Launch of the scientific report on Macquarie Island

07 March 2023

Thank you all for inviting me here tonight, on the land of the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people, to launch this important report.

I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land and pay my respects to their elders past and present. 

To the Australian Marine Conservation Society.

To the Pew Charitable Trust.

And to Dr Ian Cresswell and the team. 

Eminent scientists, experts in your field, and champions of the ocean one and all.  

Congratulations on this timely publication.

As I read through the pages of this report, as I studied the science, I felt as close as I’ve been to the wonders of Macquarie Island. 

Or should I say: as close as I’ve been – yet. 

Now, my staff keep telling me it's impossible. 

That I’m a Minister of the Commonwealth – and can’t spend a fortnight travelling to Macquarie Island and back. 

But the more I learn about this island, the more I read reports like this, the more irresistible I find the idea.

And the more my diary manager starts to panic. 

Yes, it takes four days to get there – one way. 

Yes, it means sailing across the wildest stretch of ocean in the world. 

And yes, I will freely admit – I’ve been known to get seasick riding the Manly ferry. 

I know all these things, and yet – I’m still tempted. I’m very tempted.

There’s something deeply romantic about these remote places.

These undisturbed, unspoiled, truly wild paces. 

Places where penguins are still running the show – and where humans are happy to mind their own business. 

There aren’t many of them left. 

And it's nice to think that Australia is doing its bit to keep this pristine corner of the world protected and safe. 

Australians should feel good about that. 

We should feel proud about what we’re doing here. 

Of course, Macquarie Island wasn’t always as pristine as it is today.  

In the nineteenth century, it was a stopover for whalers, who left behind rats and cats and other invasive species. 

It took an incredible conservation effort to eradicate these pests – and to return the island to its original state.  

But these days, it’s mostly seals and penguins on Macquarie Island – with a small team of scientists for neighbours. 

We have this image of scientists, in popular culture.

Of serious people in white coats, working in sterile labs, doing their important experiments. 

But the scientists on Macquarie Island are adventurers. 

They’re scientists in the same way that Indiana Jones was a professor of archaeology.

People who contributed to this report travelled to the ends of the earth. 

And this is what they brought back – this picture of an extraordinary island. 

Macquarie Island is the only place on earth where royal penguins breed. 

It’s where 10% of the world’s king penguins mate.

It’s the only place where the earth’s mantle crashes through to the surface. 

It’s one of the only places where the wandering albatross can safely nest.

And it’s the home of so many other amazing creatures – like killer whales and elephant seals and rare fish. 

Macquarie Island is a precious gem, unlike anything else in the known universe. 

And what this report really drives home is how closely the island is connected to the oceans around it. 

How Macquarie Island depends on the sea for its survival.

The island needs the ocean – as a food source and a breeding ground and a regulator of the environment. 

That’s the central message of this report. 

And that’s why we made our announcement two weeks ago.  

As everyone here would know by now, our government plans to triple size of the Macquarie Island Marine Park – with a new area of protected ocean bigger than Germany. 

I’m very proud of this policy. 

It’s something I’m happy to stand behind as Minister – in any forum.  

And I’m confident that we’ll strike the right balance, by allowing the two existing fisheries to continue in the same manner. 

These companies work a small strip of ocean. 

They’re sensitive to the environment. They’re good at what they do. 

And they know how to minimise bycatch, by applying best practice. 

Of course, consultations continue – and I hope they can be as constructive as possible. 

But I am committed to protecting this exceptional place. 

And I will always be a Minister that values science – that listens to experts and prizes their knowledge.

So thank you again for this fantastic report.

It’s a great advertisement for a special place.

And next time, let’s do this in the Southern Ocean, about 1,500 kilometres south of Hobart – if anyone wants to give me a ride.

Launch of ‘The unique marine ecosystem surrounding Macquarie Island’, by Ian Cresswell, Nicholas Bax, Andrew Constable, Keith Reid, and Anthony Smith.