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

Announcement of $1 million investment through Caring for our Country for a healthier Darwin Harbour; Meeting of the Environment Protection and Heritage Council in Darwin; Container Deposit Legislation

Doorstop Interview
E&OE Transcript
East Point Reserve, Darwin
5 July 2010

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GARRETT: It is a tremendous pleasure to be here at the start of NAIDOC Week in Darwin with my colleague, Damian Hale; with Northern Territory Minister, Karl Hampton, to announce this important contribution of the Federal Government to water monitoring programs here in the Darwin Harbour, particularly in association with the Larrakia people as a part of our Caring for our Country initiative.

And also, to highlight a really constructive two and half years of work through my portfolio, across natural resource management, national parks, the work that we have been doing with the national arts and culture strategy, maintenance of Indigenous languages and Indigenous broadcasting commitments as well.

All significant commitments by the Gillard Government, recognising the importance of providing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with the opportunities to develop skills, to build capacity, to work in partnership, and to care for country.

And additionally, this morning, we had the meeting of the environment ministers – (Environment) Protection and Heritage Council meeting here in Darwin. This was a good and constructive meeting which reached agreement on a number of important issues.

Amongst those, recognising the strategic direction that we want to take the EPHC over the coming five years, with specific emphasis on air and water quality, heritage issues, waste and chemicals.

Agreement that we will see a set of national guidelines for wind-farm development. Agreement that there will be a consultation RIS (regulatory impact statement) around the beverage containers issues, in relation to the potential for a container deposit scheme. Work will be done to explore all of the relevant options as a RIS is worked up, and, of course, that includes container deposits.

And, additionally, very strong agreement from all of the states on the need for us to work better together, as we are doing, streamlining regulation, making sure that we set the bar high on environmental standards but we do it in a way which provides certainty for both state governments, local governments and the community, and all those who are seeking to take on actions in the Australian environment.

So it has been a very good, successful meeting. I have been really pleased, Karl, that we could come to the NT – not for as long as some of us would like to stay. I have got to make that point because it is nice and warm up here. But a very good meeting this morning and I think today's announcement – I am especially pleased that we are making an announcement today for Caring for our Country here in Darwin at the beginning of NAIDOC Week.

JOURNALIST: Minister Garrett, what do you think are the biggest problems that you have heard about for water quality in Darwin Harbour?

GARRETT: I think the key issue, in the longer term, on water quality in Darwin Harbour will be to make sure that all of the activities that are underway around the harbour – whether it is industry, whether it is recreation, whether it is housing, whether it is planning, whether it is infrastructure development – that all of those actions are taking place in a way that meets the kind of standards that are necessary to improve the water quality of Darwin Harbour.

What is great about today's announcement is that we will have the Larrakia Rangers and others informing the delivery of report cards on the water quality of Darwin Harbour. Those report cards will not only include important statistical information, but also information around cultural values as well, giving us a really good idea around the kinds of things that we need to keep an eye on, and that state governments and others need to keep an eye on to continue the work to improve water quality.

JOURNALIST: What will the harbour be monitored for – is it health, bacteria for instance, or more heavy metals?

GARRETT: It'll be for a range of monitoring activities that are contemplated in this work particularly to ensure that across the range of issues that you want to consider, that you have got a decent data field with which to make planning decisions. So it won't be an exclusive list. It will include those things that you would expect but, importantly, it will provide the opportunity for people on the ground or, in this case, on the water, to collect those data samples which you need to have in order to inform decision making in the future.

So when I was out with the blokes in the boat, I saw the sort of gear that they were using which shows you the kinds of monitorings that you can get for things like salinity and matters of that kind. But there are a range of others that are taken into account as well.

JOURNALIST: Minister, on the container deposits, you mentioned that an agreement had been made. How much is this a step forward in terms of a national recycling scheme?

GARRETT: I think today environment ministers in Darwin took a big step forward in considering whether or not we will have national container deposit scheme legislation in the future. But there is still a regulatory impact scheme that needs to be undertaken. And that will consider other options as well, and that is appropriate.

But what I think today's meeting reflects is a willingness of all states to recognise that this is an area which needs leadership. It is an area where there have been different views in the past, from different states – I am delighted that states have come together today. And we will look very closely at the way in which that regulatory impact statement both is developed and then delivered to us.

And once we have received that information, we can make additional decisions as we see appropriate.

JOURNALIST: And what is the time line to that?

GARRETT: I am not going to put a time line on the development of a RIS. That would be a very brave person to stand here and do that. I would expect that by the time we meet next, as environment ministers, we will have a very clear sense of the content of the RIS. It probably won't be concluded within the next six months but, I would hope, within the year.

JOURNALIST: And what is the reason against it, what is the argument against it?

GARRETT: Different states have different views about the cost benefits of container deposit legislation. I know here in the Northern Territory you have taken some very strong steps in that area. Other states have a range of other issues that they think need to be considered properly. But the important thing about today's announcement is that we will work through these issues in a collaborative fashion. We will do it with a proper regulatory impact statement and that will well inform ministers whether there are going to be additional legislative steps that we want to take at a Commonwealth level.

JOURNALIST: What do you think the monitoring programs you are announcing today will do to stop outbreaks of E. coli and blue-green algae in the future?

GARRETT: I know Minister Hampton is here and he may want to take some questions on the specifics of some the programs –

JOURNALIST: Just your programs.

GARRETT: Well, overall, better understanding of the health of the waters of Darwin Harbour means that you have got better opportunities for preventative strategies to be delivered and developed in the future.


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