UWA In The Zone conference

  • Speech, check against delivery

Thankyou Dawn for the introduction and thank you Richard Walley for your beautifulwelcome to country.

Iacknowledge the Hon Kim Beazley, his wife Suzie, Dr Han Seung-Soo – the former Prime Ministerof South Korea and your Excellency I look forward to seeing you in South Korea in about 10days' time for further dialogue on the Korean Peninsula crisis, thank you forbeing here today. Other parliamentary colleagues Senator Linda Reynolds, I knowSenator Wong will be here later and of course Premier Mark McGowan, specialguests, all. It is a pleasure to welcome the thalassophiles here today, those who love our ocean, speakers and delegates from Australia and abroad,to Perth my home town, and Australia's Indian Ocean capital city.

Icongratulate the Perth USAsia Centre and Professor Gordon Flake for this eventand as Dawn said, since 2009, the University of Western Australia's 'In theZone' conference has played an essential role in attracting the best minds fromacross the Indo-Pacific region to develop innovative and creative approaches tochallenges and opportunities in our region.

Thisyear the conference is turning its focus to the Blue Zone – the vast potentialof our oceans and marine environments.

Let'sput this in context. This year alone, the Blue Economy, that is our use of theseas and oceans for sustainable economic development, is estimated tocontribute up to 3 per cent to the world's gross domestic product – or around 3trillion dollars. It provides a primary source of protein to 13 per cent of theglobal population. It directly employs about 350 million people in fishing, aquaculture,tourism, research and the like.

Australiais undoubtedly a maritime nation: the largest island in the world, a continentin fact, with over 80 per cent of our population living within 50 kilometres ofour vast coastline. Our Exclusive Economic Zone – our EEZ – is the thirdlargest in the world, spanning three oceans. From the Salmon farms of Tasmaniato the lustrous pearls of Broome and the massive offshore oil and gas rigs toour North West – maritime industries contribute almost five per cent to Australia'sannual GDP.

By2025, with continued strong growth in aquaculture and offshore exploration inparticular, the economic contribution of Australia's marine industries isforecast to grow to around $100 billion a year. This is double the growth rateof the broader economy.

Australiaalready has the largest network of marine protected areas in the world –stretching from our tropical north to the Southern Ocean. However, our oceansand those across the globe, are under immense pressure, facing threats fromover fishing, from climate change, from pollution. For too long the world'soceans have been harvested unsustainably and the fragility of the ecosystemsignored. The oceans are global public goods that demand global cooperation andaction. More than ever its imperative that we work together to promote thesustainable use of ocean resources.

Australiais taking a leadership role in the global response to managing the world'soceans. In fact I took the opportunity during the UN General Assembly leadersweek in New York just 10 days ago to speak at the United Nations SecretaryGeneral's launch of a Climate Advocacy Leaders Group about our work onsustaining oceans and coral reefs in particular.

TheUnited Nations Sustainable Development Goal 14 – known as the 'oceans goal'provides a focal point for global cooperation on oceans. Australia was key tothe United Nations decision to include Oceans as a stand-alone SustainableDevelopment Goal, which commits United Nations members to conserve andsustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources.

TheUN Convention on the Law of the Sea, or UNCLOS, provides the underlyingframework for cooperation across sea borders. As states parties reaffirm everyyear in the 'Oceans and Law of the Sea' resolution in the UN General Assembly,'the Convention sets out the legal framework within which all activities in theoceans and seas must be carried out'.

Althoughits implementation is ongoing, UNCLOS provides us with a place to startbuilding legal frameworks for ocean and sea activities. UNCLOS compelscountries to cooperate to conserve the living resources of the high seas and toprotect and preserve the marine environment. It also guarantees navigation rights, which are vital to Australia'sinterests, as an export-orientated trading nation.

The1995 Fish Stocks Agreement – an implementing agreement under UNCLOS – sought torespond to the challenges of managing migratory fish stocks.

Thiswork continues today - Australia strongly supports efforts to develop anagreement under UNCLOS to address the conservation and sustainable use ofmarine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction.

Australiahas been one of the primary drivers of efforts to address this challenge fromthe very beginning. We are now working in partnership with our Pacificneighbours to help them implement UNCLOS – principally as it relates tomaritime boundary delimitation.

Ofcourse, there's been an UNCLOS arbitration over the South China Sea whichclarified what gives rise to maritime rights and Australia and Timor-Leste haverecently successfully completed and UNCLOS conciliation over maritimeboundaries.

Bythe end of this year, it's our hope that at least two-thirds of Pacific IslandCountries will have concluded negotiations for their maritime boundaries –giving them the certainty of access and security that is so fundamental torecognising the potential of the Blue Economy.

Eachyear, illegal fishing takes almost $600 million from our region, threateninglivelihoods in vulnerable economies right on our doorstep. Providing thesecurity of jurisdiction helps ensure these economic stocks can be sustainably usedfor generations to come.

Toour west, we are working in close partnership with our neighbours in the IndianOcean Rim Association - IORA. It was first formed in 1997 to foster regionaleconomic cooperation. IORA now has 21 member states and it has evolved into apeak regional group at ministerial level that covers Indian Ocean issues. Ihosted the IORA ministerial meeting in Perth in 2013 and at that time wecommitted to the first ever ministerial declaration to conserving andsustainably using the Indian Ocean and its resources known as the Perth Principles.

DuringAustralia's term chairing IORA from 2013 to 2015 I also introduced the Blue Economyas a cross-cutting IORA priority. IORA members have overwhelmingly embraced theblue economy as the central focus for our collective effort. In 2015 and 2017,IORA held ministerial blue economy conferences to guide priorities and decisions.

TheBlue Economy is now a critical component of our Action Plan for the next fouryears, endorsed at the IORA Leaders' Summit in March. By the way, themembership of IORA comprises countries who's shores touch the Indian Ocean. It'sa very diverse group including Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Mauritius,Madagascar, Kenya, South Africa, Iran, Oman, the UAE, Yemen. It makes for verychallenging dialogue given the diversity of our outlooks on so many issues butI can tell you there is significant consensus when it comes to the sustainableuse of the Indian Ocean.

Forour part, Australia has invested over $4 million since 2014 in activities thatcontribute directly to blue economy growth, trade and investment in the IndianOcean region.

Forexample, in 2015 and 2016, we have worked with India, Indonesia, Malaysia andSri Lanka to enhance the skills, mobility and productivity of port workers inthe Indian Ocean region. To achieve this, we worked together to develop acommon set of occupational standards for specific jobs in the ports sector.This work paves the way for minimum region-wide standards.

Throughour founding membership of IORA we are continually looking ahead at new andemerging challenges for the Indian Ocean region as well as tackling theexisting ones. Climate change threatens the sustainable economic growth ofmarine resources.

Ouroceans are a significant long-term sink for atmospheric carbon dioxide and playan important role in controlling the rate at which carbon dioxide is increasingin the atmosphere. Blue carbon ecosystems, mangroves, tidal marshes andsea-grasses, contain more sequestered carbon per square metre than almost anyother ecosystem.

Theinverse is also true, as ocean health will rely on our capacity to mitigate theeffects of climate change.

Coralreefs are a key early warning signal, a key one, of the impacts of climate change.Australia is the custodian of the largest coral reef structure in the world,the Great Barrier Reef; it's about the size of Germany, or Italy, just off thecoast of Queensland. We are committed to preserving and conserving andmaintaining our Reef to the highest possible standard, indeed, world leadingbest practice and we're investing to build the resistance of the Reef tosafeguard its environmental, social, cultural and economic value. The Reefalone supports about 64,000 full time jobs and generates nearly $6.5 billion,mainly in tourism dollars.

Thecoral reef, the Great Barrier Reef, is under stress. In fact over the pastthree years, three quarters of the 29 World Heritage reefs globally have beensubjected to the severe and, repeated heat stress that causes mass coralbleaching. I invited the foreign diplomats based in Canberra, our Ambassadorsfrom countries overseas, to visit the reef earlier this year to inspect it andto enable me to demonstrate how Australia is playing its part in the collectiveglobal effort to protect coral reefs and combat climate change effects.

Overall,we are reducing emissions while ensuring sustained economic growth. Australiaindeed met and exceeded our emissions reduction commitments under the firstKyoto Climate Change Agreement, and we are on track to do the same for our 2020commitments.

Again,at UN General Assembly Leaders Week I attended the Major Economies event. Itwas hosted by the United States by Senior Economic Advisor Gary Cohn and thefocus was on climate change. I spoke about our commitment to reducing our shareof global emissions while we pursue an affordable and reliable energy securitypolicy at home.

OurParis Agreement commitments are ambitious, effectively representing a halvingof emissions per person in Australia or a two-thirds reduction per unit of GDP.

We'vea suite of policies in place to support our commitments, such as the EmissionsReduction Fund, which is driving abatement across the Australian economy.

BlueCarbon as an umbrella term means bringing together the vast carbon reservescaptured in the world's oceans and coastal ecosystems.

Australiais a leader in Blue Carbon management – including, for the first time thisyear, mangroves and tidal marshes in our National Greenhouse Gas Inventory.

WithIndonesia we were a founding member, of the International Blue CarbonPartnership and this initiative aims to protect coastal Blue Carbon ecosystemsby raising awareness, sharing best practice knowledge and stepping up practicalconservation action.

Infact we established this partnership during the Paris Climate Change Conferencein 2015 and it provides a vehicle for us to come together as a region and givevoice to the ambitions expressed in the Paris agreement.

Buildingon this work, I'm very happy to announce today that the Australian Governmentwill provide our peak scientific body –CSIRO – with almost half a milliondollars to take forward Blue Carbon initiatives in the Indian Ocean region. As part of this program the CSIRO will convenea Blue Carbon symposium right here in Perth to bring together the best minds toshare perspectives and agree forward priorities relevant to the Indian Oceanand will build on the work of this In the Zone conference.

Thework will be complemented by Australia Awards Fellowships, our program, andwe'll be focussing on IORA members, the CSIRO is running these fellowships to buildcapacity on managing the Blue Economy, with a particular focus on Blue Carbonwe will support 11 fellows from Madagascar, Seychelles and Mauritius with theirresearch.

Avery strong foundation of Blue Carbon science exists and many IORA member stateresearch institutions have contributed to this work. Bringing these groups together, andestablishing the professional networks that drive progress, is, I think, themissing link to scale up protection and restoration efforts.

Ofcourse many of the leaders in this field are already assembled right here inPerth, at the Indian Ocean Marine Research Centre at the University of WesternAustralia. This centre brings together four of Australia's leading researchorganisations working in and around the Indian Ocean - the Australian Instituteof Marine Science, the CSIRO, the University of Western Australia's OceansInstitute and the Western Australian Department of Primary Industries andRegional Development.

Thesesort of practical partnerships are essential to managing the opportunities ofthe Blue Economy.

Innovationis at the core of these efforts. For example, to help us understand and managethe response of coral reefs to a changing climate, a consortium of Australianorganisations, including the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, AustralianInstitute of Marine Science, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority andothers has undertaken a world-first. It has sequenced an entire coral genome,including the coral animal and its associated symbiotic organisms. An entirelynew species of coral was discovered through the process which has been fundedby the Australian and Queensland governments and Rio Tinto.

Thisproject has also developed a new method of sequencing coral genomes, fasttracking the process exponentially and setting the path for more corals aroundthe world to be sequenced.

CSIRO,in partnership with the Great Barrier Reef Foundation and Rio Tinto hasestablished the first large-scale observing system for ocean acidification on the GreatBarrier Reef. This system is monitoring ocean chemistry along the entire lengthof the Reef, some 2300 kilometres, for the very first time. It is providingimportant insights into patterns that occur along the Reef and the effects ofevents such as flooding and recent bleaching events.

CSIROhas also been instrumental in the development of the first and largest waterinformation system of its kind in the world, we call it 'e-Reefs', which hasbeen developed through a $32 million partnership between CSIRO, Great BarrierReef Foundation, Bureau of Meteorology, Australian Institute of Marine Scienceand the Queensland Government.

Sothis is another great example of the public and private sectors workingtogether in partnership for the common good as this e-Reefs was supported byfunding from the Australian and Queensland governments, BHP Billiton MitsubishiAlliance and from the Science Industry Endowment Fun – this was a fundestablished back in 1926 it is a mechanism for endowments for scientificresearch.

Applyinginnovations in remote sensing, e-Reefs is transforming management of the GreatBarrier Reef and laying the foundations for future coastal information systemsacross Australia.

Importantly,these are innovations addressing challenges common not just to Australia'scoral reefs, and that of course includes Ningaloo Reef here in WesternAustralia, but to reefs around the world and I can't emphasise enough coralreefs are critically important ecosystems.

Theysupport 25% of all marine life and some estimate that they have a global valueof $10 trillion based on their contribution to tourism, food security,recreation and protection from storms and they do sequest at four times thecarbon that our forests do.

Todrive international action on the threats facing the world's coral reefs, I am establishinga Coral Reef Innovation Facility. This $5 million Facility will help find,incubate, and accelerate solutions to coral reef management challenges commonto developing countries. It will seek to harness the deep Australian expertiseon coral reefs that is driving the innovations I have mentioned today.

Wewill also commit $2 million to improve sharing of knowledge, experience andinnovation between countries though the International Coral Reef Initiative, whichwe helped establish more than two decades ago.

In2015 I established within the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade an ideashub, we call it the innovationXchange. We bring together public and privatethinkers, innovators from across Australia, from around the world, entrepreneurs.We give them a development challenge and they come up with the best, mostefficient solutions that we can then test, pilot, scale up for our aid program.The InnovationXchange has already convened a global challenge on how to rethinkaquaculture to help discover solutions for sustainable development, andenvironmental sustainability. The Australian Government committed $3 milliondollars to pilot or scale up the answers and the ideas that have come forwardfrom around the globe could be game-changers.

I'mdelighted that two of the Blue Economy Challenge winners are present today:Bonnie Hobbs, from EnerGaia; and Sharon Suri, from WorldFish.

EnerGaia has devised an ingenious method of farmingSpirulina, a protein rich seaweed, in virtually any free space. Their methodinvolves modular, one meter tall containers which can be set up on an urbanrooftop, as the team has done on top of the Novotel in Bangkok, or in a systemof 1,000 containers at their pilot site in Madurai, India. With support from innovationXchangethey are taking this technology to communities throughout the Indo Pacific.

Thepartnership between WorldFish and CSIRO is another great example of innovationat work in the Blue Economy. An aquafeed made from plant wastes – developed by CSIRO– is being made available to small holder farmers in the WorldFish networkacross the Indo Pacific. This is bringing commercial quality technology tolocal farmers, with the potential to significantly increase productivity inshrimp and fish production.

Latertoday, both of our winners will be speaking about the role of innovation insustainable aquaculture – and I encourage you to listen to their stories.

Australiais ensuring that we are committed to the Blue Economy.

The'Blue Zone' is a sustainable asset for the planet. Oceans have always beencritical to Australia's prosperity. Yes, we've broken a world record this year,we're entering our 26th consecutive year of unbroken economic growthbut that can't be taken for granted. We place great importance on our marineresources to drive growth and on maintaining the balance between economicpotential and sustainability.

Throughinternational and regional collaboration, we are taking a leading andinnovative role in the response to the pressures our oceans are facing.

Soladies and gentlemen, I commend this event to you as we bring forward our ideasfor better cooperation to make the most of the Blue Zone, for the benefit ofall. Enjoy this conference.

Media enquiries