28 January 2022

Anika Wells MP on 4BC with Scott Emerson


SUBJECTS: Great Barrier Reef, campaigning during Omicron outbreak                                                     

SCOTT EMERSON, HOST: We saw the big announcement today. Scott Morrison and the Environment Minister Sussan Ley were up in Cairns. $1 billion for the Great Barrier Reef. That’s $1 billion spread over 9 years. Look, there is a federal election on this year. $1 billion coming just before the election. There isa seat up there, Leichardt, which is where the announcement was made. That’s also seen as a seat being targeted by Labor. Is this election pork barrelling before the polls open in May?

ANIKA WELLS, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR LILLEY:  I think it's a bit of election desperation. I think you're right. Because it's the photo-op, and not the follow up, yet again. The Morrison Government’s been in office for eight years. They've had plenty of time to fund all of the initiatives required for the Great Barrier Reef and they haven't done it, to the point where UNESCO last year wanted to put it as an endangered listing under the World Heritage List. They've been fighting tooth and nail, not to stop all of the environmental elements that comprise that listing, but it being classified as that,because they're all about the spin and not the substance. So, bit of a hustle today, like you said.

EMERSON: Julian, $1 billion, Scott Morrison said it’s the single biggest investment into the Great Barrier Reef,but as I said it's come towards the end of election, it was announced in Cairns where Leichardt is seen as a seat that’s being targeted by Labor.

JULIAN SIMMONDS, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR RYAN: Well, I do think we’re all too young and good looking to be this cynical, I reckon. We've already put $2 billion into the reef for the management plan to 2050. So this is another billion on top of that. I don't think people can doubt our long-term commitment to it. I would argue with the point that Anika made that somehow you know, we could have funded all the initiatives for the reef by now. This is ongoing management, right. So they’ve removed hundreds of 1000s of Crown of Thorns starfish, they’ve worked with farmers on land management practices, they’ve worked with traditional owners, they’ve worked with marine scientists, and we want to see a continuation of that. When it comes to UNESCO, I think the Environment Minister has got the right approach. She's invited them down to see for themselves because I just don't think they understand the amount of work that's going into protect the reef. It's important for people in my electorate, it’s important for the livelihoods [of the people] who rely on it from a tourism perspective. 

EMERSON: You mentioned your electorate there. Do you think those who are concerned about those kinds of issues in your electorate, or in Leichhardt or say, Trevor Evans’ seat in Brisbane, well surely they’re going to welcome this announcement? That's why I say, well, it's in in the lead up to an election. A big announcement. $1 billion going to the reef. That's not going to harm you in terms of getting those environmentally concerned voters out there, is it?

SIMMONDS: Of course, people in my electorate and in the electorate of Brisbane, and right around the nation value protecting and preserving our beautiful natural wonders, especially the Great Barrier Reef, one of the greatest in the world. So, you know, we've demonstrated with the $2 billion that we've already put in, and the billion that we've announced today, that we are dedicated to preserving this in conjunction with experts by the way. I don't pretend to be an expert in removing Crown of Thorns starfish. So this money is going to go to the coalface of marine researchers who are actually doing this work with robots and all the rest on the Great Barrier Reef and that's where it's needed. And it's going to ensure that this is there for generations to come so that my kids can enjoy it as I have. 

EMERSON: Anika Wells, look, you're in a marginal seat. The margin is 0.6%, which doesn't it make it the most marginal seat in Queensland?

WELLS: It is, it’s 1,229 votes Scott.

EMERSON: Well, you say this is a bit of a con job by the Coalition in terms of a billion dollars to the Great Barrier Reef, but I can see the ads going up saying to supporters in your area who say they're concerned about the environment, and the Morrison Governmentputting up a campaign saying we've just put $1 billion towards reef. Isn’t that going to be a convincingargument for them?

WELLS: Totally unconvincing Scott, because people haven't forgotten that the billion-dollar investment Julian was talking about, $440 million of that went to one charity in a backroom deal without a tender even going out. Remember that?

SIMMONDS: Well, they’ve removed hundreds of thousands of Crowns of Thorns starfish, they've done tremendous work if you had a look at some of the great things they’re achieving.

WELLS: No one would agree, Julian, that spending $440 million of taxpayer’s money without so much as a tender, giving it to one charity who didn't even know it was coming…do you remember this debacle? And this is what they're holding up to say that in 10 years, 50% of their genuine investment and commitment to the reef, please. No one believes it... 

SIMMONDS: I think before you belittle the work of the scientists you should really go and see how much they are doing to improve the reef. The way that they're improving, you know, removing the starfish over hundreds of reefs, hundreds of 1000s of them. And the benefit of that is that that is having, you shouldn't belittle these people that are working their guts out on the reef.

WELLS: I am not Julian, and I think those same scientists would say that if you actually want to save the reef you would need meaningful action on climate change, and we all know at this point, the Morrison government is refusing to do that. 

EMERSON: Well, look alright, we'll leave that one there for now. Just briefly, Anika I mentioned your electorate has 0.6% margin, the most marginal seat in Queensland. Over the weekend, I think I did drivethrough your electorate, and I might have seen somecorflutes out there and people on the corners.Obviously, you’ve put your troops out already campaigning. 

WELLS: That wasn't us. We don't have the usual door knocking and mobile offices happening at the moment because of the Omicron surge. We want to keep everybody safe. But I have been doing business as usual. I’ve been trying to help people hunt down RATkits with my Lilley RAT run, and I went to five Australia Day events on Wednesday. Today I've been driving mycampaign ute-ful of TimTams around to thank people who've been nominating their neighbours for what they’ve done during the surge. I'm drafting the Lilley Budget Submission because Julian and I are off to Parliament in a fortnight. I would say the campaigning is stalled, but I'm still full steam ahead as the local member.

EMERSON: Julian Simmons, your margin is a little bit safer than Anika’s with 6%, but I have seen reports suggesting that Labor might be targeting your seat as well on issues like climate change and accusations that the Morrison Government hasn't done enough on the environment. What about your campaign? Have you got people out there on the roundabout Indooroopilly?

SIMMONDS: It is very unkind the way that you keep reminding us all of our margins. It’s like talking to people about their weight or their age. 

EMERSON: But I think you'd be happier having 6% and 0.6%,

SIMMONDS: Sure, sure, sure. But nobody ever feels like their margin is enough so I'm out there campaigning. I'm certainly not door knocking. Nobody wants people going door to door, but you know, I'm certainly going to community events that are still on and I'm on the roadside trying to connect with people for those who are happy to come up and talk to me. So absolutely,engaging with the most number of people in the shortest period of time. It's what's all about the point.

EMERSON: Julian, are people a little bit reluctant,dismissive or even angry if they see you out there campaigning at the moment with COVID? Is that a problem at the moment? 

SIMMONDS: My experience is certainly they're a bit you know, the don’t like the idea of you going from door to door to door, but certainly I can do things like being inshopping centres, and being on the roadside with my mask, or outdoors. I’m there for people to come up if they feel comfortable doing it. if they want to keep the mask on and talk to me over the phone or via email, they can choose to do that as well. I just want to make sure I'm available to people as much as possible.

EMERSON: Well, Julian Simmons and Anika Wells,next week I won’t mention your ages or your margins, but thanks for being on the show today. 

WELLS: I think I’m more comfortable with my age than my margin.

EMERSON: Haha! Alright Anika, see you next week, and you as well, Julian.

SIMMONDS: See you soon.

WELLS: Have a good one.