21 October 2022








LISA MILLAR, HOST: The Great Barrier Reef is set to get a further $200 million as part of a key election promise by the Albanese government.


MADELEINE MORRIS, HOST: So in total it has committed to spending $1.2 billion to protect, manage and restore the reef. Let’s speak to Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek, who joins us now from Brisbane ahead of a meeting with her state and territory environment ministers. Thanks for joining us this morning, Minister.




MORRIS: This is now $1.2 billion up until 2030. What are you going to spend it on?


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Well, our reef’s precious and it’s under pressure and we need to look after it. And so of course we need to tackle the big things that are putting the reef under pressure – climate change, so we’ve introduced our legislation to take us down to net zero carbon emissions and recently I introduced stronger laws on ozone protection.


But we also need to look at issues like water quality on the reef, commercial fisheries. We know that commercial fisheries are putting some pressure on the reef as well.


So we’re investing in better water quality by restoring river banks to stop the soil erosion, by investing in reeds and mangroves to stop the dirty water making it to the reef. Better water quality.


We’re investing in replanting seagrass meadows so our threatened species have somewhere to breed and to feed. We’re working with traditional owners in particular to tackle crown of thorns starfish. We’re investing more in the science. That means we’re even able to re-seed and replant parts of our reef with new corals. And, of course, we’re working with commercial fishers to keep non-target species out of their nets. We need to protect those dugongs, the turtles and other non-target species so that they’re not caught up in commercial fishing activities.


MORRIS: We’ve had huge amounts of money thrown at the reef over the years. I mean, the Coalition famously pledged $450 million to a reef foundation that didn’t actually ask for it in the first place. Why do we need to be spending this amount of money, and what happened to that money that the Coalition had pledged?


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Well, the money that was spent through the Reef Foundation was, in most cases, invested in other organisations and a lot of good work done by the Australian Institute of Marine Science, by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, by traditional owners, for example, on those crown of thorns starfish control measures has ended up, I think, protecting parts of the reef and restoring parts of the reef. So wherever that’s happened, we welcome that.


The process of handing over close to half a billion dollars to an organisation that didn’t ask for it, well, that’s another matter.


The reef is enormous. This is an area, you know, thousands of square kilometres, 64,000 jobs rely on the reef, more than $6 billion of economic activity every year. We need to protect it for nature, but we also need to protect it as a major economic contributor to the Queensland economy.


MORRIS: Can I just ask you about a couple of things which are in the news today – Medibank, first of all, Tanya Plibersek. There will be a lot of Australians watching today thinking, “Gosh, can I put my data anywhere with any organisation?” I mean, what would you say to them? Do we need a really major rethink of the data that we actually give over to organisations and the rules that govern that?


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Look, I think these cyber security breaches show how important it is to do whatever you can to protect your data online. And I think it’s a very strong message to businesses that they have a responsibility to protect the data of their customers.


We’ve obviously got the Australian Federal Police and cyber security experts working around the clock on this issue. And, of course, it’s for Medibank to communicate with their customers and let their customers know what steps they need to take if any, what data may have been breached, if any. But it’s, yeah, a very concerning time for people. I think it’s a very concerning time for people.


MORRIS: Another major political story that’s broken in the last 24 hours was the admission by Senator Lidia Thorpe that she had briefly been in a relationship with an ex-bikie boss. The opposition has gone so far to say that she should no longer be in parliament. What do you think?


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Well, I think she can date whoever she likes, but if there’s a conflict she has to declare that conflict. That’s the issue here. I’d say the Leader of the Greens should actually be explaining why it seems that people alerted his office to this conflict and no further action was taken. So I think it’s really up to Adam Bandt to explain why that’s occurred.


MORRIS: So you don’t see an issue with her staying in parliament?


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Look, I think we need to know – there needs to be more information before you would say something like that.


MORRIS: Okay, and just finally, the Bureau of Meteorology – the BOM, as we can now call it again – it spent $200,000 of taxpayers’ money doing a rebrand saying, “Please don’t call us the BOM, please just call us the Bureau, not the Weather Bureau,” you questioned the need for that at the time. They’ve now done a U-turn on that. It doesn’t seem like it was a great amount of taxpayers’ money to be spent. Will you be looking for a further explanation from them about how this came about?


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: I’ve already sought and received further information about the rebranding exercise and I’ll take my time to consider that. I think the challenge now is just to let the BOM, as I like to call them, get on with what they do best – which is give information to communities right now that are facing floods, give information to those communities so they can prepare themselves for extreme weather events.


And I should let you know that my colleague Murray Watt, the Minister responsible for these emergencies was down in Tassie the other day and farmers told him that they were very pleased with the service they’d got from the Bureau of Meteorology giving them early warnings so they could get their stock to higher grounds, reducing stock losses compared with floods that they’d had in the past. That’s what the BOM is all about. I think we should let them get on with that important work now.


MORRIS: Okay, Tanya Plibersek, Environment Minister, thanks for joining us.