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Media Release
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Dr David Kemp

21 November 2002

Protecting the Great Barrier Reef: Labor Talks - the Government Acts

When it comes to protecting the Great Barrier Reef, Labor is all talk while the Howard government is busy getting on with it - as Labor's Environment spokesman Kelvin Thomson admitted when he described the Howard government's Representative Areas programme for the Reef as "the most significant marine protected area initiative in the global marine environment." (Press Release, 21/9/02).

The Government is grateful for his endorsement.

However today, in yet another of his ill-informed attempts to score a cheap political hit, Kelvin Thomson has tried to turn the environmental tragedy of a major oil spill off the Spanish coast into an attack on the Howard government.

Kelvin does not seem to have noticed that in his rush to put out a release, he makes it clear that Labor has NO plans to better protect the Reef from shipping disasters.

Unlike Labor when it was in power, the Federal Government has acted to improve the safety of shipping through the Great Barrier Reef and reduce the likelihood of oil spills.

In July, the Government accepted in principle the 41 recommendations made by the Review of Ship Safety and Pollution Prevention Measures in the Great Barrier Reef. An Implementation Group is currently working to turn these recommendations into force. Some recommendations however will need to be negotiated through the International Maritime Organization and this is being taken forward.

These are important measures that will help safeguard the unique marine environment, including international action for a compulsory pilotage regime in the Torres Strait, further developing technology to assist ships transiting the Reef, and enhanced ship routing, traffic management and
emergency response arrangements.

The Howard government has done more to protect the international treasure that is the Great Barrier Reef than any previous government " and is working on even more initiatives to provide even greater protection.

Kelvin Thomson's promises of greater protection for the Reef evaporate under greater scrutiny.

He promises that Labor will:

  1. "ban oil drilling on and off the Reef"

Kelvin does not want the public to know that:

  1. "tackle water quality from onshore activities"

Kelvin does not want the public to know that:

  1. "act on climate change by ratifying and implementing Kyoto"

Kelvin does not want the public to know that:

Where is Labor's plan to improve shipping safety on the Reef? Where is Labor's plan to improve water quality? Where is Labor's plan to achieve the cuts in greenhouse gas emissions needed to meet our target? Mere ratification of the Kyoto Protocol will not deliver one ounce of additional abatement.

Labor is playing catchup while the Howard government is putting the hard work and the funding into these vital issues of national importance.

Media contact:
Catherine Job (02) 6277 7640 or 0408 648 400

Commonwealth of Australia