Julie Bishop Great Barrier Reef – Barack Obama
Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop has taken a highly unusual swipe at US President Barack Obama over his comments about the future of the Great Barrier Reef.
Ms Bishop, in New York for a meeting of the United Nations Security Council, said there was “an issue” with Mr Obama’s remarks during a speech at the University of Queensland last weekend as part of the G20 summit.
Mr Obama told the audience the “incredible natural glory of the Great Barrier Reef is threatened” because of global warming and said he wanted to be able to return to Australia with his daughters when he had more time.
“I think that President Obama might have overlooked that aspect of our commitment to conserving the Great Barrier Reef,” she told the ABC’s 7.30 on Thursday.
“There was an issue regarding his statement about the Great Barrier Reef, and I can understand the Queensland government’s concern because we have committed significant resources to preserve and conserve the reef.
“We have demonstrated world’s best practice … to ensure the Great Barrier Reef is preserved for generations to come.”
Ms Bishop denied suggestions that Australia and the US had taken widely different approaches to climate change, saying Mr Obama had not introduced a carbon tax such as the one that the Australian government had repealed earlier this year.
Speaking further on the issue in a series of interviews from New York on Friday, Ms Bishop said her office had sent a briefing to the White House detailing Australia’s efforts to protect the reef following the President’s speech.
Asked if this constituted a “diplomatic shirtfront”, she told Sky: “No, what I was doing was trying to ensure the White House was briefed on the information that I had to provided to the United States Secretary of the Interior [Sally Jewell] just days before.”
Ms Bishop denied she was embarrassed by the speech.
“I just felt that the briefing that we had provided to the US Secretary of the Interior was not reflected in President Obama’s speech, and I thought it was important that he actually had the facts and the detail of what we are doing to support the preservation and conservation of the Great Barrier Reef,” she told the ABC.
Treasurer Joe Hockey also appeared to criticise Mr Obama’s reef speech by suggesting the President “hasn’t had great success” so far with his own plans to cut carbon emissions.
Australia is awaiting a determination by the United Nations World Heritage Committee on granting the reef status of being “in danger”. It has been deferred until next year.
The reef’s sustainability plan, drafted by the federal and Queensland governments, has been attacked by the Australian Academy of Science – the country’s leading scientific academy – which said the plan failed to acknowledge how the reef had already suffered extensively from the effects of climate change.
UNESCO is also concerned about the effects on the reef of the rapid industrialisation of Queensland’s coastline.
Critics say the sustainability plan should also have ruled out further dumping of dredge waste.