By Tanya Plibersek

20 June 2024



SUBJECTS: Nomination of Cape York Peninsula for World Heritage Listing, Liberal Party Nuclear energy policy.

STEVEN MILES, PREMIER OF QUEENSLAND: Today is a really special day. But, then again, Cape York is a real special place. Special environmentally and special because of the tens of thousands of years of cultural practices that our First Nations people have continued on those lands. And today we advise that the Queensland and Australian governments working with traditional owners will ask for Cape York to be listed on the World Heritage List, parts of Cape York to be listed on the World Heritage List.

Of course, much of Cape York is already national park preserved and cared for there by our Indigenous land and sea rangers and other traditional owners of course alongside our Parks and Wildlife Service.

This is a process that we’ve been on for about 10 years now. I worked on this when I was the Environment Minister, and it’s very special to have reached this next milestone. I want to thank – I want to personally thank the First Nations leaders who have worked with us on this nomination, who have come with us on this journey. This is about supporting them to protect their lands, protect their cultures, care for them and also deliver the kind of economic development that will create jobs for their people and improve prosperity longer term, help to close the gap and keep our country moving on the path towards reconciliation. What they have done coming with us on this journey has shown true leadership, and I’m very, very proud of what we’ve been able to do alongside them and, of course, the Australian government.

This couldn’t have happened without the leadership of the Australian Government’s Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek, and it’s my honour to introduce her.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, MINISTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT AND WATER: Well, thank you so much, Premier. It is a real treat to be here with you today to make such a special announcement. The first time World Heritage listing was raised for Cape York was about 42 years ago when the International Union for the Conservation of Nature said this place is so special it deserves global recognition.

We know that traditional owners have known that for thousands of years, and there are thousands of years of history and culture here to be protected. In fact, I’ve been privileged to see some of the rock art on Cape York. It’s estimated to be 17,000 years old. We know that there’s evidence of occupation of around 34,000 years and that history and that culture and that tradition is in an unbroken line with the people who are standing with us today, First Nations leaders who are part of this nomination for Cape York’s World Heritage listing.

But Cape York is not only special for its cultural significance; it is one of the most important and rich areas for biodiversity in Australia. It’s about three and a half per cent of our land mass, but it’s about 18 per cent of our species in Australia. It’s the home to many unique plants and animals, many of them threatened, like the sawfish that live in fresh water on the cape, sharks, birds – cockatoos and parrots, the goshawk, the Cape York wallabies. There’s a whole range of animals and plants that are endemic to the cape that are not found anywhere else or, if they’re found in other places, they a threatened. Landscapes like those coastal savanna landscapes that are not just important in an Australian context, they’re globally significant because these coastal savanna lands have been depleted around the world.

This place is special, and Australians know it. The traditional owners have been fighting to protect it for thousands of years. Australians have it on their bucket list. So many Australians want to make that trip to the tip of Cape York. Well, we want this to be on the bucket list of visitors from around the world because it is so special globally.


It’s important to say that World Heritage listing is happening with the support of a number of traditional owner groups, and it won’t happen in areas where there is no support. It also doesn’t change existing land tenure. So if someone’s got a pastoral business on the cape, World Heritage listing won’t impact that. What it does is say to the world this place is worth protecting, people should know about it, and in the future if there is development, it has to make sure that it respects those globally important values. Thank you.

LEANNE LINARD, MINISTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT AND THE GREAT BARRIER REEF: Well, good morning, and what an incredibly momentous day. It is so wonderful to be here today with our Premier Steven Miles, our Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek, our local members and, of course, most importantly, traditional owners from Cape York Peninsula.

When I reflect on Cape York Peninsula I think of an incredibly special place. For anyone who’s been there they will see how vast and diverse its plant landscapes, its landscapes itself but also its cultural sites, how incredibly intact its natural landscape is.

Cape York Peninsula continues to be, while increasingly accessible by road and infrastructure, it’s still a place and a special place that’s untouched. And when we think about the vegetation that lives there and we think about the animals that call it home, many of these species exist nowhere else in the world. But when I reflect too on the journey to today to having Cape York Peninsula tentatively listed on the journey and pathway to World Heritage listing, I reflect on more than four decades of people, including many of the traditional owners who are standing behind me today, who have been calling for and lobbying for this. Because it is a special place, because these sites should be protected.

For me as Environment Minister since 2022, it’s been a privilege to re-enliven that conversation alongside Tanya Plibersek. It’s a place where we’ve travelled together a number of times, and I’ve just recently returned from. And I would like to acknowledge and thank those traditional owners who I have spent time with on country who have given me the great gift of seeing country through their eyes, of seeing their extraordinary rock art galleries, of hearing of the spirit beings and stories about how the country came to be made.

These are special places and they are so deserving of being World Heritage listed. So I would like to acknowledge the conversations that we’ve been having on the cape with traditional owners. For me, this is coming to fruition today because they chose it. It’s about traditional owners saying this is the time where we want to come together and have the cape tentatively listed.

We’ve got a long journey ahead – it’s the first of a long journey. But I’d like to acknowledge and thank them. This is a place that the world, if they already know about, should know about. It’s a place that should be protected. And World Heritage listing brings global acknowledgement because of the significance of it, but it also brings additional resources to management of country, to management of land, which I know has been articulated from traditional owners behind me as a key aspiration of this tentative listing.

So I look forward to working with them as we journey ahead. There’s a long journey ahead. But, as I said, a momentous day and an absolute privilege to stand with these people today. Thank you.

CYNTHIA LUI MP: This is such a wonderful day for all of us. I think it certainly goes down as part of our history. I want to acknowledge the traditional owners here with us today because Cape York is a vast and beautiful country and we should be doing everything to protect our environment, our culture and our tradition.

I’m proud of the electorate that I look after and the many communities that I look after. I know that it’s important to them that we do everything as government to support our natural environment. And today’s announcement brings us one step closer to recognising our vast and beautiful region on the World Heritage List.

I’m proud of the work that we’ve done. I’m proud to represent a government that listens, but I’m proud to represent a government that works in partnership with traditional owners and local communities to not only protect what is natural and pristine but also we need to focus on the future aspirations of communities and our generations to come.

MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Any questions on the listing?

JOURNALIST: How long will the next process take?

MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Well, I’m delighted to say that UNESCO have just notified us that they have formally received the application, the nomination. And from now on there will still be, you know, more than likely a few years to go. Our experience of other World Heritage nominations is that the work of consulting and collecting further information, proving the case to UNESCO that this place is globally significant usually takes a number of years. But this first step – I mean, this has been decades in the making. So I’m delighted to say that we are here today and that we’re on the home run. We’re on the home run.

JOURNALIST: Can you tell us how many areas have been listed for listing?

MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Well, I might actually hand over to Leanne.

MINISTER LINARD: So, we do have a number of areas that so far are to be included. Of course, this may change over time, over the journey. But Alwal National Park, KULLA National Park, Restoration Island, Ma’alpiku Island National Park – I’m sorry if I didn’t pronounce that beautifully – the Olkola National Park, Oyala Thumotang National Park, Quinkan Country and Wuthathi Shelburne Bay National Park. So they are the areas included in the tentative list submission. And I can also mention the traditional owner groups who are part of it, if you’d like that, or we can give that to you.

JOURNALIST: Sounds good. How did you arrive at listing those specific areas?

MINISTER LINARD: So it was very important to us that this – any areas that would be listed would only be listed with the free and prior consent of traditional owners. So where we started was looking at national parks, areas that are already subject to conservation. Aboriginal land where sites already experience a level of protection but, importantly, we can work alongside as a government those traditional owners and get that sort of support. So that’s where we focused today.

JOURNALIST: How is the tentative listing expected to impact proposed development, namely silica mines on the doorstep of Shelburne Bay and Cape Flattery?

MINISTER LINARD: So, these national parks are already protected areas. So they are the only areas that are currently listed for – to be listed for the tentative listing. That doesn’t have an impact on development that’s happening now or, in fact, grazing. So I think it’s important, some pastoralists are raising questions about what will it mean for us and for our grazing leases. In fact, there are World Heritage listed properties now where grazing is happening. So that’s the important thing to say here. There will not be properties listed or included where there is not approval of the landowners. It is only our national parks that are already protected. So you’re talking about a site that is not listed here in the areas of Shelburne Bay.

JOURNALIST: [Indistinct] listing will only include areas which are existing national park?

MINISTER LINARD: So currently what is listed are particular sites of cultural landscapes, so particular rock art galleries, sites that have been identified by traditional owners. The exact boundaries of what the World Heritage listed areas will be is actually part of the process as we move forward. But, currently those sites are all located on national parks or Aboriginal land.

MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Any other questions on this? No? Okay. Well, thank you.

CAMERON DICK, TREASURER: Okay, well, it’s great to join the Premier, Minister Plibersek, the Tourism Minister Michael Healy and, of course, the first Torres Strait Islander ever elected to parliament, Cynthia Lui, for this important announcement today.

There is so much that is special and unique about Queensland, and that deserves to be protected. And there is no other place in the world like Cape York. And so it is important For this special, unique part of Queensland to go forward, to be listed on the World Heritage List. And I want to thank Minister Plibersek in particular for her leadership. I want to thank the Premier, Minister Linard, but also our traditional owners for their strong, determined, persistent leadership about this.


As Queensland Treasurer, of course, we also want to give voice to First Nations people. We want to also listen to their voice when it comes to economic development and prosperity. And you’ve heard this morning this does not stop economic development outside of those national park areas. We want to ensure that we build pathways – literally build pathways – like the Wangetti Trail but also build pathways listening to our First Nations people for economic opportunity to ensure we support their aspiration, including around access to these special areas for tourism purposes but in partnership – in partnership.

But, of course, all of that is under threat from Peter Dutton’s nuclear plan for Queensland. It’s a plan that David Crisafulli will not stop because it’s a plan he cannot stop. Already we hear Peter Dutton – I’ll just wait for the plane [indistinct] more tourists coming to Queensland! That’s a sound that Michael Healy and the Premier and I love. People from Sydney come up here all the time too, which is fantastic.

We already hear – we’ve already heard over the last 24 hours how Peter Dutton and his cronies are absolutely crowing about how they’re going to roll David Crisafulli. We’ve heard that from Matt Canavan, we’ve heard it from David Littleproud, the Leader of the National Party based here in Queensland, and we’ve heard it from Keith Pitt, the LNP MP for Hinkler based around Bundaberg. Keith Pitt said David Crisafulli is like a cat on a hot tin roof. That’s what he thinks about him.

So the truth of the matter is David Crisafulli must support nuclear power because he does not support pumped hydro. Last week he said he would axe pumped hydro, the Pioneer Burdekin pumped hydro scheme, which leaves him with only one choice to reduce emissions, which he has sworn to do – and that’s through nuclear energy. So he will have to support nuclear energy for Queensland.

So the choice is very clear – clean, renewable power stored through pumped hydro under Labor, or the most expensive power in the world – nuclear power – under the LNP. Now, yesterday, of course, David Crisafulli demonstrated his weakness. He did not say he would stop nuclear power. He did not say he would fight nuclear power. That’s because he’ll have to roll over when it comes to nuclear power because his entire state party – all of those state LNP MPs in the federal party, all of those state LNP senators in the Federal Senate, and all of his grassroots members – they want nuclear power and he’ll have to roll over.

So yesterday he showed that he was weak. And what does that mean for Queenslanders? Well, that means Queenslanders will get nuclear under the LNP. And for Queenslanders, that means they will pay through the nose for power. What it means is Queenslanders will pay more for energy because nuclear power is just so extraordinarily expensive.

MINISTER PLIBERSEK: I might just add a few words on Peter Dutton’s nuclear plan. Peter Dutton says Australians, their households and businesses, have got problems with power bills at the moment. His solution is the most expensive form of electricity with hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money funnelled into it, delivered some time in the next decade or two.

Labor’s contrast is a renewable energy investment that is already paying dividends. We’ve already seen a 25 per cent increase in renewable energy in our grid. We’ve also got energy bill relief coming in just a couple of weeks’ time. So if you stick with Labor you get hundreds of dollars off your energy bill starting in a couple of weeks’ time, or you can go with Peter Dutton’s plan, remembering that Peter Dutton was warned that 24 coal-fired power stations were going to close when he was last in government. He did nothing to prepare for that closure. And now he’s saying, “Trust us. In a decade or so we’ll spend hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money to build the most expensive form of electricity available.”

The reason he is not prepared to tell Australians what nuclear power will cost is because he knows that Australian taxpayers would rather see those billions of dollars spent on hospitals and roads and schools and things that will make a difference to their lives now.

Any questions?

JOURNALIST: Just on another matter, if that’s okay?

PREMIER MILES: Can I say something on nuclear, too?

JOURNALIST: Of course you can.

PREMIER MILES: The commitment I give Queenslanders is that a government I lead will fight against nuclear reactors in our state. We’ll fight against it because it will be more expensive, because it will leave future generations to manage dangerous radioactive nuclear waste, and because we do not need it, because we have a detailed and costed renewable energy and jobs plan that will get us to a net zero energy system.

David Crisafulli cannot say that he will oppose it. He cannot say that he will try to block it. I will use every tool that we have to block Peter Dutton’s plans to build nuclear reactors here. That includes using our state ownership. We own the sites that Peter Dutton has chosen. We own the transmission network that he would use to export that nuclear power into the grid. And so he would need our support to build his nuclear power plants, or he would need to compulsorily acquire government-owned businesses, and we would fight against that.

If you look carefully at what David Crisafulli said yesterday, he did not say he opposed nuclear. He did not say he would block nuclear. He did not say he would fight against nuclear. All he said was that that wasn’t part of his plan, but it was a matter for Canberra to decide.

So if you want a leader and a party that will fight against Peter Dutton’s plan to build nuclear reactors in Queensland, the only party making that commitment is the Labor Party.

JOURNALIST: Will you do a review into Queensland’s gun laws following the Mackay shooting?

PREMIER MILES: I think it’s too early to get to that stage. I understand the police have a press conference planned for later today. They have arrested an offender. It’s a terrible murder. Obviously our thoughts and prayers are with that woman’s family. But we just need to let the police do their job at this stage. Of course, there are actions that they think we should take on [indistinct].

JOURNALIST: Premier, yesterday our mayor at a press conference like this refused to answer questions about – regarding whether she was under investigation by the CCC. And I wanted to know, do you think elected representatives need to be more transparent with their constituents when it comes to these issues?

PREMIER MILES: Look, I’m not across the details of that press conference or that investigation. I do know that oftentimes the CCC will be investigating people when they don’t even know they’re being investigated. So it’s really a matter for the CCC to be commenting on their actions.

JOURNALIST: Just on power, could a commonwealth government ever get access to state-owned land generators or a network if the state government doesn’t want it to? I know you just touched on it?

PREMIER MILES: Yeah, as I said, we would fight against any attempt by the LNP to build nuclear reactors in Queensland. We are determined that that is a – that nuclear reactors would be a bad plan for Queensland. They would be expensive. They would leave us with dangerous nuclear waste to manage, and we don’t need it because we have a good, costed plan that’s recognised globally. We lead globally in our plan to decarbonise our energy system. We’re still seeking – sorry, we will seek legal advice as to what powers the commonwealth might have to take those assets off us.


It’s pretty incredible to think it wasn’t that long ago the LNP wanted to sell those assets to the private sector; now they want to nationalise them by taking them over by the Australian government. It’s very confusing to me. But what I want to be very, very clear about is we will use every tool we have to stop the LNP’s plans to build nuclear reactors here. David Crisafulli has not and will not make that same commitment.

JOURNALIST: Just back to the Mackay shooting, it’s the second fatal shooting in Queensland this month in circumstances where a licensed gun owner was accused, the other being at Albany Creek. How [indistinct] that gun laws are watertight?

PREMIER MILES: Look, as I’ve said, we will let the police do their job in Mackay. They did a good job of keeping Mackay locals safe, and I thank those Mackay locals who – I thank those Mackay locals for following police directions. I know there was lockdowns in parts of the city throughout the night. Let’s let them investigate the offender, let’s let them do their job, investigate, go to court. If there are wider police implications, we’ll be happy to consider them.

JOURNALIST: Premier, when can shoppers expect to see a benefit from the supermarket inquiry you commissioned?

PREMIER MILES: Well, one of the recommendations of the supermarket inquiry was to have a new commissioner whose job it is to support farmers through their negotiations with supermarkets and to provide greater price transparency – that’s both farmgate pricing as well as grocery store pricing. We are currently considering those recommendations, and I’ve said we’ll consider them favourably.