Ladies and Gentleman
Look that’s the end of the formal thing, and I’m sorry to hijack your function Penny (Wensley) but you did raise a challenge that I just had to respond to. But before I do that, can I on my behalf, and I know on behalf of Andrew Cripps and Mayor Hill as well wish John all the very best for the future.
My first meeting with John wasn’t a terribly happy one, I remember coming away and saying who’s put this leftie in charge of the Barrier Reef. But I was wrong and we got to know each other better after that and John, you’ve done a wonderful job at AIMS, my congratulations that I pass on publically here, tonight. I have done that privately, but I repeat now and with the thanks and congratulations from the Minister for the work you have done here over that period of time.
Perhaps now that you are going the rest of us might be able to catch more barramundi and mangrove jack with you not in the competition.
I did just want to welcome Paul to the role. As Penny skilfully said you do have to be political because remember it’s people like Jenny Hill, Andrew Cripps and I who actually represent the people around here and we do need to work very closely as we do (and Cathy, sorry I hadn’t seen you before) but it is important we interact with you as well.
And, you know, I was telling Russell this the other day I was in Tonga just recently talking to the Prime Minister and he said to me you’re from Townsville, Isn’t it a pity the Barrier Reef is dead. A learned man and this is unfortunately what AIMS, JCU and GBRMPA and all the other agencies have to very much guard against and that is you know there is an element of our society that would have the world believe that the Barrier Reef is dead. It’s a message that is easy to propagate but it’s institutions like AIMS that really have to lead the charge to say it needs work, it needs very good management and science, but we are good enough to do that in Australia.
So Paul, all the very best in the essential role you have taken on.
But back to the purpose for my impolite intervention. Penny you challenged all politicians to guard against AIMS being taken over or subsumed to some other agency and perhaps moved from Townsville. Let me give you a rolled gold assurance, and I am sure I speak for Jenny, Andrew and Kathy here, that I will be very vocal if ever that subject is raised, and will fight any such proposals to my dying days. I have already had one such battle. I well remember not long after I had been elected to Parliament (and not many of you would have been around then!) the then government was considering merging it with CSIRO, or some other entity – and I think you would remember that John from the other side - and sending it south. I was in Opposition but lead the charge against any such move. The Minister was Senator Chris Schact ( and I would have called him something else like that but for the polite company, in the debate at the time) but fortunately the Keating Government did not follow through on that proposed merger.
But it shows we have to be forever vigilant, and if any of you should ever hear a whisper about any discussions in this direction, in the bureaucracy or anywhere, please let me know as soon as possible.
With that challenge answered, Penny sorry for the interruption and everybody, back to the party.