Thursday, 20 June 2013
Questions without Notice
Great Barrier Reef
I thank Senator Furner for his continued interest in Reef Rescue in Queensland. The Labor government is proud to support the health of our Great Barrier Reef and the productivity of our farmers through Reef Rescue. Reef Rescue supports and protects land managers by encouraging them to improve their practices and in turn improve farm productivity. Since 2008 more than 3,200 canegrowers, graziers and other land managers from Cape York to Bundaberg have benefited from Reef Rescue, and at the same time we have stopped the equivalent of over one million wheelbarrows worth of run-off entering the reef.
Farmers believe in this program. For every dollar the Gillard government has put in the farmers have put in around $1.80 of their own money. It is important to recognise that contribution of farmers The program works, and that is why the Prime Minister and I announced in Mackay a further $200 million to extend the program.
Over the many decades that graziers were losing paddocks from significant riverbank erosion, which in turn caused significant damage by run-off into the reef, using Reef Rescue funding graziers were able to reinforce riverbanks, stopping the erosion and run-off, which is a real win-win for not only the reef but graziers as well.
Reef Rescue is a great partnership between government and local land management and it is a partnership that only Labor could ever have delivered for Queensland and for the reef. It has provided significant benefits not only across North Queensland—
I know those opposite do not support environmental protection, do not support protecting our reefs—all they want to do is make a joke of how much we have— (Time expired)
Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Can the minister advise the Senate the importance of the Reef Rescue program to the protection of the Great Barrier Reef, particularly in the light of yesterday's UNESCO's report?
UNESCO's World Heritage Committee determined not to list the reef as in danger and this was a welcome decision. The final UNESCO report makes particular mention of Reef Rescue as part of the government's work to protect the reef. There are new and emerging environmental challenges for the reef and Reef Rescue has recognised that.
In our new funding we have included dedicated resources towards managing the crown-of-thorns starfish and, as would be clear, the program enjoys widespread support. The Queensland Farmers Federation has congratulated the government on its continued commitment and continued investment in the Reef Rescue scheme. Similarly, the Cane Growers Association has described Reef Rescue as 'jet powered' due to the impact of the groundswell of change that it has brought across the entire region. There are many types of strong environmental and agricultural outcomes as you get to— (Time expired)
Mr Abbott will do to Reef Rescue what his state colleagues have done to agricultural departments. Let me quote Senator Back from recent estimates hearings, where he said:
My observation is that most of the state departments have been sort of gutted—diminished.
I could not agree more. That is what we have observed in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. The state agricultural departments have been gutted by Liberal governments, under Premier Campbell Newman, Premier Barry O'Farrell and Premier Napthine.
It is clear that Mr Abbott does not believe in investing in the future of Australia's food industry or in the future of rural and regional economies. All Mr Abbott wants to do is gut spending, cut to the bone and make sure that there is not an agricultural portfolio. (Time expired)