Australia tackles Obama on his Great Barrier Reef fears
Australia has sent US President Barack Obama the "facts" about the Great Barrier Reef after he voiced fears it would not be there for future generations, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Friday.
Sydney: Australia has sent US President Barack Obama the "facts" about the Great Barrier Reef after he voiced fears it would not be there for future generations, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Friday.
Obama expressed concerns that climate change threatened the natural wonder off Queensland state in a speech during the G20 summit in Brisbane at the weekend.
But Bishop hit back at his comments, saying there was "an issue" with his position and that he may have have overlooked Australia`s commitment to preserving the coral structure which teems with marine life.
She said the federal and state governments spent Aus$180 million (US$155 million) a year preserving the reef which is a major tourist attraction.
"Australia knows better than anyone the importance of preserving the Great Barrier Reef," the minister told Sky News from New York where she is chairing UN Security Council meetings.
Her office had sent Obama a briefing on the government`s conservation efforts and wanted to reassure the White House that "the Australian government takes (the reef) most seriously."
"I don`t believe that he had been briefed," she said.
"I thought it was important that he had the facts and the details of what we are doing to support the preservation and conservation of the Great Barrier Reef."
Bishop denied Canberra had been embarrassed by Obama`s comments.
In the briefing, she pointed out that mining, drilling and gas exploration were banned by law and that the government had halted the dumping of dredge waste in the reef marine park.
Obama raised climate change at the G20 despite Australia`s efforts to focus on economic matters and warned "the incredible natural glory of the Great Barrier Reef is threatened" by warming.
He said Saturday he wanted to visit the the reef with his daughters.
"And I want them to be able to bring their daughters or sons to visit and I want that there 50 years from now."
Since coming to power a year ago, the Australian government has axed a carbon tax designed to reduce emissions and spoken of the importance of coal to provide energy.
Australia has come under scrutiny from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization over the reef`s health.
UNESCO threatened to put the reef on its World Heritage in danger list, but has delayed taking action until February 1, 2015 to allow Australia time to act.