JULIE BISHOP:           Friends of the Great Barrier Reef, all. I am delighted to be here in Cairns with my parliamentary colleagues Minister Josh Frydenberg, Assistant Minister Melissa Price and Senator Amanda Stoker. Today the Turnbull Government is announcing the single largest funding boost to reef restoration and protection of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia’s history - $500 million, half a billion dollars, will be invested in safeguarding the environmental and economic and social and cultural value of the reef and for reef restoration.

The Great Barrier Reef is not only an Australian asset, it is a global living treasure. It is listed on World Heritage sites and Australia is the custodian of this magnificent coral reef. This additional half a billion dollars will be invested in ensuring that the water quality here can improve, ensuring that we can tackle the coral-eating crown of thorn starfish and that the Great Barrier Reef can be more resistant, more resilient when it comes to heat stress.

The Great Barrier Reef is the size of Italy or Japan and it a very important environmental ecosystem, but it is also very important to Australia because in addition to its environmental value it supports 64,000 jobs. It provides $6.4 billion into local and national economies and 2 million tourists across Australia and around the world visit the Great Barrier Reef each year.

Our plan to invest more in protecting the reef, in addition to the Reef 2050 plan, $2 billion invested under that, is to protect the reef for future generations. This year is the International Year of Reefs and Australia is playing a global role in protecting, restoring, maintaining coral reefs. We are a founding partner of the International Coral Reef Initiative which is designed to share best practice around the world and in 2018-20 Australia will co-chair the International Coral Reef Initiative.

Recently I announced a $5 million coral reef innovation facility whereby our innovation hub within the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade will call for ideas from around the world to protect and implement adaptation practices for coral reefs. The best ideas will be incubated, they will be trialled and piloted and then scaled-up and shared around the world.

At the recent Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in London 53 leaders including Prime Minister Turnbull, committed to a Blue Charter on Ocean Governance. This focuses on the challenges to our oceans: pollution, climate change, overfishing. As a signatory to that Blue Charter, Australia will spearhead an effort to focus on the protection of coral reefs amongst Commonwealth countries in the Indo-Pacific, in the Caribbean. The fact is, around the world there are concerns about our Great Barrier Reef and last year I brought 75 Ambassadors and High Commissioners from our overseas posts present in Canberra up here to Cairns to show them the work we are doing to protect our Great Barrier Reef and they were astonished to see how resilient our reef really is.

Ladies and gentlemen I now pass over to my friend and colleague, Minister Josh Frydenberg, to talk about how with government funding and private partnerships we can all play a role in protecting our reef.

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