Topics: Great Barrier Reef, marriage equality
Mr Hunt, this decision has been characterised as a relief for the Government. Is that a fair assessment?
Look I think it’s a tremendous and important result, not just for Australia, but for the entire UN Convention system. The Chair of the Conference, the German Minister Maria Bohmer, said that Australia has emerged as a role model for the world in the way in which we responded to the challenges that a facing the Reef. So it was a unanimous and overwhelming decision. Each of the 21 countries spoke in support of Australia.
Each spoke in terms of praise for what Australia has done, but none more powerfully than the Chair and so this is a very significant moment where all of the real work in terms of ending dredge disposal, putting a permanent ban on dredge disposal in the Marine Park, the Reef 2050 Plan and the additional $200 million to water quality have been recognised by the world community as a profound step for the Great Barrier Reef.
Before we get to those measures to protect the Reef, the Reef 2050 Plan that you referred to, environmental campaigners had wanted the Reef to be declared ‘in danger’. Does this decision prove them wrong?
Look the world’s umpire has made a judgement. The technical experts who don’t hesitate to make tough judgements and calls – and they haven’t hesitated throughout this conference – have come together and in what some observers have said as the most significant achievement of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee in many years.
One of the senior Ambassadors had said he’d not seen the 21 members each speak in support of a decision and lay so much praise at the feet of a particular country. And what is means is that the world’s umpire has looked closely and said that not only is the Reef not ‘in danger’ but that Australia’s become a role model in environmental leadership for the world and other countries should be looking at how we’re managing the Great Barrier Reef.
Now we understand that Australia is committed to safeguarding the Reef until 2050 with extra spending. Exactly how much extra spending will be made and on what measures?
So there is an existing $2 billion package over the next decade and we’ve added another $200 million between the Australian and Queensland Governments. That’s focused in particular on water quality. What that means is reducing sediment, reducing nitrogen, reducing pesticides that have over the last 100 years run down the creeks and rivers and into the Reef. That is turning around rapidly and we are putting a real focus on working with farmers, working with communities on reducing that run-off and that in turn is the single most important thing for protecting the health of the Reef.
Minister, I know that you’ve been immersed in these talks in Germany, but you can’t have escaped the development here at home with the same-sex marriage legislation. What’s your expectation on what’s going to happen within your party on that?
Look, I frankly haven’t had any discussions because I’ve been focussed literally 18 to 20 hours a day on the Reef campaign whilst we’ve been over here. I will leave it to the Party Room because I haven’t seen any of the detail. I know there’s a discussion, a proposal, but I’ll leave that as a matter for the Party Room. I apologise, I don’t want to stumble into an area where I just haven’t been briefed whilst I’ve been on the road.
That’s Greg Hunt, the Environment Minister, speaking to Steve Chase from Bonn.