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

Number of Living Species in Australia & the World report; Traveston Dam; climate change

Doorstop interview, Launch of the Number of Living Species in Australia & the World report, Australian Institute of Marine Science, Townsville
29 September 2009

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JOURNALIST: What is this report all about, why is it so exciting?

GARRETT: This is an incredible report, the Number of Living Species in Australia and the World, the only report of its kind which tells us the number of species that have been named by scientists that have done this work and shows us that Australia has an incredible number of species, plant and animal species, including new ones that we didn't know about. But it is also important work because it will help inform us in our efforts to make sure that we deal with the threats to nature, the threats to these species - threats that come from climate change, threats that come from weeds and other activities.

So I am very, very pleased to be in Townsville at the Australian Institute of Marine Science to launch this report. I want to congratulate those young scientists and others that have been involved. This will provide a really important benchmark for governments to be able to make sure that the money that we spend on conservation and environment is well spent and well focused.

JOURNALIST: So what is so unique about Australian species?

GARRETT: Australia is an incredible country, we're a mega-diverse country in terms of our species and they are so important to the health of our natural ecosystems, that is what nature is made up, these unique plant and animal species. And particularly with dangerous climate change likely to impact on our species, particularly with the kinds of threats that they face, a report like this is providing valuable and critical information for policy makers, for governments, for councils, for businesses and others.

And I think what is absolutely crucial is to recognise how important it is that we understand the impact that dangerous climate change will have on something like the Great Barrier Reef. And so it was terrific to be at AIMS where research on the Reef will be extended by the partnership with ABRS, the Australian Government, AIMS and supported by BHP, I want to commend those organisations and thank BHP for that support. Because what we do know is that the Great Barrier Reef is our greatest natural asset, a significant driver of the economy of Queensland and Australia, absolutely unique in its expanse and its environmental importance, very, very significant for our tourism industry and the more we can understand about our Reef the healthier we can enable our Reef to be.

JOURNALIST: You also announced some funding in a partnership. What will that be all about?

GARRETT: That is a specific announcement today - a partnership with AIMS, ABRS and other scientific organisations - to identify 500 marine species and name them on the Great Barrier Reef.

It is incredible that we do have good science happening here in North Queensland. We do have a pretty good understanding of what is there at the Great Barrier Reef, but we will find out more from the partnership that I have announced today.

JOURNALIST: I am just wondering where you are at with the Traveston Dam decision?

GARRETT: I know that there is a lot of interest in the decision that I will take about Traveston Dam but it will be sometime before formal advice is received by me. It is still with the Queensland Government.

I expect it to be with the Queensland Government for some further period and until such time as the Coordinator General brings through the final report we won't be in a position to say anymore about Traveston Dam. We will make a decision when we have all of the relevant, necessary material in front of us and that means waiting for the final report from the Queensland Coordinator General.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible] will it be earlier though, now that the assessment has been given priority?

GARRETT: Well what I would say is that the assessment has got to be done in a thorough and in a comprehensive way, but it certainly I think would be useful for the Coordinator General to bring forward now, once he has concluded his work thoroughly on that final report, so that it can come to the Federal Government for consideration and decision.

JOURNALIST: Have you read over the draft plan?

GARRETT: I haven't taken any specific advice in relation to the draft plan that the Coordinator General has brought forward. My department has had interactions with the Queensland Government. I am waiting until a final report from the Coordinator General is delivered and until a final set of advice is provided to me as environment minister, then I will make my decision.

JOURNALIST: Are there any specific questions that you have asked the Coordinator General to provide in the report?

GARRETT: Well again, the Government has communicated with the Coordinator General about the nature of that report. My expectation is that a final report should come through in a reasonable period of time and I will need to take a reasonable period of time as well, to make sure that we absolutely thoroughly and carefully and comprehensively consider all of the relevant issues before we make a decision about Traveston Dam.

JOURNALIST: What are you doing for the Solar Cities today?

GARRETT: Solar Cities today, Townsville Solar City is one of the great Solar Cities sites around Australia. At the end of the first year of the Solar City being in operation we are seeing significant uptake on Magnetic Island of solar technologies. We're seeing fantastic figures in terms of energy use and I am very much looking forward to meeting with the proponents and the participants in Townsville Solar City, congratulating them on a years work well done.

JOURNALIST: One final question on the ETS. Clive Palmer today has mentioned that he thinks that the ETS will actually force two mines to close down and possibly 2000 jobs to be lost. What is you response to that?

GARRETT: Look I have seen the commentary that is out there about the ETS. The fact is that the Treasury modelling that the Government has done shows that the impact upon our economy to have an ETS in a negligible impact in terms of what we need to do to address climate change. I would simply say this, business requires certainty, they need to have certainty about how a scheme will operate, and for the Opposition to be so totally divided on the question of a Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme is letting down the business community and letting down the Australian community as a whole.


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