Monday, 13 August 2018
Questions without Notice
Great Barrier Reef Foundation
My question without notice is for the Minister for Jobs and Innovation, Senator Cash. Can the minister explain to the Senate what capabilities the Great Barrier Reef Foundation will bring to this task of repairing damage to the reef that do not exist in Australia's existing science agencies such as CSIRO and the Australian Institute of Marine Science?
I thank Senator Carr for his question. It's always a pity when you politicise an issue like the funding of the Great Barrier Reef. Senator Carr, you want to play politics with the Great Barrier Reef. We are investing in the Great Barrier Reef. Senator Carr, you would know that the Australian Institute of Marine Science and also CSIRO—
Honourable senators interjecting—
As I was saying, both AIMS and CSIRO do exceptionally good work in terms of protecting the Great Barrier Reef and, insofar as jobs are concerned, Senator Carr, sustaining the 64,000 jobs that rely on the Great Barrier Reef and, of course, ensuring the viability of the $6.4 billion that it provides to our economy.
AIMS and CSIRO will both continue to be intimately involved with protecting the reef, including as key partners in the Reef Restoration and Adaptation Program that I announced in January of this year, and that work, Senator Carr, as you know, will continue over the next 18 months. It has been articulated by both the minister representing the environment minister and the Leader of the Government in the Senate that the Great Barrier Reef Foundation is a highly respected philanthropic organisation with a strong track record in fundraising, and it has a successful history of partnerships with a range of sectors. Senator Carr, your own government previously has endorsed this particular foundation. Again, you're hypocritical in terms of your criticism because you yourselves invested $12.5 million in the foundation in 2012.
Given that this small private foundation has been chosen over Australia's existing science agencies, can the minister assure the Senate that the foundation will not duplicate functions and capabilities that currently exist in these science agencies?
Senator Carr, as you would be aware, when the injection of funds of half a billion dollars was announced, the minister clearly set out what the package was going to do. In the first instance, it is going to ensure that we protect the reef, its viability and, of course, the 64,000 jobs that are dependent on it. It also includes the nearly $444 million Great Barrier Reef 2050 Partnership Program, as you are aware, to be delivered by the Great Barrier Reef Foundation. In terms of what it will be doing, it was clearly articulated: $201 million to improve water quality; $100 million for reef resilience and adaptation science; $58 million to fight against the coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish; $45 million supporting other work including community engagement; and $40 million for enhancing reef health, monitoring and reporting.
I'd ask: why does the government consider it appropriate to force Australia's world-leading science agencies, including CSIRO and AIMS, to apply to a small private foundation in order to access taxpayer funding for their work to repair damage to the Great Barrier Reef?
Senator Carr, I completely reject the premise of your question. As I have stated, both AIMS and CSIRO will continue to be intimately involved with protecting the reef, including in particular as key partners in the reef recovery and adaptation program that was announced earlier this year, in January, and this is work that will continue over the next 18 months.
As I've stated, Senator Carr, it is obvious that the foundation, based on past work it has done, has the ability to attract private sector investment. That is why we have it: the public-private partnerships that are able to be leveraged as a result of this investment. But, as far as CSIRO and AIMS are concerned, they will continue to be intimately involved in the management of the Great Barrier Reef.