E&OE TRANSCRIPT - GREAT BARRIER REEF DRAFT "IN DANGER" RECOMMENDATION / COVID DISASTER PAYMENTS / MORRISON'S VACCINE ROLLOUT SHAMBLES / MORRISON QUARANTINE FAILURES / LOCKDOWNS / STRANDED AUSTRALIANS / KATE HOPKINS

By Terri Butler MP

19 July 2021

KELLY HIGGINS-DEVINE, ABC RADIO BRISBANE DRIVE PRESENTER:  Terri Butler is the Federal Member for Griffith and the Shadow Minister for the Environment and Water. Terri, good afternoon. 

TERRI BUTLER, SHADOW MINISTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT AND WATER:
How are you?  Thanks for having me. 
 
HIGGINS-DEVINE:  Now, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee is pushing ahead with plans to classify the Great Barrier Reef as an “in danger” natural site. This is despite Australia's opposition to that. Do you think it's going to make a difference inviting a dozen ambassadors on a snorkelling trip to the reef ahead of this meeting?
 
BUTLER: Well, I think that the government is trying to do and they should be trying to do everything that they can to stop the reef from being listed as in danger. But they're rushing around at the last minute, because they've been ignoring all the warning signs. You know, we had a 2015 UNESCO decision, a 2017 UNESCO decision, a 2019 Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority report, a 2020 report from the body that advises UNESCO and of course, three different bleaching episodes in under five years, all of these should have been sending warning signals to the government for a very long time. 
 
But here they are rushing around the last minute trying to prevent this listing from being made, I want to see them do everything they possibly can to prevent the listing that at the same time, that doesn't let them off the hook for taking real action to protect the reef. So if they want to do this, they need to demonstrate to the international community that Australia will take real action and not just pay lip service.
 
HIGGINS-DEVINE: So what do you think's going to happen on Friday when the committee decides about the status of the Great Barrier Reef?
 
BUTLER:  Look, I think it's a really interesting question. The minister made a dash to Europe, it was a while ago, several days ago, to try to get to all of the ambassadors that she could who are on the UNESCO World Heritage Committee to talk to them about changing the proposed decision that they're been considering making. And I'm glad she did. I'm glad she went to Europe. I'm glad she's making personal representations to those ambassadors, because she needs to persuade them that they should take some further steps before considering this proposal to put the roof on the “in danger” list. 
 
Interestingly enough, Kelly, the draft determination that was distributed, said that there should be a mission to the reef, the Minister says there should be a mission to the reef. I think everyone's in furious agreement that there should be a formal mission to the reef, not just as a quick snorkelling trip. So hopefully, whatever happens this week on Friday, they'll at least based on the agreement about having people coming here and having a look at the reef properly. But that does not let the government off the hook in relation to having to demonstrate to the international community that they are going to take real action. 
 
You know, they've had this some the Reef 2050 plan update, they'd said that they were going to put it out early in 2021. And of course, I got all the way to the point where this draft decision was issued, and I still hadn't got it done. It doesn't send a very strong signal, I think to the international community that the government's taking this seriously enough, there's plenty of other things as well.
 
I think Australians just want to see a federal government that will stand up for the 64,000 odd jobs connected to the reef and most importantly, stand up for the reef itself, a global icon, something that we hold, really as custodians for future generations.
 
HIGGINS-DEVINE: And Queensland seeking a federal funding match for water quality projects ahead of the UNESCO decision includes matching Queensland's $2 billion commitment to create a new renewable energy and hydrogen jobs fund. No word yet from the Commonwealth on this, and what do you think should happen?
 
BUTLER: Look, I think that the Commonwealth should seriously consider the proposal being put by the Queensland Government. It's up to the two jurisdictions to work out. But you know, I think that the Queensland Government would say to you that what they're trying to do is demonstrate to the international community that they're heeding the warnings that have been sounded, especially when those warnings include strong acknowledgement by everyone, including, by the way, the Australian Government, that the greatest threat to the reef is climate change. So I think what needs to happen is the jurisdictions need to work together. And most importantly, Australians need to have confidence that the government is actually stepping up to take real action to protect the reef.
 
It's an iconic environmental asset. It's an incredibly important economic asset. And so what they need to do is just negotiate in good faith and take steps to demonstrate to the World Heritage Committee that actually this country will do everything it can to protect the Reef. 
 
HIGGINS-DEVINE: ABC Radio, Brisbane you with Kelly Higgins-Devine this afternoon. It's nearly twenty to five. You're hearing from Terri Butler, Federal Member for Griffith and the Shadow Minister for the Environment and Water, we’re catching up on federal politics and on Monday, it's Labor's turn we'll have the Liberal Party turned tomorrow afternoon. 
 
Now, Terri Butler last week the Prime Minister announced COVID disaster payments for Australian residents are those with an eligible work visa. You've got to be 17 years or older can't be receiving another income support payment must live or work in a Commonwealth declared hotspot that you had play paid employment and because of a lockdown you can't attend work during that lockdown. If you've lost income because of a lockdown don't have any COVID related paid leave entitlements. So why are you supportive of this given what's happening in Victoria and New South Wales?
 
BUTLER: Well, it's about time the government got their act together on this. I mean, everybody else has known for several days that the jurisdictions are in lockdown, extended lockdown, needed additional support, yet the government dragged its heels once again. And it's just typical of them, frankly. I mean, you know, Scott Morrison had two jobs this year, didn't he had to get the vaccine rollout happening properly, and he had to look after quarantine and he's completely botched both of those things. So I don't think it was a surprise to anyone that he was too slow on COVID support packages.
 
HIGGINS-DEVINE: Isn’t quarantine, even though the federal oversees it, isn't quarantine actually what the states have been doing? 
 
BUTLER: Well quarantine is a federal responsibility. It's squarely a federal responsibility. And it's really up to the Commonwealth to make sure that we have proper quarantine arrangements. 
 
And I think all of these buck passing attempts from the Commonwealth, people are pretty sick of them.  They know it's a Commonwealth responsibility. 
 
As I said, Scott Morrison had two jobs, vaccine rollout and quarantine. And by just passing the buck dragging his heels and just not really being willing to front up and take responsibility. He's actually done a great disservice to the Australian people. 
 
And what have we seen 26 different leaks out of hotel quarantine, major states in lockdown, our own lockdown, obviously, quite recently of great concern to Queenslanders and then we've got to our colleagues and our friends and our family in southern states who have been locked down for extended periods.
 
I mean, this is really a significant mess. And I think people are rightly saying to the federal government when you're going to step up and take responsibility, at least for the things that are your responsibility, but more importantly, for leading the nation, taking real action and you know, this is a serious matter. 
 
Here we are 18 months into a pandemic. And people worried about the vaccine situation. We've got a very low proportion of the population vaccinated. We're coming dead last in the developed world in relation to the vaccine rollout. And we've got a federal government that does like to hide behind other jurisdictions when it comes to quarantine as well.
 
HIGGINS-DEVINE: Yeah, we got another million Pfizer doses today. 800,000 of those going to New South Wales. So be interesting to see how fast they actually get into arms.
 
BUTLER: We need jabs into arms. But really, if the government have done what they were meant to do, really this time last year, which is to secure multiple vaccine deals, you know, best practice is somewhere between four and six vaccine deals. They should have done that and because they didn't, here we are now paying the price as a country. And attempts to avoid that responsibility, I think people have got every right to be pretty annoyed about.
 
HIGGINS-DEVINE: Now what I would call good news, far right commentator Katie Hopkins is being deported from Australia, after her controversial quarantine statement. So, I mean, it's one thing to say that lockdowns are a hoax, to say that you're then you know in quarantine but opening the door as soon as you know the poor hotel worker knocks, nude also, you know, I'm not sure which would be more shocking to them, quite frankly. But you know, it's just, I don't get it, Terri Butler, you know, so many Aussies, wanting to come home and we let her in. Like, really?
 
BUTLER: Exactly, we let her jump the queue, tens of thousands of Australian stranded overseas, we let this woman jump the queue so she can what?  Come over here, disrespect Australian frontline workers and disrespect Australia's performance in managing the pandemic. 
 
I mean, it's just outrageous. And you know, the government. I'm glad that they've announced that they're going to deport this woman or she may already be gone. I don't know. 
 
But why do they let her in in the first place? And in fact, the Minister received specific advice about her powers in relation to controversial visitors so she knew she had the power to stop them from coming in. And yet this woman who is a known provocateur who is a known troublemaker, I don't know if I can put it more bluntly. I don't know if I'm allowed to say swear words on your radio show?
 
HIGGINS-DEVINE: Probably not.

BUTLER:  But she's a shit-stirrer and she comes over here, she takes a spot that really should have gone to an Australian and then disrespects everyone, I just think it was gross.
 
HIGGINS-DEVINE: Yeah, I have a little personal theory that she just wanted to go home but she got a bit homesick already was just like 14 days she just got in there went nah I’m not doing this. What gets me out? And that kind of nonsense.
 
BUTLER: It's nonsense. But what about the poor people who are just trying to do their job turn up the risks that frontline service workers take every single day. Look after people when they're in quarantine and she's got to treat them like that. I mean, it's just disgusting.
 
HIGGINS-DEVINE: Exactly. So good-bye Katie and yeah, let that door hit your butt on the way out. None of us care. Terri Butler, good having a chat with you. As I say we've Liberal Party's turn tomorrow afternoon. Thank you so much.
 
BUTLER: So lovely to talk to you. See you later. 
 
HIGGINS-DEVINE: Terri Butler, Federal Member for Griffith and the Shadow Minister for the Environment and Water.  
 
ENDS