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Transcript of interview: CSIRO report on the impact of climate change on Australian fisheries; financial crisis; eating kangaroo.

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PW 207/08 6 October 2008




WONG: Thank you very much for coming today. I’m here today to launch this report into the implications of climate change for Australian fisheries and for Australian aquaculture. This is a report funded by the Australian Government and undertaken by the CSIRO and is a preliminary assessment of the challenges posed by climate change for our important fishing industries, for our aquaculture industries and, of course, also for the regional and coastal communities that these industries support. The report indicates a range of potential challenges posed to our fishing industries and to our aquaculture industries by climate change. We know that the various impacts of climate change such as sea temperature rise, changes to currents and so forth, may have an effect on our fishing industries and on our aquaculture industries. And there are a number of potential impacts which are outlined in the report.

Can I say at the outset, this report is yet another reminder of why it is that Australia needs to act to tackle climate change. This report is yet another reminder that climate change imposes costs on this nation; costs not only in terms of our way of life, but in terms of the economic costs to our industries and to our communities. So this report is yet another reminder of why we have to act on

climate change and why this Government will continue to press with its Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme: a scheme which is all about Australia responding to climate change. Happy to take your questions.

JOURNALIST: Which particular parts of the aquaculture industries will be most affected? What does this report show…[inaudible] ?

WONG: There are a number of sectors of these industries which are identified. Some of the northern fisheries: prawns, barramundi, mud-crabs for example. There’s some potential implications for them and potential implications for various aquaculture areas. Can I say, there are a number of sectors in the Australian fishing industry who are already responding to these issues who are very aware of the potential impacts of climate change and are already starting to plan for them. So this report is part of the Government’s approach to adaptation on climate change. Making sure we understand, far better, the impacts of climate change, to enable Australians, to help Australians to respond and to identify vulnerable areas, vulnerable assets and vulnerable industries. Let’s remember the three-pronged approach the Rudd Government is taking on climate change. The first is to reduce our carbon pollution and at the heart of that is our Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. Second, we have to adapt to the climate change we cannot avoid. And third, we have to be part of a global solution. So this report today is squarely part of the work we are doing in terms of that second priority - that is, adapting to the climate change we cannot avoid, understanding better the impacts, enabling and helping Australians to respond and this report is a contribution to that.

JOURNALIST: So would you look at the… say the industries that are most likely going to be affected, one I would have thought of… say Tasmanian salmon industries. Is that an area that you would think would need additional resources to help them cope?

WONG: This is a preliminary assessment of the range of potential impacts of climate change on a number of fishing industries and aquaculture industries. And we have funded this in order to make an important contribution to those industries understanding the challenges that they may face. Obviously the first priority for Australia is to reduce climate change, to reduce our carbon pollution and to be part of a global solution. But we also do need to prepare for the climate change that we are unable to avoid. And this report is a contribution to that and we hope to continue to work with industries to prepare for the climate change we can’t avoid.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible]… you think of other industries like agriculture and things like that and it seems obvious the impacts that climate change is going to have there. But this seems a little bit different… [inaudible] you kind of think ice melts, more water, more fish. Does it surprise you… is this an example of how far-reaching the problem is?

WONG: I think what this report tells us, and reminds us, and what so much of the science reminds us is that the impacts of climate change are far-reaching. But, as importantly, there are very substantial costs to Australia from climate change. Professor Garnaut has reminded us of this; he’s reminded us that there are real implications in terms of Australia’s way of life. This report as well as Professor Garnaut’s report reminds us of the direct economic costs which climate change can potentially impose on our industries, in particular, obviously in agriculture but in also fishing and aquaculture.

Anyone else on anything on the report?

JOURNALIST: In terms of the… at the moment we have an amazing range of seafood that we can all choose from. Like when you go to a restaurant like Doyles you can choose from… [inaudible] What does this report show about the range of fish that will be available for consumption in the future in Australia?

WONG: What the report shows us is that climate change has the potential to impact on Australian fishing industries and on our aquaculture industries. And what we are doing by assisting with this sort of science is to enable those industries to prepare for these challenges. There are changes which may result from climate change in terms of, for example, more tropical species coming further south. And the report identifies a range of these potential implications. But at this stage what is most important is that we improve our knowledge, we have to improve our understanding of what climate change will mean across so many facets of the nation.

JOURNALIST: Just on the other matter. Minister obviously climate change is a large concern but also looming at the moment is the financial crisis. As a cabinet Minister would you be prepared, or do you think that banks should be passing on the interest rate cut when it comes about, should that be a priority for the Government?

WONG: On that, when it comes to climate change or on the stability of Australia’s financial system, this Government will make decisions that are in the long-term interests of the nation. What is important at this time of global financial uncertainty is the long-term financial stability of the nation. And this Government has taken, on this issue, a long-term perspective. It would be very easy to take a short-term and populist position as Mr Turnbull has taken. But what Australian families will need, what the nation will continue to need is a very clear focus on the long-term

interests of the nation and that’s the approach we’re taking on this issue and when it comes to financial stability issues.

JOURNALIST: Does this report cover Asia as well or is it just the impact on Australia?

WONG: Well it’s on Australian fisheries and Australian aquaculture. It does look at the northern fisheries to some extent but obviously our focus has been to assist in providing greater knowledge to the Australian industry.

Anything further?

JOURNALIST: Well what do you say to Tasmanian salmon farmers, for example, who will be particularly hard hit?

WONG: What I’ll say is this: that it’s in our interests to do the science, to do the work, to understand better the potential impacts because then we are able to better prepare for the future. I know that industry and many other industries are already taking steps to prepare for a future with climate change and this report is a contribution to preparing these industries and these communities for the possibility or the potential impacts of climate change.

JOURNALIST: So will you be telling them to look elsewhere, to farm different…

WONG: No as I said this is a contribution to… I’ll start again. This report is a contribution to understanding better the potential impacts of climate change on Australia’s fishing industries and on aquaculture. It’s a contribution to preparing the nation for the challenges of climate change. That’s what it’s intended for and I note that many aspects of Australian industry - fishing, aquaculture and also other parts of agriculture - are already taking steps to prepare for climate change.

JOURNALIST: Senator, last week Ross Garnaut said we should all eat less beef and more kangaroo. I was just wondering if you have tried kangaroo or if you’ve intended on eating more kangaroo yourself and less beef?

WONG: Can I say if you read that chapter of Professor Garnaut’s report, I think perhaps some of the media has made it a little more colourful than it was actually meant to be. But, yes I have eaten kangaroo in the past but I don’t think that our response to climate change is driven by telling people what to eat. I think the first and most important thing that we have to do as a nation is to reduce our carbon emissions. We have to produce our Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme to get Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions down and then we have to do also what we’re doing here today which is to improve our understanding and our capacity to respond to the climate change that we are not able to avoid.

JOURNALIST: Can I ask anyway what you thought of the kangaroo meat?

WONG: I’m not sure we need to go into my personal culinary habits…

JOURNALIST: In the report it identifies what the problems are but how are you going to identify what the solutions will be? Is this unavoidable… [inaudible] The issues that this report raises, is it unavoidable or can you take steps to ensure that these predictions don’t come true?

WONG: There are two things we have to do fundamentally. The first is we have to reduce the climate change that results from carbon pollution, so Australia has to be part of a global solution.

That means we have to do our bit so we need to implement a Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. The second thing we have to do is to prepare for the climate change we cannot avoid. We have to adapt and we have to plan. This report is a contribution to that. Just as the research that has been undertaken in Tony Burke’s portfolio, in the area of agriculture, is also about preparing for the long-term. That is what the Government is focused on, preparing Australia for the long-term and addressing the long-term issue of climate change.

JOURNALIST: Have you met Penny Sackett yet, the new incoming Commonwealth Chief Scientist?

WONG: No, no I haven’t had the opportunity yet and I look forward to doing so. Okay, we all done? Thank you.