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

Investment of $1.79 million to add the Wongaloo Wetlands to the National Reserve System; coastal climate change impacts; new shadow front bench; Sea Shepherd

E&OE transcript
Doorstop Interview, Wongaloo Wetlands NRS announcement
8 December 2009

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GARRETT: What a great day for the Commonwealth to provide $1.8 million, nearly, for the final purchase of this fantastic jewel on the Queensland coast – the Cromorty Wetland property now known as Wongaloo, the Kakadu, if you like, of Far North Queensland and a really important, really important environment to be protected now for all time.

I am very pleased that we have been able to buy this additional investment. I want to congratulate the local community. I want to acknowledge the contribution from the Burdekin and Townsville councils. I want to acknowledge the contribution from the local community as well, and the Queensland State Government.

This has been a big partnership effort by everybody and it is my great pleasure today to be able to come and say we will commit the necessary monies to make sure that this fantastic property, a really important nesting habitat, for brolgas, for magpie geese, and a really important part of Australia's environment is now protected for all time.

Here we have some 1700 hectares of important country, ephemeral wetland, representation of habitat biodiversity … [inaudible] … And this kind of investment means that we are making our environment healthier, more resilient to the pressures of climate change and also providing the opportunity for the local community, and for the Townsville region itself, to have a world-class conservation reserve here, a place where ecotourism and research activities can start … [inaudible] …over time.

So I think it is a really good day for the people of Far North Queensland … [inaudible] … and it has been a great pleasure to come out here and make this announcement on behalf of the Government.

JOURNALIST: … [inaudible] … climate change and they are waiting for king tides in January … [inaudible] …

GARRETT: I have heard those reports this morning in the media. What I would say is that our consideration of the climate impacts that we will see, climate change, including that which will be felt by Torres Strait Islanders is quite comprehensive.

We have been through a process already of assessing the impact of climate change on our coastal environment. The government will respond to the work that has been done, and also to the Standing Committee on Coastal Zones, as well. And as we do that, we will continue to look at the best ways for communities to adapt to live with the impacts of climate change.

JOURNALIST: … [inaudible] … they feel quite ignored by the federal government and your ministry at the moment. Will you be considering to go up there and visit … [inaudible] …

GARRETT: I am aware of the big flood seasons that they have had which have provided significant challenges for the community in the Gulf country. And I know that they have put in again for exceptional circumstance funding. I hope that that process can be speedily run through because we realise the challenges that people have in that community.

And as with every area in the country where we are trying to look after the environment, and we are putting … [inaudible] … look at ways in which their objectives can fit in with our programs over time. So they will have every opportunity through the next funding round to put in bids as well. And I will look very closely at them.

JOURNALIST: Tony Abbott … [inaudible] … front bench … [inaudible] … Nick Minchin, Barnaby Joyce, … [inaudible] … key positions. What does that say about their environmental credentials?

GARRETT: Mr Abbott's appointments today to his front bench tell us absolutely clearly that this is a Liberal Party of the old guard, of the climate change deniers, of the do-nothing-on-climate-change … [inaudible] … And the appointments that Mr Abbott has made simply mean that the sceptics and the deniers have taken over the shadow front bench.

That is not healthy for this country especially when we see very clearly from the material that is coming through the media the kind of likely climate change impacts that we will all face and the costs of those impacts on our economy, on our society, and on our environment. It is a very poor day for Australia when the climate change deniers and the old guard come back onto the shadow front bench of the Liberal Party and the National Party.

JOURNALIST: Bronwyn Bishop has also made a return … [inaudible] …

GARRETT: Again Mr Abbott has chosen people who have already served in the Howard Government over time. I'll leave you to make the commentary about their performance. What I would say though, is that if ever there was an opportunity to refresh the shadow front bench to show their renewal in … [inaudible] … new visions and new approaches from the Opposition, this was Mr Abbott's opportunity and the fact of the matter is that he fell at the first hurdle.

He has gone into the classic old guard, old world view of politics which sees climate change as a conspiracy, that wants to deny the kind of impacts that we are seeing on our climate. And I don't think he has provided the opportunity for those people who sit on the opposite side of us in the Parliament, who may have a contribution to make, to have one at all. So it is a poor day for politics in Australia when you get a shadow bench made up of the dinosaurs, the old guard, and the deniers.

JOURNALIST: … [inaudible] … Japanese whaling fleet have got a few new tools at … [inaudible] … Do you have any warning to the protestors about how they should conduct themselves?

GARRETT: The Southern Ocean is one of the most inhospitable environments on Earth and, even at this time of the year, can be highly dangerous to any craft that are in the Southern Ocean, near the Antarctic. It is critical that any vessels in that area, including the Sea Shepherd and others, absolutely observe the appropriate safety at sea requirements that are par for the course in these dangerous waters and that they diligently do all the appropriate … [inaudible] … any vessels that are in the Southern Ocean at this time of the year.

[ENDS]

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