Press conference at SeaLife Aquarium, Darling Harbour with Minister for the Environment and Water Tanya Plibersek
SUBJECTS: World Environment Day; tripling the size of the Macquarie Island Marine Park; Maugean Skate; native forest logging; renewable energy; 7News Spotlight.
MINISTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT AND WATER, TANYA PLIBERSEK: Thanks so much for coming out this morning on World Environment Day.
I’m delighted to say that I’ve signed off on the design for the Macquarie Island Marine Park. This is a globally significant addition to conservation in our Southern Ocean. We’ll be adding an area the size of Germany to the highly protected waters around Macquarie Island.
This is a home to incredible species like the penguins that I've been meeting this morning, but also whales, seals, and threatened birds like some of the albatross species. Many animals exist nowhere other than Macquarie Island or the waters around it, or they only breed on Macquarie Island or the waters around Macquarie Island.
This is such an important addition to conservation. It's probably the biggest contribution to be made to conservation anywhere on the planet this year. We're tripling the size of the marine park and adding an area the size of Germany to the highly protected waters around the marine park.
At the same time, we're allowing two fisheries that operate in the area to continue to operate in the way they've been doing for many years. These are sustainable fisheries, catching Patagonian Toothfish. As long as they continue to operate in the sustainable way they have been going, it shows that you can have sustainable fishing operations side by side with these globally significant conservation outcomes. Any questions?
JOURNALIST: What's the timeline for this? You’ve said you’ve signed off on it but when will we see that in effect?
MINISTER PLIBERSEK: I have signed off on it. It now goes to the Governor-General for assent. I'm assuming that there will be no difficulties there. So we expect the Macquarie Island Marine Park additions to be operational from the 1st of July.
JOURNALIST: The Seafood Industry Association says there's been a lack of consultation in the process of this decision. What's your response to that?
MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Well, I have spoken directly to the two companies involved on several occasions. There's been months of public consultation. We've had about 14,700 responses from the public. Only a handful actually opposed the addition of more highly protected waters around Macquarie Island. I made a slight adjustment to the original maps that I proposed to give the fisheries operators slightly more water to fish in. They have argued they should be able to trawl sometime in the future and I said no that. The waters are too precious to allow trawling. They're not doing it now and I don't want them to be doing it in the future.
JOURNALIST: Will you release the letter to the Tasmanian Environment Minister about the Maugean Skate?
MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Look, it's a letter from me to the Tasmanian environment minister. I don't think there's any public benefit in releasing it. I don't generally release correspondence - you know, private correspondence between ministers. But, I would say this. There's no secret in it. What I've said is the Skate exists only in Macquarie Harbour, and it is really important that we make sure the water quality that is affecting the skate is improved. There's a salmon industry in those waters and it's important that the salmon industry operates in a way that protects the water quality for the Skate and for any other animals that are being affected by water quality issues.
JOURNALIST: There’s been calls for a ban to native forest logging (INAUDIBLE)?
MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Well, there's been interesting moves from first of all the West Australian government and then the Victorian government getting out of native forest logging. I think it's important that Australia has a timber industry. We've a requirement for timber goods. That's why we've invested $300 million in a more sustainable forestry industry. That includes upgrading the skills of the workforce, it includes upgrading the industrial capacity of the industry to get more high value products from our timber industry and very importantly it also includes adding to plantations. Plantations account for 90% of our timber needs already and we certainly would like to continue to see a strong investment in plantation forestry.
One of the things that is very clear is that our environmental laws have not really dealt with issues around land clearing in the past. And I've said very clearly that we need to reform our broken environmental laws. The previous government got an extensive report from Professor Graeme Samuel about how we could do that. How we could provide clearer and faster decision making for business but also much stronger protection for our environment. The changes that we will make to our environmental laws including bringing Regional Forest Agreements under the coverage of our environmental laws, we hope that that will give much greater protection to some of the threatened species that call our native forests home.
We know that our native forests are valuable for their carbon sequestration and native forests of course, as Environment Minister I would say that native forests are absolutely critical to protecting our native species.
JOURNALIST: What’s your response to being described as a “friendly MP” by Lisa Wilkinson (INAUDIBLE)?
MINISTER PLIBERSEK: I think anybody who has looked at my political career would see that for well over three decades I have been advocating for victims of sexual assault, victims of domestic violence, victims of child sex assault to get a better deal.
And we know that the system is stacked against victims. If you look at sexual assaults, only 13 per cent are reported to the police and only a fraction of those result in a guilty conviction.
We know that it’s very difficult for victims of sexual assault to get justice through our court system and anybody who identifies as someone who wants to see better outcomes for victims of sexual assault, of domestic violence, of child sexual abuse is dead right. I’ve spent most of my career doing that.
MINISTER PLIBERSEK: I’m proud to be part of a government that has done more to tackle climate change than any previous Australian Government. We have a legislated pass to net zero. We have a 43 per cent emissions reduction target, we’re going to have the east coast energy grid at 82 per cent renewable energy by 2030, we’ve seen a massive expansion of renewable energy including huge offshore wind zones. We’ve seen in my own portfolio I’m doubling the rate of approval for renewable energy projects. We’re upgrading in transmission lines because the transmission network we’ve got now doesn’t have the capacity to take all the renewable energy that we want to see generated.
In my own portfolio I’m the first minister to actually refuse a coal mine because the impact it was going to have on the Great Barrier Reef and I’ve cancelled two others. We’ve got massive investment in green hydrogen, we’ve got investment in businesses and homes transitioning to electrification. We’ve passed stronger laws to protect the Ozone layer, Australia’s signed the methane pledge, we’re making it easier for people to buy an electric vehicle.
In so many ways we are acting to get this country to net zero emissions and I’m proud of that. It’s a shame this didn’t start earlier, if we had had a government before us over the last decade that had invested in the transition to renewable energy we’d be much further along now to have cleaner and cheaper energy in our grid. But we’ve inherited a country that had 22 separate energy policies and didn’t land a single one. So yes, we were behind when it came to the transition, we’re picking up the pace and we’re making sure that Australia can be a renewable energy superpower so we can get cheaper, cleaner energy into our homes and businesses and we also have the opportunity of exporting that cheaper, cleaner renewable energy in the future.
JOURNALIST: Just back to the Lehrmann interview, the reason (INAUDIBLE)?
MINISTER PLIBERSEK: I’m not going to offer a running commentary on an interview I didn’t watch last night. There are still legal matters afoot here, I don’t think it’s productive for me to comment on who said what when.
JOURNALIST: Is there a reason why you didn’t watch it?
MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Yeah, because I don’t really want to watch Bruce Lehrmann justify himself. I wasn’t interested, just wasn’t interested.