Mr ENTSCH: My question is to the outstanding Minister for the Environment. Will the minister update the House on the World Heritage listing—
Opposition members interjecting—
Mr ENTSCH: Can I ask that question again, Madam Speaker?
The SPEAKER: There will be silence—and that includes the member for Chifley. The member for Leichhardt has the call to ask a straightforward question.
Mr ENTSCH: My question is to the outstanding Minister for the Environment. Will the minister update the House on the World Heritage listing of the Great Barrier Reef?
Mr Greg HUNT, Minister for the Environment: I am delighted to receive a question from the outstanding member for Leichhardt. And he is an outstanding member for Leichhardt. He is not just one of the great champions of the Great Barrier Reef, but he was also the driving force for and the architect and the author of the plan to protect dugongs and turtles. So he is a real, practical environmentalist.
He asked about the Great Barrier Reef. I have to say this: in 2011, the World Heritage Committee put the Great Barrier Reef on the watch list for being endangered. In 2012, it was still on the watch list. In 2013, it was still on the watch list. And in 2014, the World Heritage Committee cited improvement but said there was more to be done.
I can report to the House, and I am delighted, that, on Friday night, the World Heritage Centre of UNESCO recommended to the World Heritage Committee that the Great Barrier Reef be removed from the watch list, that it not be declared in danger, and that it specifically praised Australia for its actions in reef management. What did this decision say? It made no reference to 'in danger'. It made no reference to 'watch list'. It made no reference to 'probation'. It specifically praised Australia and the Australian government, as well as the work of successive Queensland governments in improving the health and the prospects of the Great Barrier Reef.
This is a tremendous result for Australia. After five years of uncertainty, we now have certainty. We have a long-term future for the tourism industry. We have an important recognition of the role of Indigenous people and of the investment that communities and governments throughout Australia and up and down the reef are making with regard to water quality, with regard to eradication of the crown of thorns, and, in particular, the recognition that the decision we took as a government to end the dumping of dredge disposal in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park was a once-in-a-century decision.
Against that background, this is not a moment to be critical of the opposition. I appreciate the fact that they did not run interference on this. I acknowledge the fact that successive Queensland governments played an important role. But, when it comes down to it, what the World Heritage Centre has recommended to the World Heritage Committee is very simple: no 'in danger' listing; a return to the ordinary reporting cycle of five years; and, above all else, praise for Australia's actions in establishing a 2050 long-term plan, in establishing an additional $200 million between Queensland and the Commonwealth for water quality, and ending the practice of dredge disposal in the marine park forever.