Topics: Threatened Species Day, Syrian humanitarian crisis
Thanks very much to Larissa, Lisa and Trent and to everybody who is here.
These beautiful but vulnerable Australian creatures bring everybody together.
Recently, we held Australia’s first true Threatened Species Summit and out of that Threatened Species Summit came the Threatened Species Strategy – that is backed, I am delighted to say today, by $110 million in funding and Australia’s first ever Threatened Species Commissioner.
What we’ve done is set out a plan to turn around the futures for twenty mammals and twenty Australian native birds, between now and 2020. So we’ve already announced the bilby, the bettong, the bandicoot as some of the leading species on whom we will focus.
In terms of threats, what the work of Professor John Woinarski and others through the Australian Mammal Action Plan has concluded is the number one threat to our magnificent mammals and threatened species in Australia is, as Larissa mentioned, invasive species – in particular, the feral cats.
So we will seek to put in place a National Feral Cat Eradication Plan.
These are tsunamis of death of our wildlife with up to twenty million cats that are feral animals that are consuming between three and four Australian native species a night.
You see a figure of 70 million deaths a night around the country, and you see a figure of over twenty billion birds, mammals, lizards and other Australian animals that are being killed by the feral cats.
So we are going to be announcing shortly our five priority islands – 10 million hectares of land for protection from feral cats through ‘ex-closures’ as they’re known, as safe havens or ‘biological arks’. So that’s what will be happening.
But I congratulate everybody involved with today and I also offer to meet with the wildlife carers to talk about a long term plan for those who are wildlife carers – effectively helping to adopt and manage and, where appropriate, re-wild those orphaned animals such as the beautiful wombat, the common or bare-nosed wombat, which we’ve seen here today.
So congratulations to everybody involved, but a particular thanks to zoos and aquariums, but also an offer to work with wildlife carers on a long term plan for supporting and helping their work.
Are you comfortable that the increased intake from Syria, are you comfortable that that’s not going to over and above the existing quota for our humanitarian programme?
Look, I think it’s important to understand that Australia has already contributed in a very significant way with almost 4,500 places.
The Prime Minister has indicated that there will be additional support. I’ll leave it to the Prime Minister and the Immigration Minister to provide the details.
But we are doing a very important thing in helping deal with the source of this immense human tragedy. Immense human tragedy. And also to try to provide safe haven and sanctuary for those who are suffering.
We’re extending our hand, as the Prime Minister said today, through the UNHCR in terms of their placement of people internationally. There is no country that is more generous on a per capita basis. But we will do more.
We have already done a lot, and it is immensely important that we play our part and it’s immensely important that we have also played our part in preventing such terrible tragedies as we have seen and which have affected everybody from occurring in the waters to the north of Australia.
So when you say we’re doing our part in dealing with the source of this immense human tragedy, are you referring to our military engagements in the Middle East?
Well, I think we have a role in general with regards to national security and the security operation of the Middle East, absolutely.
Let’s be clear that what ISIS and Daesh are doing is something of an unspeakable nature. War crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide – all of the very worst examples of organised, systematic, not just violence, but eradication of populations.
This is something that cannot stand and will not be allowed to stand, and we are a part of that and we will continue to be a part of it. The nature of that, of course, is a matter for the Prime Minister, and in terms of the humanitarian response to this immense human tragedy, we will be, we already are and we will continue to be involved in this but on an expanded basis.
Alright, thank you very much.