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Thursday, 21 June 2012
Page: 7507

Great Barrier Reef

Ms LIVERMORE (Capricornia) (15:06): My question is to the Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. Will the minister update the House on the latest report released by UNESCO concerning the Great Barrier Reef? What methods of protection is the report proposing for the reef? How is the government responding to these recommendations and what other recommendations have been made in Australia in the past 24 hours?

Mr BURKE (WatsonMinister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities) (15:06): I want to thank the member for Capricornia for her long-term interest on behalf of her community in the Great Barrier Reef. The UNESCO report that has come out over the last 24 hours has not yet been adopted by the World Heritage Committee, but it does contain considerable recommendations of which members should all be aware. In the first instance it refers to and distinguishes between, on the one hand, port applications and developments which are coming down the pipeline and which are already existing working harbours and, on the other hand, ones in relatively pristine sites. It is an important distinction, and it does mean that places such as Abbot Point and Gladstone—where there are already working harbours—are being viewed differently by UNESCO from places such as Balaclava Island, where it is currently relatively pristine.

They have also acknowledged the connection between what happens on land and what happens in the Great Barrier Reef, which is an important point. I acknowledge the member for Capricornia as one of the architects, back when we were in opposition, of the reef rescue program. The reef rescue program, where the government works with cane growers and graziers to make sure that we reduce the impact of run-off to the reef, is acknowledged as a significant improvement in the protection of this great international asset.

I am also asked about other recommendations that have been made in Australia in the last 24 hours. Anyone who saw the first two pages of today's Courier Mail would have been astonished by the comments that were made in this House yesterday by the Leader of the Nationals. The Leader of the Nationals has decided that, when it comes to the Barrier Reef, there are a number of claims of damage to the reef that he can ridicule. The ones he chose to ridicule were that there is an impact from what happens on land with run-off, that there are impacts on what happens with shipping in the ocean and that there are impacts from the crown-of-thorns. They are the three areas that he decided to ridicule.

I remind the Leader of the Nationals to go to a very good interview with Fran Kelly which was conducted by none other than his own shadow minister for the environment and where it is apparently coalition policy that they have three pillars: 'One is the on-land work in terms of incentives to reduce sediment; two is the offshore work in terms of doing our best to protect the turtles and dugongs; and three is a real crown-of-thorns eradication program.' On all three issues, which are good policy and solid policy put through by the shadow minister for the environment, the Leader of the Nationals stands out on his own, wanting to be the last of the environmental vandals.

The Labor Party knows that we are on the right side of history on environmental protection. Whether it is on the Great Barrier Reef, on the Daintree rainforest, on the Franklin River, on Kakadu National Park or on what we have done with protection of the oceans of the last two weeks, the National Party will continue to be dragged kicking and screaming to important environmental reforms that are only delivered by Labor.

Mr Swan: I ask that further questions be put on the Notice Paper.