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Transcript
Australian Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell

ABC Townsville, North Queensland

Monday, 29 August 2005

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority 30th anniversary


Presenter
We brought you last week on the morning's program the news that the long promised review of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act would finally go ahead. Things are moving pretty fast now though, submissions to the review close at the end of September and we'll give you some more details on how to get submissions in shortly. Firstly though, Federal Environment Minister Ian Campbell is in the north today, he joins us in the studio. And you're here for a birthday party, I believe, Minister?

Senator Campbell:
A very important birthday, David, it's the 30th anniversary of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and we'll be at Reef HQ shortly and cutting a cake and thanking all the staff and the volunteers. We'll have also Senator Robert Hill, the former Environment Minister, and David Kemp. I invited Prime Minister's Whitlam and Fraser to come along - both of them were very apologetic at not being able to get here. But it's an incredibly important historical landmark for Australia and, quite frankly, coral reef protection in the whole world because we lead the world here in reef protection.

Presenter
A good time for people to look back on some of the achievements of the 30 years, I guess?

Senator Campbell:
Yeah, I think we've achieved a lot. We are world recognised as the greatest reef managers on this little planet we inhabit called 'earth'. That's a great credit to the leadership of Gough Whitlam and Malcolm Fraser when they - in a bi-partisan way - achieved not only the creation of the Authority - the Emerald Agreement that Fraser signed with Bjelke-Peterson; but also the establishment of the Authority and the leadership of Graeme Kelleher, the leadership of Virginia Chadwick, the team at the Authority; the scientists - some of the best reef scientists anywhere in the globe, working up and down the reef; feeding into things like the RAP Program - the biggest protection of the reef in it's history. These are great achievements but the reef's going to be under more pressure in the next 30 years than she was in the last 30 years so all of that effort is probably going to have to be re-doubled if we're going to futureproof the reef.

Presenter
And we should mention as well, Minister, that Reef HQ is closed to the public due to the party this morning through until midday, I believe it is, it will open again. So Reef HQ is closed to the public through until midday today. You might even be able to pick up some birthday cake if you arrive just at midday. Sixteen minutes past nine, we're chatting with Federal Environment Minister Ian Campbell this morning. Speaking of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Minister, what will this recently announced Marine Act review mean for the Authority, which, as we mentioned, has its headquarters just over the way here in Townsville?

Senator Campbell:
We'll I'm very, very aware of the importance of the Authority to Townsville, just as a community; Peter Lindsay, the Federal Member reminds me of this on a weekly basis. It's clearly an important institution for Townsville, it's important for the whole of Queensland, important for Australia and, as I've said, for the world. There will be more pressure on the reef in the next 30 years. Australians love their coast, they love living on the coast; we've got the pressure on fisheries, which aren't going to go away; we've got the pressure of the nutrients coming into the lagoon from human activity in the hinterland - that needs to be addressed, we're doing that through the Reef Water Quality Program; there's going to be more and more people living in the hinterland as the population expands, so those pressures are going to build. So we need to make sure that the successes that the Authority has achieved, and the staff that work to make that Authority such a world-leading institution, have a governance framework, an institutional framework that makes sure that the Authority can continue to build on its successes in the past. So that's what's it's all about. It's also about engaging with the community up and down the coast. We found with the Representative Areas Program there was a lot angst amongst recreational and commercial fisherman, many of them felt like they hadn't been closely enough involved - although I defend the Authority in what I think was a process that they worked so hard to get consultation, so hard to engage the community - and I know many people didn't like the outcomes but it just shows we need to try harder and harder and harder to engage those stakeholders, make sure that they feel a part of it.

Presenter
How do you make sure that happens this time then, those members of the fishing industry you said that felt their input to the introduction of the RAP green zones, you know they weren't too happy with how that whole process went, how can they believe the input will be heard this time on this new review?

Senator Campbell:
Well they will be heard, we'll make sure of that. The head of my department is heading up the review, the Prime Minister has got a representative from his department and the Finance Minister from his department. It's a quality review; I'll be keeping a close watch on it. As you've announced we are asking for public input, we will have meetings along the coast as I have done myself as Environment Minister. We need to not only make sure that the review hears everyone's views but also that in the future the sort of reforms that I have put in place with Virginia Chadwick's support with encouragement from people like Peter Lindsay, where we've set up new offices along the coast we have got a new ELMAC Local Marine Advisory Committee established down in Bundaberg. We are working very hard with the Authority to make sure that they are truly assessable. I make the point, however, though, that the Authority has a really big responsibility, massive responsibility, for future generations and I would say that it would be almost impossible to design a Representative Areas Program achieving historic levels of protection and keeping everyone happy. What we've sought to do is bring in really high quality measures to protect the reef and through the Structural Adjustment Package - which is tens and tens and tens of millions in excessive of $60 million already - try to ensure that we treat fairly those who have had an impact on their businesses as a result. So that's how we strike the balance. But I do make the point that it is going to be very hard for a organisation like the Authority to make everyone happy with this process.

Presenter
On commercial fishers and their rights, we read this morning of a 'secret amnesty', as it's being termed, letting recreational fishers off if they were caught fishing in the green zones, yet commercial fishers weren't given apparently the same leniency. Now, this is something that I would imagine just compounds the damage in terms of government commercial fisherman relations?

Senator Campbell:
Look I have worked very closely with the commercial fisherman, I came up here as the first job the Prime Minister gave me as Environment Minister last year was to come here and try to work our way through these issues, I've got to say that the Seafood Industry Council here in Queensland under John Olsen's leadership has been incredibly good in their dealings with the government; it's been a very stressful period for their members, we have worked hard to make that relationship robust, frank, open. My view is this that the Authority is being trying to implement the Representative Areas Program and the policing of it in a sensible and practical way. There is clearly a difference between a recreational fisherman from say, the southern states, up here in an aluminium dinghy not understanding where the zones are, not having a GPS not having that sort of thing. I don't think anyone would want us to have a patrol boat coming along and telling these people, or fighting these people or taking their boat away. If they're a southern tourist, I think everyone wants to make sure that tourism flourishes on the reef; the policing of it is something that the Authority should do using their best skills and their best intuition.

Presenter
So is the amnesty over then, I mean when will the authorities get tougher on the recreational fishers?

Senator Campbell:
Well, I think they're questions that you should direct to the Authority but I don't interfere in those decisions. I have been assured by the Authority from the first day I became Environment Minister that they would be applying and policing the new zones in a sensible and practical way. I think most of your listeners would know that when you bring in a new speed zone in a metropolitan area, or if you bring in laws about using mobile phones in your car - I know back in Perth when they brought those mobile phones laws in the police had a amnesty period for a few months where they would give people warnings - that is really what I understand it what the Authority has been doing here.

Presenter
You're listening to 630 ABC North Queensland, ABC Tropical North as well, it's 9:22am, we are speaking at the moment with the Minister for the Environment this morning, Ian Campbell, who is in town, is here in North Queensland, we're speaking about the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act Review, that's happening at the moment. Speaking about staff if we could, Minister, here at the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, what assurances can you give Peter Lindsay over his concerns that some jobs and some decisions about the management of the reef may go south to Canberra? In fact, I mean to be fair, Mr Lindsay wasn't even really convinced when we spoke to him last week that a review was needed at all.

Senator Campbell:
Peter will share my views that they pressures on the reef, the need to protect it is going to get stronger and harder as the years go on, not any less. Just because we've done the Representative Areas Program - a really important program which will provide protection - doesn't mean that the need to protect the reef is going to get any less. There's going to be more population pressure, more pressure on fisheries, a life and death race on water quality because we have got climate change coming over the horizon, it is on us now, it's a massive threat to the reef…I'm answering your question, telling you why the…

Presenter
I just want to get there, that's all. I want to get to the point.

Senator Campbell:
What I am saying is there is more pressure on the reef; we're going to need more people at Reef Headquarters in future than in the past. So I am happy to give that assurance that my own strong view is that the need for science, the need for people to enforce our protection, the need for people to design the policies for the future, will get higher up here in Townsville not lower. So that is the assurance I can give.

Presenter
So we should feel confident, I guess, that the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority will remain here, the jobs will remain here, the management decisions will remain here; just the processes will be improved as a result of this review? Is this right?

Senator Campbell:
That's right, it was designed 30 years ago, I think the authority has been very well run, I think we have incredibly professional people there, we are putting another $40 million into the reef research project through the commonwealth environment research facilities. The Commonwealth is putting more and more money into the reef because we recognised it as an incredibly important environmental asset that's coming under more and more threat. So this is all about building the Authority, making it stronger, recognising its world leading role, recognising its importance and making sure that it's a strong organisation going forward.

Presenter
Minister Ian Campbell, I must let you get to your birthday party. Thank you very much for joining us in the studio today we appreciate your time.

Senator Campbell:
Thanks, David, it was great to be here.

Presenter
That was Federal Environment Minister, Ian Campbell, he is in the north today for the 30th birthday for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, also speaking to us about the review the Federal Government has announced for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act.

Presenter provided details for forwarding submissions - email and mailing address.

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