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The Hon Peter Garrett AM MP
Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts

$5.8 million in heritage funding for Tasmania under the Jobs Plan; $1.2 for Antarctic science and heritage; nuclear poll; Lowy Institute poll; Antarctic heritage; Opposition positions on climate change; IWC talks

Doorstop interview: St David's Cathedral, Hobart
13 October 2009

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GARRETT: It's a tremendous announcement today from the heritage component of the Jobs Fund. Not only are we providing support to heritage projects here in Tasmania which has an important and deep heritage history, but we're also providing the opportunity for increased employment and skills training, not only here at this important cathedral, St. David's, but also in other projects we've announced around the state.

I am also very pleased that we're announcing today a considerable investment of some $1.2 million for activities associated with the Antarctic. Just over $400,000 for continuing work on Mawson's huts, a really important heritage location in the Antarctic Territory.

As well as that, significant funding for a number of different scientific research applications, including continuing work on the ice-core sampling in Antarctica, and to other measures as well.

Importantly, the fiscal stimulus that is delivered by us providing the opportunity for heritage projects to be fixed up and improved means that we do two things; we improve the heritage and historical value of these important sites and we provide employment opportunities for local economies. That's very important in the global financial crisis, and it's terrific for us to be able to announce a range of projects here today in Tasmania. I very much look forward to coming back to this church and to other locations to see the good progress that I know will be made.

JOURNALIST: Today there is an opinion poll out on the strength of support of nuclear power. What do you think this shows about the change in sentiment of Australian's towards nuclear power?

GARRETT: There are always going to be polls that appear at different times and give different readings of the temperate on issues.

But the key thing here is that this Government has a comprehensive plan to deal with dangerous climate change. We have ruled out nuclear power because we have a wide suite of energy sources that we can draw on as we both manage and deal with climate change and provide the opportunity for sustainable livelihoods for Australians in the generations to come.

JOURNALIST: So do you think this a demonstration perhaps of nervousness amongst Australians about dangerous climate change and a willingness to look at alternatives such as nuclear power?

GARRETT: I think that you going to have polls which will provide a set of results. We are not here to make commentary about these sorts of polls. We are here to get on with the business of bringing forward robust and good policy to deal with the dangers that we face in relation to climate change. The Government simply says in order for Australia to be able to deal with the challenges that climate change presents we need an Opposition that gets its act together, that negotiates in good faith in terms of the amendments it brings forward, and a leader that is capable of bringing a united position to bear from the Opposition so we can have a proper national interest engagement on this issue.

JOURNALIST: Are you a little concerned though that the latest Lowy Institute poll shows that tackling climate change has dropped from the number one to number seven?

GARRETT: We going to get different temperature readings from polls over time. The job for the Government is to pursue the course that it thinks is in the best national interest. And pursuing the course that is in the best national interest is what we are on about. We will continue to do that. I think that's the expectation the public have of us.

JOURNALIST: Is the Federal Government to blame for that drop in [inaudible]?

GARRETT: What I would say about the debate about climate change is because the Opposition have been so bewilderingly confused and disjointed in their approach, if there are levels of misapprehension in the community about the significance of the climate change challenges one only need look as far as the efforts of the Opposition as they wrestle with this issue. I mean we have senior front benchers, such as Mr Abbot still in effect disputing the scientific validity of climate change. And yet our continent is vulnerable to climate change, study after study shows us very clearly that Australia will incur great costs if we don't satisfactorily address climate change. That is what we went to the last election with a profound commitment to do - and we are going to stay on that course.

JOURNALIST: You mentioned Antarctic heritage, why has Labor dropped the idea of World Heritage Listing for Antarctica?

GARRETT: I don't think that there's any doubt that the existing arrangements within the treaty framework for the Antarctic provide the appropriate and necessary recognition and protection for the Antarctic in a way which would not necessarily be guaranteed or advanced by World Heritage Nomination.

I'm quite convinced that the approach that we've taken since we've come to Government, the significant resources that we've brought to the Antarctic Division, the substantial research effort that we're undertaking in the Southern Ocean, the announcements that I've made today, and Australia's vigorous and cooperative involvement in the treaty arrangements around Antarctica guarantee that the values of Antarctica that Australia identifies as being critical to preserve can be preserved.

JOURNALIST: Can I just ask, the Government seems to have introduced this distinction now between climate change and dangerous climate change, what's with that?

GARRETT: I think you're reading more into it than I would. The fact of the matter is that our tourism industries, our fishing industries, our agricultural industries — all of our industries and our communities are affected by climate change. Some of the identified impacts of climate change pose great dangers, not only to the community but the economy. We need resolute action on climate change. We need the Coalition to get is act together and come up with constructive and appropriate amendment suggestions in good faith for us to advance this legislation. That's what the public expects of both sides of politics.

JOURNALIST: Any sign of progress from Santiago, on the IWC talks?

GARRETT: I haven't received any formal reporting in relation to progress at Santiago other than the discussions are ongoing.



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