By Tanya Plibersek

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.