THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
MINISTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT AND WATER
SPEECH TO THE GLOBAL BIODIVERSITY INFORMATION FACILITY GALA DINNER
AUSTRALIAN MUSEUM, CANBERRA
WEDNESDAY 18 OCTOBER 2023
Thank you for the warm welcome to Ngunnawal and Ngambri country.
I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land and pay my respect to elders past and present.
And I thank our hosts for inviting me to speak this evening.
William Edwards Deming once wrote:
‘In God we trust, everyone else must bring data’.
And for more than twenty years, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility has been supplying that essential currency to the world.
Collecting information, coordinating information, standardising information.
And then publishing that data, open source and open access.
Data that’s available to anyone with an internet connection and a sense of curiosity about the world around them.
By providing this service, you've become an indispensable part of our global fight for nature.
And it seems to me you’ve picked the perfect venue for your conference dinner tonight.
Because if you walk down the hall of this museum, you’ll find a new exhibition, called Wansolmoana.
It tells the story of Pacific nations and their relationship with the environment that sustains them.
Wansolmoana is a beautiful word, which means ‘One Salt Ocean’.
And that is what we're dealing with: one ocean, one environment.
It doesn’t belong to any single country.
It doesn’t follow any national law.
It’s a shared resource, a shared asset, and a shared responsibility.
When I meet with other environment ministers in the Pacific, they always emphasise this message:
That our environmental concerns are global.
That the decline of the environment in one country impacts all of us, wherever we live.
This isn’t some lofty, utopian principle.
It’s what the world came together to support last year.
When we signed our landmark agreement in Montreal, to protect nature in every country.
An agreement to stop new extinctions, to slow the spread of invasive species, to restore degraded environments, and to protect thirty percent of our land and sea by 2030.
I was there at the conference in Canada, I was part of the final push, which really did feel like a breakthrough moment for the planet.
And we’ve been going on a similar journey here in Australia.
We live in a beautiful country. A country with plants and animals found nowhere else on earth.
But as all your data tells us, that natural heritage is under intense strain.
Facing the same challenges of extinction, invasive species, climate change and habitat destruction.
Which is why our government has made it our mission to reverse that decline.
With stronger environmental laws, to introduce positive legal standards and to fix our broken offsets system.
With a new environmental protection agency, to enforce those laws and to make independent approval decisions.
With a world first Nature Repair Market, to bring in additional sources of funding to restoration and management.
With our new agreement to deliver the Murray Darling Basin Plan, which passed the House of Representatives this afternoon.
And with our domestic policies to protect thirty percent of Australia’s land and ocean.
Growing our Indigenous Protected Area program, expanding the Macquarie Island marine park, and supporting conservation on private land.
These are big changes, big structural reforms.
And they will work together, they will complement each other, to protect and manage our natural heritage.
But these big picture reforms can only get you so far, if you don’t have the right information to direct them.
Which is one of the reasons Australia is such an enthusiastic supporter of your global data network.
As your largest international partner, through the work of CSIRO and the Atlas of Living Australia.
It’s why we introduced environmental values into our wellbeing budget statement – measuring what matters.
It’s why we’re supporting the work of businesses to evaluate and disclose their own environmental risks.
And it’s why we are building an entire new institution for this purpose: Environment Information Australia.
This is something we funded in our latest budget.
Australia's first national environmental data office, with a statutory head and a set of responsibilities enshrined in law.
Providing essential information to the EPA, to ministers in government, and to the general public.
Not as something external or separate to our reforms, but as a crucial input to everything we do.
Environment Information Australia will support our conservation work in three main ways.
Firstly, it will deliver better information to everyone involved in the environmental approval system.
So proponents have much clearer picture of the landscape they’re working in.
Knowing which places can handle development and which places are more fragile.
Which means they can design their projects with softer environmental impacts from the start of the process.
Avoiding places with high risk and directing their energy to more robust locations.
Secondly, this data will support our implementation of regional planning and conservation.
Better information will help us map out local ecosystems.
Showing us which areas should be a priority for conservation, which areas require restoration, and which areas will support development.
Which also allows the EPA to make quicker, clearer decisions.
Wasting less time on dud projects in the wrong places.
And accelerating the new houses and renewable energy projects we desperately need.
Thirdly, it will offer regular reporting on our national goals and the state of our environment.
We’re setting ambitious targets for protection, but without this consistent reporting, we won’t know whether we’re on track to meet them.
Like the Global Biodiversity Information Facility, this information will open and accessible to all.
We won’t be hiding these updates, like my predecessors did with the State of the Environment Report.
We believe in transparency.
Secrecy is a deadend road to poorer decisions and less trust.
We want to change the debate, to lift our ambitions.
Helping businesses make more sustainable choices.
Empowering civil society to participate fully in our national debate.
And building public institutions that will last.
So thank you again, for everything you’ve done to further these goals.
Together we can protect more of what’s precious, restore more of what’s damaged, and manage nature better for our kids and grandkids.