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Media Release
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell

24 September 2004

Labor cuts funding to Great Barrier Reef another Latham Labor loser

Labor's Tropical North policy threatens both the environmental and economic future of our Great Barrier Reef, Environment Minister Ian Campbell said.

"Labor's lip-service to our iconic reef is nothing more than a damp squib," Senator Campbell said.

"Labor's Reef policy cuts funding for crown of thorns starfish research. The Coalition has already committed $1.3 million over the next three years specifically to address one of the most significant ecological threats to the Reef - Labor's offering is $750,000.

"Labor's overall tropical research budget will cut record funds by $5 million. Labor has announced $35 million over five years for a tropical research centre while the Coalition has committed $40 million over four years to a dedicated Marine and Tropical Science Research Facility.

Senator Campbell said the Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest coral reef ecosystem with virtually all major and minor groups of living things abundantly represented.

"Protection for the Great Barrier Reef has been unprecedented under the Coalition and is now threatened by Labor's policy vagueness.

"We have increased the protected area of the Reef sevenfold making it the greatest protected stretch of ocean on the planet, and implemented a structural adjustment package to assist industries such as tourism and fishing that are affected.

"Labor says it will 'support the 33 percent protection goal' but it does not say which 33 percent, clearly and deliberately leaving the door open for rezoning of the protected Representative Areas.

Labor also fails to understand that 33 per cent of the Great Barrier Reef is protected. It is not a goal it is a Coalition achievement as of 1 July this year.

"Labor's policy does not include any funding for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. Once again Labor has demonstrated a lack of commitment to the protection and care of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

"Labor's policy will throw industry into disarray and threatens the process of structural adjustment."

Senator Campbell said the rest of Labor's Tropical North offerings were already being implemented under the Coalition Government.

"Since 1996 the Coalition has invested $26.5 million in Wet Tropics Management. We announced a further $5.4 million for the Wet Tropics Management Authority in August. Labor is just copying our policy.

"We announced $1 million specifically for cassowary conservation in August - Labor has just done the same.

"We announced an immediate $6 million from the Biodiversity Hotspots Programme for Daintree conservation in August - Labor's copycat $5 million only kicks in from 2005/2006.

"We introduced the Reef Water Quality Protection Plan in December 2003 funded by the Natural Heritage Trust and the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality - our policy is fully funded.

"Labor has made no commitment to continue the Natural Heritage Trust - where is their tropical north funding coming from?

"We made a commitment of $40 million to Cape York from the Natural Heritage Trust. To date we have invested $24.4 million for 133 environmental projects in the Cape York region plus $587,807 from the Australian Government Envirofund for 29 community-based projects and an extra $2.67 million in Cape York regional projects.

"This is on top of the $1.85 million invested in Indigenous land management in Queensland."

Senator Campbell said since 1996 the Coalition's commitment to action to protect and manage the Great Barrier Reef had been almost $150 million.

"Labor makes the astonishing claim that the 'single most important thing' it can do to protect our tropical north is to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. Where is Labor's action plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

"While Labor is making emblematic statements, the Coalition has been getting on with the job of cutting our emissions by investing in renewable energy technologies, energy efficiency and working with industry to lower greenhouse gas emissions.

"Only the Coalition understands that environmental responsibility goes hand in hand with economic responsibility.

"Labor's Tropical North policy demonstrates a policy sleight-of-hand with no new initiatives and funding cuts to important areas of need to protect our iconic Reef and the industries that depend on it," Senator Campbell said.

Commonwealth of Australia