Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download PDFDownload PDF   View Parlview VideoWatch ParlView Video

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Environment and Communications Legislation Committee
21/05/2018
Estimates
ENVIRONMENT AND ENERGY PORTFOLIO
Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority

[11:25]

CHAIR: Welcome, Dr Reichelt, and officers from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. Dr Reichelt, I understand that you wish to make an opening statement. The committee would like to acknowledge your 10 years of service as both CEO and chair of the authority. Thank you for your service, and I acknowledge that this may well be your last appearance before the committee in this capacity. Thank you for your patience and persistence with us. If you would like to make an opening statement, fire away.

Dr Reichelt : Thank you for the opportunity to update you on the state of the Great Barrier Reef and the management activities of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. First, I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners, of the Great Barrier Reef and their continuing connections to their land and sea country, and pay respect to the traditional owners of the land where we are today, the Ngunnawal people.

Focusing first, the recent funding announcement by the Australian government is the largest ever single investment in the Great Barrier Reef and comes at a time when the reef needs it the most. It is very welcome news, and is targeted at project areas that can help build the reef's resilience, in areas like water quality improvement, crown-of-thorns starfish control, restoration and adaptation programs for the reefs, and coral reef monitoring and reporting.

As part of this announcement, the authority also received $42.7 million over five years, beginning in 2019-20, for the expansion of our joint field management program, with an ongoing increase after that of $10.2 million every year. This additional funding will enable more authority staff to be out on the water in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage area, talking to commercial operators, traditional owners and the public, ensuring compliance with reef protection rules, working on island and reef restoration, and responding to incidents such as cyclones and ship groundings, which will support the ability of these reefs and islands to recover after disturbance.

The marine park authority already has established a strong and collaborative partnership with the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, who are soon to receive a major grant of $443 million through the reef trust. We will continue working with the foundation to ensure that every opportunity is taken to boost reef protection.

On the state of the reef, we have had no new results from surveys of reef health since the last meeting of the committee. We have reported to you previously on the significant loss of coral after bleaching events of 2016-17. We are very keen to see the more recent surveys that are being processed now. We expect those results in the coming six months. These surveys by the Australian Institute of Marine Science will give a clearer picture of where areas of recovery may be beginning. Fortunately, the sea surface temperatures of the 2018 summer have been milder than the two previous very hot summers. Sea temperatures have been close to the long-run averages, and the reef has avoided another major heat stress event this past summer.

The cyclone season has also concluded on 30 April, with only one low-category tropical cyclone in the Great Barrier Reef region. During the summer monsoon season, though, there were some major flood plumes, and I understand that the Australian Institute of Marine Science will be surveying reefs in Junenext monththat may have been flood affected.

In the long run the steady rise in global ocean temperatures continues to be the single biggest risk to the health of the Great Barrier Reef. We acknowledge the national and international efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to meet the goals of the Paris agreement, and I am sure this committee is extremely aware of the importance of meeting these targets if the health of tropical coral reefs is to be secured.

While this national and global effort is underway, the recent boost to our capability to increase protection measures on the reef creates very significant opportunities to reduce these local pressures and build reef health. To assist the committee in relation to barrier reef matters, we have officials present today from the authority who will be able to provide information on our expenditure and programs, and officials from the department who will be able to provide information on the Australian government's reef investment, the reef 2050 plan, and the implementation of the governance review of the authority. I understand that comes under program 1.1.

CHAIR: Thank you very much, Dr Reichelt. We will proceed to questions.

Senator URQUHART: I want to go to the funding that the Great Barrier Reef Foundation has received. When did you first learn about the funding to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation?

Dr Reichelt : A few weeks before the announcement by the Prime Minister.

Senator URQUHART: That was a short time. Is it common that you would hear in a short time?

Dr Reichelt : There has never been an instance of the scale of an announcement like this, so it is hard to say what is common.

Senator URQUHART: That is right. Is it normal that it is a short time frame within which you would hear that information?

Mr Pratt : Senator, it is not at all usual for a very important head of an agency to be consulted during the budget process. Ultimately, the policy responsibility for this sits with the department.

Senator MOORE: Dr Reichelt, did you receive information about that as the head of GBRMPA or as a board member of the foundation?

Dr Reichelt : As the head of GBRMPA.

Senator MOORE: So in that case it was consulting with GBRMPA on the issuenothing to do with the foundation?

Dr Reichelt : That's correct.

Senator KENEALLY: Can I also follow up on that? Just so we're clear, you heard about the government's intention to allocate funding to the foundation in your capacity as CEO of the authority

Dr Reichelt : Yes.

Senator KENEALLY: before the announcement was made?

Dr Reichelt : In the run-up to the announcement to plan the logistics for the meeting I was consulted; yes.

Senator KENEALLY: To plan the logistics for the meeting?

Dr Reichelt : That was when I learnedI've taken the question literallyabout the funding to be put from the reef trust to the reef foundation. That step happened a few weeks before the public announcement.

Mr Pratt : If I can jump in again to add to Dr Reichelt's answer, we have been, over many months, liaising with GBRMPA and others as necessary around policy proposals on reef protection matters. Dr Reichelt is making it clear when he found out the actual amount that was being considered and the destination of that.

Senator KENEALLY: Once the decision was made is what Dr Reichelt is referring to, then?

Mr Pratt : The point I am making is that, as is typical through the budget process, there is a great deal of consultation and engagement with relevant stakeholders. GBRMPA is an obvious example, given their expertise and their role. Dr Reichelt didn't get the final figure until quite late in the budget process.

Senator KENEALLY: Dr Reichelt, did you know before the final figure that government was considering awarding funding to the foundation?

Dr Reichelt : No, I did not. But in isolation, I don't want to give the impression that I had no role in setting the priorities for all the expenditure on the Great Barrier Reef. The process for setting these priorities is ongoing. I had a direct role in the specific elements that have been announced, particularly the field management one, with several ministers' forums over about 18 months.

Senator KENEALLY: Sure; I understand the distinction you are making there. I am trying to understand the process by which the government decided to allocate funding to the foundation. Perhaps what we, as senators, are trying to understand is the role the authority played in helping the government, or in not helping the government, in choosing to allocate this funding to the foundation.

Dr Reichelt : I can confirm my earlier answer that that was a decision by the government. The actual mechanisms to be used to disburse that funding were taken by government and they weren't part of a consultation step or an approach by the GBR Marine Park Authority earlier. That step was taken by the government as a prerogative to determine how to disburse the public funds.

Senator KENEALLY: Back to Senator Urquhart's question then, so we're clear. The first that you became aware that there would be an allocation of funding from government to the foundation was after the decision was taken by government?

Dr Reichelt : Yes, that's true.

Senator KENEALLY: That was in your capacity as CEO of the authority?

Dr Reichelt : Yes, as chair of the authority.

Senator URQUHART: Dr Reichelt, you were on the board of the GBR foundation, I understand. Are you the only authority representative on that board?

Dr Reichelt : Yes, I am the only person from the authority on the board.

Senator URQUHART: How was that decision made in terms of having someone from the authority on the foundation board?

Dr Reichelt : I joined the board about six years before I took on this job 11 years ago.

Senator URQUHART: So you have been on the board for a long period?

Dr Reichelt : Yes. Before that I was chair of the Scientific Advisory Committee as the head of the Australian Institute of Marine Science.

Senator KENEALLY: So, just to make sure I am clear on this, you were on the board before you took this role?

Dr Reichelt : Yes.

Senator KENEALLY: Was there ever a consideration that you holding this role and being on the board was a conflict of interest?

Dr Reichelt : It was a matter for a very clear declaration to the appointing minister, and to every minister since. I've confirmed that I have this role and I am also on the board of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority. It is an acknowledged potential conflict. The only time I've ever needed to exercise that was very recently, when I took myself out of the process of discussing the acceptance or otherwise of an approach to the foundation about this funding. I withdrew from the board.

Senator KENEALLY: Can you be clear about that? You withdrew from the board of the foundation when they were discussing approaching the government about this funding?

Dr Reichelt : It wasn't a matter of approaching; it was a matter of considering the approach from the government.

Senator KENEALLY: So the government did approach the foundation?

Dr Reichelt : Yes.

Senator KENEALLY: And you understand that from your role on the board of the foundation?

Dr Reichelt : I became aware that they were convening a meeting to discuss an approach from government and I said: 'I need to withdraw from that because of my day job as the head of the Marine Park Authority and part of the government of the Commonwealth of Australia'. I saw that as too close, a potential conflict of interest, and I withdrew.

Senator KENEALLY: So you had some knowledge then, before the announcement was made, that the government was considering giving money to the foundation?

Dr Reichelt : Yes; a couple of weeks prior.

Senator MOORE: What was first? Your engagement to government in your role in GBRMPA advising this was going to happen, or the discussion at the board about being approached by the government?

Dr Reichelt : The discussions I had with the government were of a generic nature about the investments of funds and reconfirming our earlier priority setting. The sequence was that my becoming aware that the government was approaching the foundation and the foundation convening a meeting happened within a day or two of each other.

Senator MOORE: Which came first?

Senator KENEALLY: After you became aware that the government was approaching the foundation—later, is it correct—you then became aware that the government had made a decision to allocate funding?

Dr Reichelt : To take it to the step of wishing for the foundation to then decide whether they would accept those funds or agree to their part of the process; that's when I decided I didn't want to be part of that discussion.

Senator KENEALLY: So we are clear: what happens first? As a board member of the foundation you become aware that the government has approached the foundation and you excuse yourself from board discussions because of the potential conflict of interest. Then some time later in your role as the head of the authority you find out that the government has made a decision to commit an amount of funding to the foundation?

Dr Reichelt : It was the other way around; within a couple of days.

Senator KENEALLY: So you found out first that the government had made a decision?

Dr Reichelt : Yes, and I advised the government that I would withdraw from the foundation processes.

Senator KENEALLY: That would suggest that the government decided to commit funding to the foundation before they approached the foundation?

Dr Reichelt : I'm not aware of that; that's at cabinet level.

Senator KENEALLY: But if we take what you said logically, you become aware, as the CEO of the authority, that the government had decided to grant this funding to the foundation. Then subsequently you, as a member of the board of the foundation, become aware that the foundation is going to meet to discuss an approach from the government and you withdraw yourself from that meeting. Is that the chronological flow of events?

Senator Birmingham: Senator Keneally

Senator KENEALLY: I am sure, Senator Birmingham, that Dr Reichelt can answer this one.

Senator Birmingham: I think he can answer just by saying, 'I think that's correct'.

Senator KENEALLY: I want to be clear that they are the chronological events.

Senator Birmingham: I just wanted to remind you, Senator Keneally, that Dr Reichelt has explained that, as is the normal course of events in the budget policy-making process, he was engaged in discussions about policy priorities for the government. Unsurprisingly, in this case he was engaged in discussions about areas of important investment in Great Barrier Reef management, policies and programs over the future. The government, through the department, the normal budget processes, considered that, made the determination that a record investment in the reef was warranted, and then worked through the processes as to how that could best be delivered. That process has led to using the foundation, with its experience

Senator KENEALLY: Which is what we are trying to understand, Minister.

Senator Birmingham: over a long period. Dr Reichelt has confirmed that, as a government official, he became aware that the government had decided to make that record investment in the reef, and to use the foundation as a vehicle for doing so. Then separately, as a foundation board member, subsequent to the government having made those decisions, he rightly withdrew himself from consideration by the foundation of their handling of it.

Senator KENEALLY: Thank you. Exactly what I am trying to understand is the chronological order of events. We have had no information about how this decision was made yet today. That would suggest that the government decided to grant this money to the foundation prior to approaching the board of the foundation.

Dr Reichelt : Prior to the members of the board being asked to attend the meeting, at least. I am not sure what happened prior to that.

Senator KENEALLY: None of us are sure because we don't have any information from the government on this.

Dr Reichelt : But that's as it was. From where I am, I can't help you with the processes.

Senator Birmingham: The government made a budget decision to make a record investment into the reef, informed by advice from a range of sources, including the authority, as we usually would, in relation to the budget bids that ministers make about their portfolio priorities. The government then considered the foundation to be an appropriate vehicle to deliver that investment in the reef and rightly commenced negotiations with the foundation about how that might occur. As you have heard before, those negotiations are ongoing. I am surprised that the Labor Party and the Greens are so critical

Senator KENEALLY: Oh, that's a great try, Minister!

Senator Birmingham: of a record investment in the Great Barrier Reef. I am surprised you are looking for a negative conspiracy

Senator KENEALLY: What I am surprised about, Minister, is your cavalier attitude to the granting of $444 million of taxpayer money without a public grant process, an open and transparent process, a competitive process, a consideration of whether the authority could have carried out this work rather than a foundation that has six full-time members and five part-time members and that has described this grant as like 'winning the lotto'. Surely you would agree that the commitment to have half a billion dollars of taxpayer money should not be like winning the lotto for the grant recipients. They should have prior knowledge. They should be invited to compete for that funding, and it should be done in a transparent way. What we have learned today is that the government decided to give this foundation the money before they'd approached the board to discuss it. I haven't heard anything that contradicts that here today.

Senator Birmingham: And we haven't sought to contradict that. What we have sought to make clear is that the government decided to make a record investment in the Great Barrier Reef. If for the Great Barrier Reef that is like 'winning the lotto', well the Great Barrier Reef deserves that scale of investment and work

Senator KENEALLY: The Great Barrier Reef Foundationyou sought to make an investment in a foundation.

Senator Birmingham: A foundation is a vehicle through which the government believes we can ensure that that money is leveraged to get additional investment in the reef, and through which we believe a range of different works, some of which will relate to the authority, some of which will relate to other partners, can be delivered. This is very good news for the reef, and the communities that rely upon the reef. I am surprised, Senator, that you are so cynical about it.

Senator KENEALLY: So in this process did you consider what other groups, what other vehicles, could have delivered this important work?

Mr Pratt : Yes, we did.

Senator KENEALLY: What other groups did you consider?

Mr Pratt : We will discuss that under 1.1. We looked at other options.

Senator KENEALLY: Such as?

Mr Pratt : We will have the experts here at 1.1. We looked at a range of options.

Senator KENEALLY: Did you approach any of those groups?

Mr Knudson : We talked earlier about the Australian Institute of Marine Science, and we talked about the authority. The authority is a park manager; AIMS is a science entity. This is about on-the-ground project delivery, in which the Great Barrier Reef Foundation has extensive experience.

Senator KENEALLY: I have to say, with the greatest of respect, and as someone who has overseen a number of these processes at state government level, that I cannot imagine a government, without a competitive or open process or some type of public service comparator, just blithely awarding nearly half a billion dollars to an organisation that has six full-time employees.

Senator Birmingham: The government has not 'blithely' awarded. The government is in negotiations and discussions with the foundation about precisely how the funding will be used. There will be clear conditions around that, as has been made obvious in the immediate agreement.

Senator KENEALLY: Yes, you are still defining the KPIs, you are still defining the governance and you are still defining how many employees they are going to need to carry it out.

Senator Birmingham: Senator Keneally, it is not at all uncommon for government to decide that it has a policy priority to deliver care, investment, support, for an area like the Great Barrier Reef, to allocate a budget envelope to be able to deliver those programs and then to enter into negotiations about precisely how they will be delivered. In fact, in general terms you can't have those negotiations about how they will precisely be delivered without a budget envelope for them to be delivered within.

Mr Pratt : Senator, can I say that in relation to budget processesof course, we're not free to go into the details of what is considered in the budget processand this has been the case under successive governments, there was extensive policy analysis of all of this. I have been in this department for eight months, and for every one of those months we have been looking at issues to do with water quality, crown-of-thorns, science, investment et cetera. It is a long-standing policy process. But I am not free to talk to you about what the budget process entails in detail. It is as simple as that. That has been the case with every government.

Senator Birmingham: The foundation is a highly credible delivery partner and, as you have just heard, Dr Reichelt has long and extensive engagement with the foundation

Senator WHISH-WILSON: Which question are you responding to, Mr Pratt?

CHAIR: It is a point of clarification.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: Around the budget processes, you provided advice to the government about the structure and the funding. You have mentioned that several times today. In terms of your provision of that advice, are you claiming that it's part of a budget process we can't get details on, or is this a strategic long-term investment in the health of the Great Barrier Reef? Are you able to provide that advice to us?

Mr Pratt : Any advice that we provide to the government of the day in relation to their consideration of policy generally is confidential to the government of the day, especially around budget processes. But, as we have said a number of times, we have been working for a long time on measures to protect the reef in the areas of

Senator WHISH-WILSON: I appreciate that. I am just wondering how we might get transparency around how you advise the government on the use of this vehicle? Will that ever be possible?

Mr Pratt : That is confidential between the Public Service and the government of the day. That is the way our system works.

CHAIR: Senator Urquhart.

Senator URQUHART: Thank you, Chair. Dr Reichelt, as to the position that you have on the board of the foundation, you have been there for about 11 years, I think you said?

Dr Reichelt : Yes, since 2006.

Senator URQUHART: So about 11 years. Are you representing the authority on that board?

Dr Reichelt : No. It's a not-for-profit entity, so I'm there as an individual.

Senator URQUHART: So the authority doesn't have a representative on that board, apart from the fact that you are the head of the authority?

Dr Reichelt : That's correct. As with any not-for-profit entity, where you have a conflict, you step out. This is the first time it has happened.

Senator URQUHART: You stepped out when you considered there might be conflict. So is there a position on the board for a representative of the authority?

Dr Reichelt : No. There's no people there other than by invitation of the board.

Senator URQUHART: So it could be that somewhere down the track there is no representative of the authority on that board?

Dr Reichelt : I am trying to think who else. My predecessor wasn't on it. It's up to the board, essentially, to do that and what they decide is the priority.

Senator URQUHART: So the board makes those decisions about who is actually on the board?

Dr Reichelt : Yes, as in a normal not-for-profit company.

Senator URQUHART: Are the positions permanent? What's the process for that?

Dr Reichelt : They have the same expiry. I think it is every three years that they

Senator URQUHART: Sorry, three years?

Dr Reichelt : It's two or three. Certain directors retire, they have annual general meetings and then they choose to reappoint or appoint new directors.

Senator URQUHART: So every two to three years those positions could actually be changed?

Dr Reichelt : Yes. At every annual general meeting, from recollection, some positions come up.

Senator URQUHART: That is purely by virtue of the board, at their AGM, making a decision about who then gets an invitation? Is that how it's done?

Dr Reichelt : Yes, it is.

Senator URQUHART: It is an invitation to attend. Is it the majority of board members that support the proposal to put a different board member on? How is that process then undertaken?

Dr Reichelt : The structure of an Australian not-for-profit is that there are members that aren't shareholders, because it is limited by guarantee instead of shares, and those members have an opportunity to vote.

Senator URQUHART: Does it have to be a majority or is it a consensus? How is that decided?

Dr Reichelt : I'm trying to remember. I don't recall a vote. I think it is usually by consensus, because there has been open discussion about the prospective members.

Senator URQUHART: I just have some questions on land clearing. Do you have something on this?

Senator CHISHOLM: Given that it now seems likely that that foundation is going to receive $450 million, how do you see your role going forward, given you are CEO of GBRMPA and you are also on the board? Do you think, given that you vacated the decision around accepting the government money, that it is going to present an ongoing issue?

Dr Reichelt : My role there, essentially, is a voluntary one. I would like to maintain my relationship with it in the long run as a charity, a volunteer, an unpaid person, once I retire from full-time work. I think it's a very good thing to be involved in, having helped set it up originally in 2000. It's something I feel passionate about, philanthropic support for the Great Barrier Reef. I would expect to be involved until it's not appropriate.

Senator CHISHOLM: But given that you have already made a decision to abstain from the meeting where they were discussing the government funding, whilst in your current role at GBRMPA, is there an issue whilst you are still in that current role?

Dr Reichelt : I think I need to watch the board's agenda and be careful not to be involved in matters that directly involve the Marine Park Authority. If it is more general and about Commonwealth priorities, I think that wouldn't represent the same conflict as direct involvement in an acceptance decision. I think it would have to be assessing and disclosing those conflicts in a transparent way.

Senator CHISHOLM: Given that the money is for the reef, it seems hard; there's no separation. It seems like a piece of paper, thin, that you're talking about.

Dr Reichelt : Conflict is about who benefits as well. There is an article in the World Heritage Convention that says that state parties will support philanthropic bodies for World Heritage properties. There's been a longstanding involvement of government in the foundation. The first major block grant eight years ago came from the federal government. So it's not an unusual proposition. The thing is if the Marine Park Authority is somehow directly involved in partnering closely where we are committing resources into a project, I think I would excuse myself from that discussion. If it's to do with assisting or guiding in a policy sensebecause the board tends to make policy, not operational decisionson matters where the authority isn't that directly involved, like catchments, for instance, and some of the monitoring work, I think it's not paper thin; the conflict diminishes.

Senator KENEALLY: With the greatest of respect, we've heard this morning that the department will actually be monitoring the KPIs for this grant funding. This grant funding is something like 25 times its annual funding. As Senator Chisholm points out, there is almost nothing more this foundation is going to be doing than delivering this funding and the program around it. I am asking you: doesn't it seem you will have a conflict of interest, given that the department will be monitoring this funding and the KPIs, given that this is the bulk of what it will do? It would seem you will be absenting yourself from meetings more often than you will be there.

Dr Reichelt : The conflict that I declared earlier was the company, the not-for-profit entity, accepting a very large amount of money from the Commonwealth, of which I am a part. They are becoming rarer, but Commonwealth members of boards in statutory bodies, for instance, are still there.

Senator KENEALLY: But you are not there as a Commonwealth member. You have just told us that.

Dr Reichelt : No.

Senator KENEALLY: You are there in a voluntary capacity.

Dr Reichelt : And neither are those nominees of entities, Commonwealth entitiessorry, statutory bodieswhere you take the job and it is part of your Commonwealth work to support an entity, and you declare that interest, and if you find that you can't act in the independent interests of the entity, you leave the room. That's how it would be. I don't think the Commonwealth's demands for feedback on how its grants are going are that unusual. At this stage I would like to make it on a decision-by-decision basis and just see. If it got to the point where I was no longer in the room for anything, well, I'd step off the board.

Senator CHISHOLM: Minister, was the fact that Dr Reichelt was on the board of the foundation a factor that the government considered when granting the money to the foundation?

Senator Birmingham: No. Senator, the government considered the competencies of the foundation in terms of their longstanding work in raising funds for the Great Barrier Reef and in delivering programs of benefit and supporting initiatives of benefit out of those funds. Any single board member' s skills would not have been a determinative factor in terms of that decision.

Senator CHISHOLM: Does it concern you that potentially there would be no-one from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority on the foundation board? Is that a concern to you, given the responsibility they've got for administering this money?

Senator Birmingham: We can take that on notice and provide you with some details around what the requirements of the board, the membership of the foundation, might need to be. I don't know those off the top of my head. But, as is commonplace for boards of that nature, they are established for a particular purpose, such as supporting the reef. I would expect that there are requirements or objectives laid out about the type of skill sets that need to be on the board.

Dr Reichelt obviously brings a number of skill sets. I believe the head of the Institute of Marine Science is on the board as well. So there are a number of skill sets that are clearly valuable and represented on the board, and I am sure that those skill sets will continue to be available. Separately, of course, the government is putting in place the type of normal administrative arrangements about how the funds will be expended. Those arrangements will obviously have the usual high level of government and funding requirements.

CHAIR: We might move now to the Greens, and if there are further questions we will come back. Senator Bartlett.

Senator BARTLETT: I am conscious of not just the money for the foundation but the component to the authority as well and, I guess, Dr Reichelt, your role in both of those and a half-a-billion-dollar package. I was on a committee with Senator Ian Macdonald a few weeks ago. I don't know if any other colleagues here have had the pleasure of being on committees with Senator Macdonald, but it is always a great thing. I would encourage you to be part of that. He's been part of the Senate since 1990, so we know how much credibility his statements have. He said in this committee hearing in Yeppoon a few weeks back that some of this half-a-billion package will go to counter the lies that are being told in Europe and North America about the state of the reef. Has it already been decided that this money is going to be spent in Europe and North America to counter lies?

Dr Reichelt : Thanks, Senator. The funding allocation is a matter for the department in 1.1. Not having been present and not really aware of that, it is essentially

Senator BARTLETT: So do you

Dr Reichelt : I don't want to comment on Senator Macdonald's comments here. I think I've made the authority's view, depending on what the context was, on the topic

Senator BARTLETT: He was talking about this funding package. He was saying that this funding package is going to be spent partly on countering the lies. I'm not sure what lies he is talking about.

Dr Reichelt : I can't answer that.

Senator Birmingham: Senator Bartlett, whilst I am not aware of Senator Macdonald's comments, we did earlier today address questions, I think from Senator Chisholm, about the funding going to the foundation and the purposes for which it could or would be applied. I think the department was quite clear there that, outside of engagement with traditional owners or local communities in a normal engagement process, it was not being allocated funding for communications purposes.

Senator BARTLETT: These comments were made in a committee hearing; so they are in the Hansard. I appreciate you might not have read every Hansard of every committee hearing since, although I would have thought you would follow Senator Macdonald's comments because we all do like to tap into his knowledge.

Senator Birmingham: I love following Senator Macdonald's comments but they are quite voluminous in nature at times. They are

Senator BARTLETT: The cold point, though, is: has part of this money been allocated about how it is going to be spent? Is it going to be spent in this way? Senator Macdonald seemed to know a few weeks ago that that was going to be happening. He didn't make it clear whether it was through the authority or through the foundation. Given Dr Reichelt's comments about both his role and the foundation, I guess I thought I'd give him a chance to say whether he would be aware that this has already been decided. Senator Macdonald seems to know.

Senator Birmingham: I draw your attention to the answer Mr Knudson gave, I think to Senator Chisholm, earlier today in which it was quite clear that the funding allocated for the foundation does not involve a communications campaign, the nature of which you're questioning. Dr Reichelt can speak for the authority's programs but I would be surprised if the authority had those communications campaigns planned or budgeted for either.

Dr Reichelt : That's correct. Our allocation for field management programs is essentially to put people in the field to keep the park users honest and to educate them. It's an extension, a terrific extension, of the work we do now with traditional owners along the coast to make the park work. That's all I can say. I can't comment on Senator Macdonald's comments without

Senator BARTLETT: That's all right. Given that I did hear the earlier comments, I guess I thought it was clear that communications weren't going to be in that way and thought maybe the authority is doing that. Perhaps this is a single occasion where Senator Macdonald is actually wrong.

Senator Birmingham: I think there are opportunities within the Senate for you and Senator Macdonald to debate that out, rather than us doing it here.

CHAIR: Why don't you keep going and then we can come back and give Labor a further half an hour.

Senator BARTLETT: I will try and be brief. On a totally different matter, just to follow through on the questions I asked back in February about Clump Point, I think it was Dr Banks that I asked about that. You had closed the public comment period. It will assist the marina development. I think the signs are pretty clear that it is going to have major impacts on the ecological values and World Heritage values in marine parks. Have you declined that permit already or are you still going through the process?

Dr Banks : That application for the boating infrastructure at Clump Point is still under assessment and we expect a decision within the coming months.

Senator BARTLETT: I know it's always how long is a piece of string but does 'coming months' mean two months, 10 months, 36 months, one month?

Dr Banks : We're expecting within the next two months a decision will be made. As you are aware, there was public consultation earlier this year and we have been working with the applicant for them to respond to those public comments. Now we are going through a process for assessing the information available, which will then be followed by a decision.

Senator BARTLETT: You have had feedback from the native titleholders for the area already, is that correct?

Dr Banks : I understand the Queensland government is working through some native title matters that certainly, from our perspective, we will be seeking further advice from them on. I should say the Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads are the applicant for that particular permit.

Senator BARTLETT: So all the feedback from the native titleholders goes through them, not to you?

Dr Banks : They are matters that have been under discussion, as I understand it, with the Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads in relation to views on that proposal. As the applicant, they're responding to those matters that have been raised, and then we will be dealing with the applicant in terms of any further information we require to complete our assessment.

Senator BARTLETT: I will try and quickly run through a couple of other things. Dr Reichelt, you said you were on the Marine Safety Authority as well. I think you would be aware perhaps over time of requests for communications towers, mobile phone and other communications on Hinchinbrook Island. Are you able to enable communications out to

Dr Reichelt : Sorry, I apologise; I am here to represent the Marine Park Authority in this hearing.

Senator BARTLETT: Hinchinbrook Island

Dr Reichelt : Maritime Safety does have a session with the transport committee. I am interested in the topic that you have raised, but I would refer you to that.

Senator BARTLETT: I will reframe the question. Hinchinbrook Island is in the marine park area, isn't it?

Dr Reichelt : It's in the World Heritage area. It's not in the marine park.

Senator BARTLETT: I'll save that one for another time then. I might go to what Senator Urquhart was asking about, the issue with regard to on-land clearing in the catchment into the marine park. How much say do you have with regard to permits and approvals for on-land activities?

Dr Reichelt : The authority only has a role in permits in the marine park. We give our views on the importance of water/land run-off and the issues surrounding potential developments and projects on the land, and we regularly provide those to the relevant officials in the department who have carriage of those. They are very publicly available through our outlook reports and other things. So we have made our position clear that reducing run-off of sediment, nutrient, pesticides for the marine park should be a high priority, and I'll note that nearly 50 per cent of the funds are being allocated now to improve land management. The question you're asking is really one for the department on the details of that project or program.

Senator BARTLETT: I will get to specific projects. I suppose the broader question is: do you feel that the authority's views with regard to the impacts on the marine park of on-land activities are being adequately taken into account?

Dr Reichelt : Yes, we are always routinely consulted on any matters of significance that are in the catchments that may affect the quality of water running into the marine park. We feel we have opportunities to put our views strongly in writing, which we do whenever they come up. So they don't happen without us knowing about them and being able to comment.

Senator BARTLETT: Flowing on from what I have heard a couple of times already this morningI guess because we get so many conflicting commentaries—I just wanted to get a categorical comment from yourselves representing the Marine Park Authority: is the greatest threat to the marine park, not just the reef but the marine park, rising ocean temperatures? Is that correct?

Dr Reichelt : That's correct. That's No 1. No 2 is water quality.

Senator BARTLETT: Which goes to my previous question.

Dr Reichelt : Yes.

Senator BARTLETT: Thank you.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: Can I just say, firstly, Dr Reichelt, good luck in your new endeavours. How did you go with Prince Charles on the reef during the Commonwealth Games?

Dr Reichelt : It's an important part of our program for looking after the Barrier Reef. I can say, without being flippant, that he showed extremely strong interest in the health of the Barrier Reef. He showed a lot of knowledge and had been well briefed. I had the opportunity to give him quite a bit of detail about some of the projects we're doing and also our support for the Prince's Trust, which is supporting turtle nesting in areas adjacent to the marine park. His philanthropic body was involved in the discussions as well. It was a good opportunity to demonstrate the comprehensive quality management we have in the marine park and to highlight the larger risks that we are facing.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: Did he get the full monty tour then, to stick to the British theme? Did he see bleached corals in areas where you had different impacts of different threats?

Dr Reichelt : He did see corals in different stages of stress around Lady Elliot Island. That was very well explained by the guides and ourselves at the time. He saw the turtle nesting that was going on there as well.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: And marine plastic impacts?

Dr Reichelt : That did come up in the roundtable that we had. It's acknowledged, really, as a global problem now, and it's much worse in some parts of the tropical world than others. So yes, that did come up.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: You talked about new surveys being due within six months or so around the health of the reef. What time period would they relate to directly? My understanding is there's a lagged effect.

Dr Reichelt : I think they would pick up changes in the previous 12 months. When we saw their reports during the 2016-17 bleaching, they were of the previous year's impact. So I think they will be picking up more recent impacts. Could I check with my colleague?

Senator WHISH-WILSON: If you could.

Dr Reichelt : I'll invite Dr David Wachenfeld, Chief Scientist, who is familiar with the surveys, to respond.

Dr Wachenfeld : There are two major coral monitoring programs on the reef: the Marine Monitoring Program, which focuses on in-shore reefs and the Long-term Monitoring Program, which focuses mostly on mid-shore and offshore. Sorry for that technical detail, but the timing of them is different. The in-shore surveys are done in the winter months, because that's when the water is clear enough for the scientists to actually see things. The water is often too turbid at other times.

Dr Reichelt made reference to the flooding in the last wet season. We haven't had scientists in the water to look at the impacts of that yet because it has been too turbid. You just can't see. Those surveys will start next month. So later this year we'll get those results. But what we're expecting within the next few weeks, a small number of weeks, is the latest update from the Long-term Monitoring Program. Now that is important because it will cover the time period of the 2017 coral bleaching and Tropical Cyclone Debbie. When those results come out in the next few weeks, that will be our first snapshot of the cumulative impacts of events up to the end of 2017 and also whatever recovery processes will have been happening in that time.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: Are we comparing apples with apples in relation to previous studies, around the 2016 bleaching, for example? Is the methodology the same? Have you surveyed the same reef depths, for example? Are we talking about shallow reefs or are we going down to 30 metres? Will it be a like for like?

Dr Wachenfeld : Yes, it will be like for like. The Long-term Monitoring Program has been going since 1985 and the Marine Monitoring Program has been going since I think 2003. The whole reason why they are conducted by the Australian Institute of Marine Science the way that they are is to deliver a consistent method that delivers consistent answers that can be compared across those very long time frames.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: I have heard criticism recently that some of the figures that we have been talking about in estimates, or have been reported in the media, relate only to surveys of shallows corals; they haven't looked at deeper corals on the reef.

Dr Wachenfeld : Corals can certainly grow to 50, 60, 70 metres on the Great Barrier Reef. The limits of scuba diving are such that, safely, we only send scientists regularly to 10 metres, and maybe a little deeper than that. So we have very good information about the shallow corals. And typically, when we say that we might mean to 10 or 12 metres. It is a simple logistical constraint of not being able to send divers deeper than that. The deeper corals we have much less information on, and what we have comes from autonomous vehicles, not humans.

As the technology advances I think we will get a better picture of what's going on in the deeper water, because we will have better machines and better computers to analyse those images. But that's a matter for the future. At the moment our knowledge of what's happening with coral on the reef is mostly constrained to the shallows because of workplace health and safety.

Dr Reichelt : Can I just add that there is a lesser density of coral at greater depths because of light.

Dr Wachenfeld : There are several important reasons why studying the shallow corals is actually very important. The shallow parts of coral reefs are the most productive. They are the most diverse. They are the most biologically rich. They are also the most socially and economically important. Tourists don't dive on coral at 50 metres. Tourists go in glass-bottom boats and they snorkel and so on. So the vast majority of the very great economic value of the reef is based on the shallow corals. Even the most economically financially valuable fishery that we have, which is the fishery for live coral trout, is depth constrained, because you can't catch trout from deep reefs and expect them to live for sale in Asia. For humans, our social and economic values are very much about the shallow reefs. The fact that our studies are constrained to those parts of the reefs, I don't see as being a particular problem.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: I am glad you got that on record. Dr Wachenfeld, to be clear, in a few weeks time, will you get that information, or will it become public in the next six months?

Dr Wachenfeld : The results are being analysed by the Australian Institute of Marine Science now, and they will be made public within the next few weeks.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: Do they go through any process with that analysis? They don't show it to other agencies or get it independently verified by other people; is that done in house?

Dr Wachenfeld : I'm not sure what their external review processes are.

Dr Reichelt : I had prior involvement with that program. It has quite a lot of quality assurance built into it, with internal checking by different staff in different areasmaking sure that the methodology is standardised and that data are available, by negotiation with the agency. It's a pretty well-established technique.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: I think it is important to get that on record. In relation to the foundation, Dr Reichelt, you have been on the board for a while. With the companies that we talked about earlier this morningI don't know whether you were here when we discussed the make-up of the board, including CEOs of some big corporations. We talked a bit about the chairman's panel. Do you know what they actually do at the moment? What's been your interaction with the chairman's panel, for example?

Dr Reichelt : I did hear your earlier comments. The foundation actually began with a consultancy by the CRC for the reef, with my predecessor, Virginia Chadwick, and Sir Sydney Schubert, who was the head of Premier's years ago and chair of CRC reef. Our purpose was to raise philanthropic funds for the reef. The conclusion was that it can't go to semi-government or government bodiespeople don't give money to governments, essentially.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: No, fair enough.

Dr Reichelt : That's how the foundation actually began. The people who are involved in the chairman's panel now are a very broad range of people. Some of them are the big industrialsthe head of Google. I am trying to picture the group. It's quite diverse. They are very passionate, often contributing personally to the foundation. They are unanimous, in that the foundation declares that the reef is its primary customer. I find that they are very objective. They are generally not that directive. What they are looking to do is understand the thing they are supporting. The meetings they have are a lot about them understanding the value of the Barrier Reef.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: In the meetings you haven't witnessed them talking about their priorities for where those philanthropic funds would be directed, for examplewhat kind of projects they want to see?

Dr Reichelt : They don't operate at that level. They would be getting briefed by experts from senior agencies as guests to the meetings. They would be briefed on the impact of rising greenhouse gas emissions. They would be briefed on impact of water quality. They would be asking pragmatic questions like: 'Can we do anything to accelerate recovery of the reef? What are the other pressures on the reef?' Things like marine plastics get discussed, and the health risks to turtles and wildlife. Those are the discussion topics that they have.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: When you were aware of what was going to happen with the foundation, and you were on the boardI heard a bit of the banter earlierdid you have personal discussions with other board members or with employees at the foundation about the potential of receiving funds? Did you have any private discussions?

Dr Reichelt : No, not in any detail. It was a very quick processonce I became aware, the discussions were about the need for me to step off that discussion, essentially.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: I've got some questions on the hammerhead shark which we can come back to later.

CHAIR: I was going to allocate the remaining time to Senator Urquhart. Are they questions you can put on notice, Senator?

Senator WHISH-WILSON: I have already put some on notice. I would be no longer than four or five minutes. We will see how we go.

Senator URQUHART: I have some around land clearing. Before I get to that, can I clarify, Dr Reichelt: are you paid as a board member on the foundation?

Dr Reichelt : No, I am not.

Senator URQUHART: Are any other board members paid, that you're aware of?

Dr Reichelt : Not to my knowledge. In fact they are usually donors.

Senator URQUHART: We know there has been some recent controversy around clearing in the reef catchments, and the commitments that we've got to UNESCO say that we will address land clearing. I note that the government's latest update to the UNESCO reef 2050 update on progress says:

… the Queensland Government remains committed to strengthening the State's land clearing laws … In addition, the national Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 … also regulates actions that are likely to result in a significant impact on the Great Barrier Reef and offers important protections in relation to large scale land clearing.

Last week Kingvale was in the papers. It was suggested that the clearing of almost 2,000 hectares in a reef catchment will be approved. We understand that a government report recommended it. Were you asked specifically to comment on the Kingvale clearing proposal during the recent public consultation?

Dr Reichelt : We have provided comments on that, to the best of my knowledge.

Senator URQUHART: At the public consultation?

Dr Banks : We provided comments to the department at the referral stage. We outlined at that time the matters that the authority considered important for the department to consider in the assessment of the project. In the most recent consultation, no, we were not asked, but we had laid out our major issues earlier on.

Senator URQUHART: What would you say the impact on the reef could be of the Kingvale clearing proposal?

Dr Banks : In our advice to the department at the time, we outlined nutrients from catchment run-off, sediments from catchment run-off, and modification of terrestrial habitats. They were some of the key points that we identified for the department to consider in the assessment.

Senator URQUHART: That was provided to the department?

Dr Banks : That's correct, during the referral stage.

Senator URQUHART: What about Olive Vale? Have you been asked to comment on the Olive Vale clearing proposal?

Dr Banks : I am not aware. I would have to take that on notice.

Senator URQUHART: Dr Reichelt, do you know?

Dr Reichelt : I am not aware.

Mr Knudson : Senator, if it is helpful, later this evening we are dealing with section 1.5, which is environmental regulation, and we can go through the specifics of the proposed decision that's out on Kingvale and how we arrived at that proposed decision.

Senator URQUHART: I am talking about Olive Vale.

Mr Knudson : Yes, I understand that. I just wanted to say that on Kingvale we can walk through that in quite

Senator URQUHART: What about Olive Vale?

Mr Knudson : On Olive Vale, we can walk through that again when we deal with 1.5 later this evening. That absolutely has been one of the properties that we have been working with the land owner on.

Senator URQUHART: What about Wombinoo?

Dr Banks : That would be a matter for the department under 1.5 as well.

Senator URQUHART: Have you been asked as the department

Dr Banks : I am not aware. I would have to take that on notice, Senator.

Senator URQUHART: You haven't been or you don't know?

Dr Banks : I don't know. I'd have to take that on notice.

Senator URQUHART: Dr Reichelt, do you know?

Dr Reichelt : No, I am sorry; I don't know.

Senator CHISHOLM: In relation to the next World Heritage meeting, is that in June?

Dr Reichelt : That would be the province of the World Heritage group in the department. The answer is probably yes, but it really belongs to the department.

Mr Knudson : It's in Bahrain in June. We can talk about that under 1.1.

Senator CHISHOLM: You sometimes attend, don't you, Dr Reichelt?

Dr Reichelt : Yes; not all the time. It depends what's on the agenda.

Senator CHISHOLM: Obviously not this time.

Dr Reichelt : Not this time.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: Following on from my last questions at estimates about hammerhead sharks, I understand that there are restrictions on protected species within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Under the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Regulations 1983 and the marine park zoning plan 2003, species listed as threatened under the EPBC Act are designated as protected species regardless of their listing category. There are restrictions in these regulations and zoning plans in relation to species; is that correct?

Mr Elliot : That is correct. They are listed as protected under the marine park legislation, regardless of the category under which they're listed under the EPBC Act.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: In the situation of the scalloped hammerhead shark, and if you know the correct pronunciation you can give it

Senator Birmingham: Go on, have a go.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: Sphyrna lewini would be as close as I can get to it. I understand that it's a protected species but there's an attempt at the moment to remove it from protection under the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority by aligning it with Queensland state government fishery regulations; is that correct?

Mr Elliot : As you are aware, the scalloped hammerhead shark has now been listed as conservation dependent. I will come back to that in a moment, but it is important that it is listed as conservation dependent under the EPBC Act. This listing, which was made by the minister with responsibility for the environment, was based on advice from the Australian government Threatened Species Scientific Committee, which is made up of eminent conservation scientists. As part of their recommendation the committee recommended that conservation dependent listing be applied across all jurisdictions in Australia, including the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. They wanted it to effectively be a conservation dependent listing.

As we've just talked about, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park regulations do not distinguish between the types of listing, and they're all classified as protected species. So the scalloped hammerhead shark does become, as a result, a protected species in the marine park. The legislation amendment that we have put forward was to make the treatment of the scalloped hammerhead shark in the marine park consistent with the conservation dependent listing; that is, to allow the continued take of the scalloped hammerhead shark. It remains a protected species under the marine park legislation. Those amendments simply allow the take of that shark, consistent with the conservation dependent listing, as per the advice of the committee.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: The authority, GBRMPA, autonomously put that up, that amendment to, I suppose, have consistency across

Mr Elliot : As I said, it was actually a recommendation by the Threatened Species Scientific Committee that it be consistently applied in the marine park, and it was on the basis of that recommendation that we went through the process of amending our legislation to give effect to it in the marine park.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: I wanted to check whether you had done that yourself. But that was the advice that you followed. It didn't come from the Queensland government or other interests?

Mr Elliot : No, it was based on the advice and the recommendation of the Threatened Species Scientific Committee.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: Did you have something you wanted to add there, Dr Reichelt?

Dr Reichelt : I was talking to Mr Elliot about the improved conservation outcome by having that standard approach in terms of knowledge of the state of the species. But you didn't ask that question, so I'm sorry if I was whispering too loudly.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: I understand there is only one fisheries operator at the moment, and it's a bycatch; it's not directly targeted. Is that correct?

Mr Elliot : They are often not targeted. Very few commercial fishers actually target hammerhead sharks. They may well be targeting sharks more generally, and because they can legally take the hammerhead shark, they can then land the sharks and sell them. In the event that they weren't allowed to keep the hammerhead shark, it would mean that the animals would simply be discarded. Due to the nature of hammerhead shark, they are very vulnerable to death if they are discarded after bycatch. The mortality of the hammerhead shark doesn't really change if it's a no-take or a take species, because of its interactions by catch.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: As a matter of interest, do you catch these species of shark on drum lines in the Great Barrier Reef?

Mr Elliot : I believe they have occasionally been caught on drum lines under the program that protects beaches in the marine park, yes, but we are talking about very low numbers, as far as I am aware. All of that detail is available on the Queensland DAF website.

CHAIR: Senator Keneally has one last question.

Senator KENEALLY: I do. Dr Reichelt, earlier I asked a question and it was suggested that I should put it to you because you are on the board of the foundation. A note on the Barrier Reef Foundation website says:

It started with a small group of businessmen chatting at the airport while waiting for their flight, wanting to do something to help the Great Barrier Reef.

Do you know who those businessmen were?

Dr Reichelt : I did make a statement earlier in the session about how it began.

Senator KENEALLY: You mentioned Virginia Chadwick. The last time I checked she's not a 'businessman'. The website specifically says 'businessmen'.

Dr Reichelt : I was saying that I don't agree with whatever's on their website as to when it began. I think it began much earlier, or some years earlier.

Senator KENEALLY: Maybe you should take that up at your next board meeting.

Dr Reichelt : I will. I did make it clear that it actually came from a cooperative research centre, the tourism industry and my predecessor deciding that there should be philanthropic support as per the World Heritage convention, article 17. I commissioned a consultancy, as CEO of that CRC, and it said, 'You should set up a not-for-profit because no-one will give money directly to government for these things; you need this separate entity.' It was consistent with article 17 of the World Heritage convention that state parties should actually support not-for-profits for World Heritage sites.

Senator KENEALLY: I am not arguing that point. I am curious as to why the website says that it started with a small group of businessmen. I've heard that it's four. Nobody seems to know their names. It says:

... rather than just talking about it, they took action and followed through on that idea. Thanks to that little idea, the Great Barrier Reef Foundation was created

You're telling us, as a member of the board, that that's not correct?

Dr Reichelt : It was a bit earlier. I'm sure they had meetings of various sorts afterwards, but this was in 2000.

Senator KENEALLY: Is this a foundational myth?

Dr Reichelt : I don't know. I'll check on the website and talk to the management.

Senator Birmingham: I don't know that Dr Reichelt is saying that that nice story of people sitting down and thinking it's a good idea is entirely a myth. It probably aligned with

Senator KENEALLY: I'm just wanting to know who these businessmen are.

Senator Birmingham: I'm sure perhaps other work

Senator KENEALLY: I'd like to know who these generous, big-hearted, environmentally-minded businessmen are.

Senator Birmingham: Okay; I'm sure that we can, on notice, ask the foundation for further evidence of their long, deep and rich history, as Dr Reichelt has alluded to

Senator KENEALLY: And their origins.

Senator Birmingham: Are we concluding?

CHAIR: Not quite. We have one more question. Senator Whish-Wilson, a quick question?

Senator WHISH-WILSON: I want to ask, in order to be consistent with questions I've asked at previous estimates, about the process around a potential World Heritage in Danger listing for the Great Barrier Reef. The World Heritage Committee was here a few years ago, and this issue has been talked about. With the package that the government is putting up, $440-something million, is it targeted towards meeting any kind of commitments necessary from the World Heritage Committee in relation to the Great Barrier Reef?

Dr Reichelt : That's an appropriate question for my colleague who has just arrived at the table, Mr Stephen Oxley.

Mr Oxley : I have overall responsibility for the department's engagement in the World Heritage Committee. In very broad terms, the very significant package that was confirmed in the budget goes specifically to delivering on the Reef 2050 Plan. All the investments across water quality and crown-of-thorns starfish control, the investment in the joint field management program, the significant investment in reef science for reef recovery and adaptation, and the significant investment that will go into Indigenous and wider community engagement are key priorities within the Reef 2050 Plan. That Reef 2050 Plan, of course, is one that was endorsed by the World Heritage Committee in 2015. The short answer is: absolutely, Senator.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: When they come back next timeI know there are other processes that we've talked about, and I've received information on noticewill they be assessing the actual progress on the reef, on the water, so to speak, or will they just be looking at government commitments as KPIs or as variables as to whether that potential listing occurs?

Mr Oxley : We are working on an expectation that, very much in the next cycle, it will be a review of performance. We will look at what has happened on the ground, on the land side and in the water on the marine side. That analysis will be informed substantially by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority's independent Outlook Report, which is due next year, among other sources of evidence.

Senator Birmingham: Chair, if that concludes the examination of the authority, as you alluded to at the outset, it appears likely to be Dr Reichelt's final estimates hearings. On behalf of the government I would like to pay tribute to his long and distinguished service, not just as a leader of a government agency over many years but indeed over many decades of engagement with the reef. I am reliably told that he started diving on the reef perhaps as early as the sixtiesalthough as an infant diving on the reef at the time, clearly. He has been undertaking leading research into the reef since the eighties and has acquitted himself under governments of all persuasions for many years now by being a valued and trusted adviser. We have no doubt that his contribution towards the health and management of the reef will continue in other ways in the future. We wish him well and extend great and deep thanks.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: Hear, hear.

CHAIR: Thank you, Minister. As alluded to before, the committee very much echoes those sentiments. Thank you, Dr Reichelt.

Dr Reichelt : Thank you for the privilege.

CHAIR: Thank you very much, and I thank officers from the authority. The committee will suspend until 1.40 pm.

Proceedings suspended from 12:37 to 13 : 41