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

Announcement of an extra $750,000 to assist transitional arrangements for rainforest research; importance of Far North Queensland; exploration permits in the South West; Tony Abbott

E&OE Transcript
Doorstop Interview
Cairns, Queensland
18 May 2010

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GARRETT: Today we announced extra funding for people who are doing great scientific research here in North Queensland, and to make sure that the transition to new National Environment Research Program is done in a really positive way.

And coming on top of yesterday’s announcement of an extra $12 million for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, today’s announcement is further evidence of this Government’s very strong commitment to Far North Queensland, to research, in this area - both into the rainforest, and to the Reef – the great natural treasures of Far North Queensland, the great natural treasures of Australia.

We know that this region faces significant challenges in terms of managing the Reef’s environment. The Reef is a great driver of the local and regional economy, it’s one of the most extraordinary and important natural treasures that Australia has. We’ve increased our support for Reef protection, working closely with farming and fishing communities, working closely with the scientists, working closing with school kids, the local government, and the state government, and we’re going to continue that effort.

And what I would say is this: this Government has been fair dinkum about protecting the Great Barrier Reef. We know how important it is to people of Queensland and Australia and we know how important it is that we have a good scientific effort in place in Far North Queensland to enable that to happen.

Importantly, with my colleague Jim Turnour, I wanted to make sure that a research hub which looks at the Reef, and which looks at rainforest issues is located in this region. That is the commitment that I made again today, and by providing some additional funds as well – some thee quarters of a million dollars – for this transition phase, this means that the research effort in Far North Queensland is going to continue.

JOURNALIST: Can we get that in writing?

GARRETT: That is absolutely the case - happy to take any questions.

QUESTION: There is a big roll of ALP big guns coming up in the next few weeks, obviously there is a pretty strong focus on this region, can you tell us a little bit more about that?

GARRETT: This Government realises how important Far North Queensland is to Australia. We know that the seats here are important, we know that we’ve got local Members here who are doing a great job, and who want us to come up, understand the area, talk to the local community, and we are also making announcements which are specifically about this part of Australia.

Look at the importance of the Great Barrier Reef to our tourism industry, to regional economies, to our fishing industry, to visitors, to those who live here, to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and others. Look at an area of great challenge and demand Queensland’s becoming – it is a state which is on the go. There are strong population pressures moving in the state, there is a lot of development underway, and we have an opportunity to do things really well here in Queensland. And the Australian Government wants to support that effort.

JOURNALIST: Martin Ferguson yesterday announced a series of exploration permits, including some that coincide with potential marine reserves, is that of concern to you as Environment Minister?

GARRETT: No look we’ve been aware for some time that there’s the potential for reserves to be identified. Any reserves that are identified will be assessed in the same way in terms of marine planning process as would always be the case. I don’t expect this is going to provide any additional issues for us. Ultimately any area for exploration or potential development is subject to the normal regulations, and as we go through the marine planning process we’ll take that into account.

JOURNALIST: Will you have final say as Environment Minister?

GARRETT: Well we are going through a planning process now for marine regional planning. I mean this Government is committed to putting in place the most highly developed and best set of marine protected areas that we can in Commonwealth waters in Australia, at the same time as making sure that we balance the competing needs of industry, of fishers, of recreational users, and the conservation needs that these areas have.

So we’ll go through a process of assessment, we’ll listen closely to what stakeholders have to say, and we’ll bring these plans through in a way which is fully considered.

JOURNALIST: The way that things have played out in the US with the recent oil spill there, isn’t there a concern that somehow that could happen here? Is putting offshore drilling platforms near areas of environmental concern?

GARRETT: Well any activity that takes place in Commonwealth waters which has the potential to effect the environment must be properly assessed. And the regulations that we will have in place will make sure that the environment is protected to world’s best standards. That’s the standard we set ourselves in Australia, that’s the standard I’m committed to under the Act, and that’s the standard that’ll apply.

JOURNALIST: What do you think of Tony Abbott’s claim that you can’t believe everything that he says?

GARRETT: Well Mr Abbott has revealed himself as the emperor without a script. Here’s a bloke that doesn’t really say what he means unless someone has written it down for him, and I think it raises serious questions about how seriously you can take somebody who says that don’t believe what I say, only believe it if somebody’s written it down for me to say.

Thanks very much.


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