Speech at the Australian Institute of Marine Science

22 Jan 2018
Cape Cleveland, Queensland
Prime Minister


Well thanks Paul. Well Paul, thank you very much, thank you Penny, thank you Russell.

Can I just say how appropriate it is, how wonderful it is to be here at the Australian Institute of Marine Science, because science is at the heart of everything we are doing about the Great Barrier Reef. Science is at the heart of the solutions to all of the great challenges we face.

We’re talking - focusing very much on the challenges that climate change poses to the Reef.

Now Josh Frydenberg, the Minister for Environment and Energy, his Assistant Minister Melissa Price is here. Everything Josh does, whether it’s on the energy front - ably assisted by Alan Finkel, the Chief Scientist, who’s also here - or on the environmental front, everything is about science.

So it is great that we have here, Michaelia Cash, the Minister for Jobs and Innovation, the Cabinet Minister with the principal portfolio responsibility for science.

But you know what? We are all committed to science. Great science, which we’re seeing here today and I want to thank you Paul and thank you David Mead – where is David? – for taking us through on a great tour through the laboratories, talking to your researchers there. Line Bay’s work on evolution, you’re enhancing the evolution of corals to find those corals that are more resilient in warmer temperatures. Vital work and just seeing all of those tanks there and I know you’ve employed a few fish to keep them clean, that’s very good as well. But great work, great scientific work and you can see in the eyes of the young researchers you have there, how enthusiastic they are. So Paul, you’ve come to be head of a really exciting scientific organisation.

Now let me say too, that we’re at the heart of the Reef, Russell said it’s the centre. But you’ve got no more committed, persistent and persuasive advocate for the Great Barrier Reef than Senator Ian Macdonald - who of course is here, based in Townsville and over so many years has ensured that there is a strong local voice to support continuing federal government investment in the research and the management in all of the work that ensures that the Great Barrier Reef remains regarded by the authorities in the world, the UN agencies, as the best-managed coral reef in the world.

Now however, there are very big challenges that are faced and it is vital that we deal with them.

This is the largest living creature, organism in the world, the Great Barrier Reef. It is extraordinary and it is under challenge. But it is resilient. There is a lot of doom-saying about the Great Barrier Reef. It’s really important that we take up this challenge positively, recognising that just as we have with so many other areas, technology and science will provide the answers. You need great scientists to do that, and of course you need the resources to support them.

The Reef supports 64,000 jobs. 64,000 jobs, $6.4 billion economy, of course it’s priceless you can’t measure it in dollars, but nonetheless, we shouldn’t be blind to the fact that this is a massive environmental asset and a massive economic asset.

So what we are doing today is announcing the bringing forward over the next 18 months of nearly, just under $60 million of new funding. $6 million of that is going into the type of research we’re seeing today, and we’ll hear about that further from AIMS and from the CSIRO and from Alan Finkel - the type of cutting edge research that is going to be critical for the Reef’s continued help into the future.

Another $10 million is going into the Crown of Thorns Starfish Eradication Program, we’re substantially increasing the culling program. I know there’s been some criticism of that, but David we were talking about this as we went through – in fact inspected some of the Crown of Thorns Starfish that you have in a tank, and Colin we talked about it last night – and the great work that you’re doing and how important that culling is. And again good example of science, the use of bile salts – single shot destruction of those Crown of Thorns Starfish, making the work so much more efficient.

Of course there’s over $36 million going to support the number of programs that we have here to prevent run-off into the Reef. In particular run-off of nitrogen and other new, other fertilisers and other nutrients into the Reef, which as I was discussing with Penny Wensley as we walked through here, that creates the environment which is so damaging to the Reef’s health, but of course it also creates the environment that encourages the Crown of Thorns Starfish.

So all up, this is just under $60 million. It is an example of my government’s commitment to the health of the Reef. The health of the Reef and our commitment to science. Absolutely critical, the solutions for these challenges we face; whether it is in mitigating climate change, reducing emissions, dealing with the challenges on the Reef today, all of them are well informed by great science.

We’re honoured to be here, my parliamentary colleagues and I in the presence of so many great scientists. You can’t have great science without great scientists, and we’re glad to be able to provide the additional financial resources to see that you do even more outstanding work over the next 18 months and of course for many years and decades to come.

Thank you very much, it’s great to be here.