By Terri Butler MP

SUBJECTS: Morrison-Joyce Government’s billion dollar Great Barrier Reef Announcement

VIRGINIA TRIOLI, HOST: Terri Butler is with you, as well, Shadow Minister for Environment and Water and the member for Griffith, Terri Butler, good morning. 


TRIOLI: So the Great Barrier Reef and the, by implication, climate change and ocean acidification, that's clearly going to be a big federal election flashpoint this year. 

BUTLER: Well, I think it's really important to acknowledge that today's funding announcement from the government is an admission of failure for their performance in relation to the reef over there. They're in their now ninth year in office, over almost a decade in office, and we certainly saw the impact of that failure last year when the World Heritage Committee seriously considered adding the reef to the great, to the World Heritage in Danger List. And there was a bit of a stay of execution, but that stay of execution was on the basis that the government now has to report by February this year on what they're going to do in relation to the reef. But of course, Virginia, the Committee in considering World Heritage, said to the government very clearly that water quality is very important, but climate change is the single largest threat to the Great Barrier Reef. Now, unfortunately for Australians who want to see the reef remaining a World Heritage property for all of the environmental and economic benefits that brings, this government has taken absolutely no action on climate change. They're now going to turn up to the World Heritage Committee with the package and seeming silence on climate change. We saw that in Glasgow, all they could manage to do was put together a pamphlet. It's very clear, I think, Virginia, that the best chance that we have as a country of keeping the reef off the endangered list, is to have a government with a much stronger position on climate change. A government that will take real action on climate change. And Labor's policy is far superior when it comes to climate change and will do much more for the Great Barrier Reef. 

TRIOLI: Except and you just heard Gavan McFadzean from the Australian Conservation Foundation say unequivocally there that while your emissions targets cuts are slightly better that, no, yours aren't enough to achieve the kind of interruption and stopping of climate change right now that would save the reef. So what he's saying there very clearly is that you're offering, the opposition's offering is no better. 

BUTLER: Well, I heard, I listened into his interview and what he said was that our policy was much stronger. He repeated that a couple of times and he’s right.

TRIOLI: He did say that, but I'm going to jump in there. But I pressed him. Was it enough then to stop the climate change increase, the temperature increase in the ocean and in the atmosphere that would then prevent the destruction of the Barrier Reef? And his answer was no, no Labor's is not enough. 

BUTLER: Every environmental lobbyist will always push for more action on climate change. Of course, that's their job. But he acknowledged-

TRIOLI: Should I not believe him?

BUTLER: -That our position is much stronger-

TRIOLI: Are you saying that he’s not to be believed when it comes to that?

BUTLER: -That our position on climate change is much stronger. Well, Virginia, the question here is which, which party will do more on climate change and therefore have a better option for protecting the Great Barrier Reef and the 64,000 jobs that depend on it. Labor has a clear policy, and if you want to see the difference between a Labor government and a Liberal Party National government, you can see it just yesterday, when a number of components for new wind farms arrived in Cairns because the Palaszczuk Labor government is committed to renewable energy. Those are the same wind farms by the same company that this federal Liberal-National government actually vetoed a loan for, vetoed funding for. So on the one hand, you've got the Liberals and Nationals no action on climate change, vetoing funding for renewable energy. On the other, you've got Labor’s strong position on climate change and Labor state government that is actively facilitating renewable energy into the north. It is very clear that if we want to see action that protects the Great Barrier Reef, we have to get rid of the Morrison-Joyce government. There's just no doubt about that. 

TRIOLI: I've got a couple of more questions I just want to ask you before I need to let you go, Terri Butler. Terri Butler is with you, Shadow Minister for Environment and Water and Member for Griffith. I've got listeners this morning asking just what happened to the $444 million that was pledged by then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to that tiny reef body, the Great Barrier Reef Foundation? Do you know? Can you tell us what actually that money was used for in the end? 

BUTLER: We do know, some of it has remained unspent. the auditor's office has done some work in relation to where that funding has gone, which I encourage your listeners to take a look at. But we have been highly critical of the fact that behind closed doors, without a tender, the then Turnbull administration decided to provide that grant to that foundation, and we have committed that if we're elected, we'll be tearing up that funding agreement. We'll be making sure the governance of funding for the reef is far superior. We won’t, if there are worthwhile programs that have been funded, we will continue them. We're not going to throw out the baby with the bathwater, but the reef deserves proper governance, public confidence in funding and no more dodgy backroom deals.

TRIOLI: Good to talk to you this morning, Terri Butler. Thank you for your time. 

BUTLER: Thank you for yours Virginia. 

TRIOLI: Terri Butler, the member for Griffith in the Shadow Minister for Environment and Water. Happy to take your calls in just a moment. 132 774. We did ask to speak to the Environment Minister Susan Ley this morning. She was not available to us.