Topics: Yellow Crazy Ants, Great Barrier Reef Water Quality, Carmichael Mine
Minister we're now at the seven week mark since the Carmichael Mine approval was set aside. You indicated that re-approval might take six to eight weeks, so are you still working towards that timeline?
We're working within that timeframe. Whether it is a week or two longer either way, that is to be determined by the information from the proponents.
And we're simply following the legal processes. I'll never pre-empt the outcome. My job is always to assess the information – to assess all of the legally admissible information – and to make decisions against the law.
Are there any other administrative issues or technicalities that you've identified during the re-approval process?
Look I respectfully never comment on the specifics of a decision, because under the law I have to assess a decision on its facts, on its merits, and against the law. And so I don't form a prior judgement.
Sure. Just on this one though, any concern any further delays could jeopardise the project?
My job is actually to focus on the federal environment law, and to ensure that the law is administered.
The project is for the proponents and for the Queensland Government, who are primary advocates of it.
For me I have to administer the federal environment law, and that has to be my focus.
Just on ants Minister, if you would.
Yes. Will you be committing the $5 million that the Wet Tropics Management Authority is asking for?
So we have already committed almost $2 million.
We've then committed another nearly $2 million through 10 Green Army projects, so our contribution is at almost $4 million.
We're willing to look at more, but it has to be a partnership. Unfortunately the Queensland Government has completely dropped the ball on crazy ants.
So I would say to the Queensland Premier, where are you on crazy ants? We've contributed almost $4 million.
We are happy to work with you, something such as a next round of funding, which would be 40 per cent Commonwealth, 40 per cent state, and 20 per cent local authorities.
So it's an offer to work with the Queensland Government, but so far we've put in nearly $4 million, and they've turned up with virtually nothing.
So for another round, a third round of funding – given the Green Army and the 1.9 million through to the Wet Tropics management board – then we would like them to finally join us on an equal footing.
WTMA is asking for $5 million though for a targeted eradication program within that particular area, and your Senate colleagues have also passed a motion calling on both state and federal governments to contribute.
And also we saw a report today that the ants are encroaching on the main water supply in Cairns. Any move to fast track a response to that?
Well indeed, I've been out today looking at crazy ant eradication programs. There are major crazy ant eradication programs occurring.
And they're the Federal Government's Green Army and the funding for WTMA. I certainly supported my colleagues putting to the Senate that there should be, finally, a state contribution.
So I'm happy to work with the State. Unfortunately, the state has been on strike and has not been taking action with crazy ants. We are. We're willing to do more.
But it is time for the Premier and for her Ministers to step up and recognise they can't be asleep at the wheel – they've got to be a co-partner in the next stage of crazy ant eradication.
And sorry, one last thing for Townsville – because they were interested in the Burdekin announcement today – so I know you mentioned it. But I was just wondering, could we just get a few more details about how it actually works?
Sure. So this is an auction process where we'll be buying the lowest cost run-off reduction – so the combination of sediment and nitrogen and pesticide.
So it's incentives – carrots, not sticks – for farmers. Today, I've announced that the cane farmers will be a fundamental part of the Tropical Water Quality Hub.
And similarly, the farmers of the Burdekin are invited to participate in the $2.5 million auction tender. And that's for reducing run-off.
It's a combination of nitrogen sediment and pesticides. In the end, it's about improving the water quality in the Great Barrier Reef by working with farmers, not against them.
And you contend that that program is working in the Cairns area?
Sure, of course. I was indeed talking with Mike Berwick from the Terrain Ecosystems only a couple of hours ago about that.
And we're always taking the learnings. And we're always trying to take things further and to learn from each step.
But my job is to make sure that we are doing new things that have never occurred before and building on the old ones. And we see that the early results are good.
And just one last question – so carrots not sticks for the cane industry, but the cane industry did seem to perform worst in the retail report card in terms of best management practice sort of compliance – yeah, best management practice.
So would you ever consider introducing sticks at some point if there isn't an improvement based on these kinds of carrot measures?
Well, I'm actually confident having met with a group of cane farmers only a couple of hours ago that they are focused and keen to participate.
They've been a bit disappointed in the way they've been treated by the State, but their response to Warren Entsch and myself was that we want to be part of us, some of us haven't been part.
But on the basis of what we've talked about today – genuine incentives and respect – then that to me is the carrot that will work.
Thank you very much.