Topics: Newspoll, Turnbull Government’s agenda, Great Barrier Reef, coral bleaching
Mr Hunt thanks very much for your time, and there's a lot to talk about in relation to the Great Barrier Reef…
Good morning Kieran.
…and this coral bleaching emergency that we're seeing at the moment.
But first of all let me get your reaction to the top story of the day, and this relates to Malcolm Turnbull's approval – slipping to the negative for the first time since he became Prime Minister – is that a worry for you and the Cabinet that Mr Turnbull's approval rating on the slide?
Look we're actually very calm and very focused, we've recently put out a Defence White Paper, we've put out an innovation statement, we've just completed very important Senate democratic reforms which will give people more value for their votes, and going forwards obviously there's work on tax which is coming.
In our own area of environment we have significant steps that are going to be coming out. And overall we're building a road map for Australia, as opposed to the alternative of higher electricity prices, the deficit being blown, and Bill Shorten running a protection racket for building industry thugs.
So there's a very clear choice, our task is to do the work, and lay out the choice, and I think that Australians will see that.
And yes we've been fortunate to have in our last two polls, major polls, I think 53 and 51. We treat it as if every election we're coming from behind because the public never wants complacency, so we have to be focused on their lives, their jobs, their futures.
And you mentioned the need to get some tax detail out there, but despite that, still Turnbull 20 points ahead on tax, even without the policy out there. That must be encouraging.
People obviously understand that Malcolm Turnbull gets the economy, he understands the DNA of how to create firms, how to create jobs, how investment is generated.
What we've seen is an anti-free trade agenda in many respects from the ALP, a massive electricity tax coming – a massive electricity tax. What does that mean for farmers, for families, for pensioners, for small businesses?
And then there's just history of blowing the budget which means that the children and the grandchildren pick up the cost of living high today.
And people know you've got to get the budget in order, but also provide incentives for jobs, for the benefits that flow, and for the human dignity of work.
And that's what Malcolm Turnbull is all about – he gets the economy.
Mr Hunt, onto this issue – a real worry that the level of coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef –more severe than previously thought by experts.
And I know that the threat level now has been lifted to level three, which is its highest level.
Can you give us a sense of just how much damage is being done by this coral bleaching on the reef?
Sure, look it is a very important issue, I inspected the reef, we did a surveillance flight with the head of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority yesterday from Cairns along the ribbon reefs, north to Lizard Island and around that area.
Three quarters of the reef is in what the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority describes as minor to moderate bleaching – in other words for the most part it is consistent with what you might expect in an El Nino period.
The top quarter, which is north of Lizard Island, has just been raised to what's called severe. Even from the air though what you see is the magnificent long ribbon reefs, which are still the extraordinary reefs that the world sees in the great documentaries and the pictures.
And then as you go further north there are areas of white or grey, and that's obviously the bleaching.
So it's part of a Pacific-wide El Nino event. We have been fortunate because the southern areas, the southern three quarters, have recently had rain and cloud which has mitigated some of the threat.
But right now we've stepped up our monitoring, we have announced a new partnership with the University of Queensland, that Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, one of the great marine and coral researchers in the world, and it's part of a broader $2 billion plan that we're putting in place.
Now from this heat stress which causes the bleaching, can it be turned around?
Can the damage done be turned around, or is there regrowth possible? Can you explain to us the science of that?
Yes there is and indeed this was something I discussed with Dr Russell Reichelt yesterday, the head of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.
One of the things he said was heartening – is that as we flew low over the ribbon reef, circled certain areas, a lot of damage which had been caused by Cyclone Yasi and other cyclones had recovered just in a matter of a few years.
His point to me was that at this point the damage is nowhere near as severe as 1998 or 2002, but this is a continuing event, and so we have to be cautious about that.
The interesting, and perhaps the most interesting thing was where he could point to areas they knew were deeply damaged by the cyclones of Yasi and others, and to say that there had been regrowth at a faster rate than expected in just a few years.
Well that is some good news amid this concern about the reef. Thanks for the update this morning Minister, appreciate it.