Topics: Great Barrier Reef
And for more I'm joined on the line by the Environment Minister, Greg Hunt, who was at the UNESCO meeting in Bonn a few hours ago when the ruling was made. Greg Hunt, welcome. Well this decision by no means should be interpreted the Reef is being given a clear bill of health, what does it mean?
Well with great respect, you couldn't be more wrong. There is no watch list. Australia was on a watch list, we inherited a Reef that was on a watch list on track to being listed as ‘in danger’. Today the World Heritage Committee has unanimously and overwhelmingly endorsed us being taken off the watch list.
We have returned to the normal five-year reporting cycle which has always applied and what's fascinating is that all 21 members of the World Heritage Committee spoke, all praised Australia, all rejected any reference to ‘in danger’, and the Chair of the World Heritage Committee, in front of all of the nations of the world, said that Australia should be seen as a role model for what we've done over the last 18 months.
We've made massive strides, the world has praised Australia and many of the old hands at this UNESCO World Heritage Committee said they had not seen anything like a country being singled out, praised and endorsed. So, some of the things that some of the groups have said seem to be a little vaguely desperate. They wanted Australia to be declared as a country with an endangered Reef. The world has said completely the opposite.
It's not ‘in danger’, but the world has also said it doesn't have a clean bill of health. It's still- it's health is still under threat.
No, what the world has said that like every reef there are challenges, but that our response is the global role model as to how a country should respond to these challenges. Of course, we've invested additional $200 million on top of a $2 billion plan because there are challenges to the Reef, I have always said that. This is the work of my life, the passion, you know, Crown of Thorns, and runoff.
But we've seen dramatic turnarounds in sediment, and nitrogen, and pesticide runoff already. But we've more planned and more practical investment, such as the more than 20 Green Army teams that we announced only last week to put into the field along the coast of the Reef. So what's happened here is something almost unprecedented for Australia, where we've been singled out by one of the world's major…
… environmental bodies as a role model for what we've done and people should be really proud.
Well Greenpeace says though it's impossible to take Government claims that you're protecting the Reef seriously, given support for a prospective coal- or giant coal mines in Queensland Galilee Basin that they claim will be a highway for coal ships through the Reef. Obviously climate change is a factor, but so is soil runoff and dredging and the like?
Well with respect, the umpire, the world's global umpire, 21 countries have just been through one of the most searching processes in Australian history. They make decisions which are negative about many countries, I've sat through the debates today and exhaustive debates about other countries and other properties and negative decisions.
The global umpire has just said completely the opposite. I understand that you can quote Greenpeace but I'm surprised, because the Chair of the World Heritage Committee has praised Australia, 21 countries on the World Heritage Committee have praised Australia and the reason why is because we're doing things that no other government in Australian history has done.
We inherited massive projects, five massive dredge disposal projects from the previous ALP – we ended them all. We put in place a permanent ban on dredge disposal in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. People said that was impossible, but we've done that. So, this is a really fine moment in Australian environmental history and there's nothing that we can do that will satisfy some of the groups.
They were pushing for an ‘in danger’ listing, and the world has made completely the opposite decision and it's slightly odd and slightly desperate they're trying to say black is white. But the text is clear, the transcripts are clear. Australia has been held up as a role model in the language of the global chair of this great environmental group.
Environment Minister Greg Hunt, thanks for your time here on News Night.
Thanks very much.