly to continue that meeting, but I can say that the discussions that we have so far are very positive and very promising and I am looking forward to reporting on the progress that environment ministers make a little later in the day.

JOURNALIST: So you will do a doorstop after the meeting?

GARRETT: We will come and provide a comprehensive reporting on what ministers have discussed and agreed, and I am very much looking forward to that. And I have to say that environment ministers are working both collaboratively and productively on the issues that are in front of them. And I will expect to have something more to say about that later.

JOURNALIST: Can you update us about the plans for the Tasmanian devil please?

GARRETT: The threatened species committee has provided me with advice which proposed that we did uplift the status of the Tasmanian devil from vulnerable to endangered. This is a recognition of the many threats that the Tassie devil does face. This means that there will be additional protection under national environment law. And I think all of us, but particularly Tasmanians, have a huge, anxious interest in the fate of this really important species.

There is a lot of work being undertaken in terms of research. The Commonwealth has committed some $10 million to the research effort but we are aware that the Tassie devil numbers are not healthy and as a consequence of that I have accepted the advice of the threatened species committee and we have increased the appropriate identification of the risk that this really important species actually faces.

JOURNALIST: Is it a sad day for the devil?

GARRETT: I think it is a recognition that the devil is under significant threat; that the big research effort that is under way, important as it is, hasn't yet clearly pinpointed, for example with the facial tumour disease, what the most likely causes would be, how to prevent that disease spreading. And it is also a recognition that we take the environment seriously. We know that there is very strong local interest in the fate of the Tassie devil. We know that the Tasmanian Government has been working hard on this issue as well. And we know that it has had that listing status here in Tasmania. It now has it from the perspective of the national government. And I think it means that we intensify our efforts to make sure that we can look after this important animal.

JOURNALIST: Minister, you have declared the Tasmanian devil endangered. Will you go on to approve the Tarkine road which several scientists say would actually bring the devil facial tumour disease into the last area of wild disease-free devils in Tasmania?

GARRETT: I think I said yesterday that there was a referral on the way to me. I understand that there will be a referral that will come through to me in relation to the Tarkine road. But it has not yet reached the relevant officials and I have not yet, clearly, received any advice in relation to that matter. Once it is proposed and formally referred, it will be the subject of an exhaustive evaluation. Advice will be provided to me, I will then make a decision on the basis of that advice. I don't propose to add anything else to those comments.

JOURNALIST: Will you provide more money for research?

GARRETT: Let us see what advice comes through to me in relation to the matter of the proposal of the road. And the question of money for research more generally, we are providing significant investment in research. My expectation is that some of the work that is being undertaken most recently, which I was considering yesterday, may provide some hope and some optimism in terms of identifying how the transmission of the disease takes place. I very much hope that that work can continue. That is a significant investment that the Commonwealth has made and we just wish the scientists very well as they continue that work.

JOURNALIST: When do you expect that ministers will make a national announcement about container deposit legislation?

GARRETT: We will make announcements later in the day of the deliberations that have been undertaken by ministers. Ministers will have a full and very productive meeting here in Hobart. We are enjoying being here in Hobart and I think we will have an opportunity to consider the matters that are on our agenda. If I get an opportunity to do that now that will probably be quite useful, then I will have something to say to you later in the day.

JOURNALIST: Do you accept the claims of these protestors here today that the Regional Forest Agreement is posing a risk to endangered species in Tasmania?

GARRETT: I think every time you come to Tasmania, you come into an environment where there are some issues where there are strong community views and have been hotly debated. The fact of the matter is that the Commonwealth is profoundly committed to ensuring that the appropriate regulatory framework is in place for us to exercise the responsibilities that we have as a national government in relation to the environment. I am confident that we are doing that. I don't propose to add anything else to that other than I look forward to speaking to you later on in the day.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible] expecting from environment ministers in relation to container deposit legislation? Are you expecting to hear a lot about that today?

GARRETT: I expect I will have something to say about that later in the day.

JOURNALIST: [ inaudible] with Ian Macdonald in relation to the superb parrot yesterday?

GARRETT: We had some discussion. There is still some discussions and interactions between officials to continue. I expect that the officials will continue to negotiate these matters over the next couple of days. Minister Macdonald and I have agreed that we will meet some time over the next three or four days to resolve any final matters as needed. [inaudible] there is a range of matters that Minister Macdonald and I and the officials have to consider and I am confident that if we continue talking we can come to an agreement.

JOURNALIST: When should we expect to speak to you later on today?

GARRETT: We will speak a little later on today once we have finished. I think it will be around about, well let's just see, some time after lunch.


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