Nats minister blasts reef armchair experts

Minister David Littleproud has come out swinging against UNESCO over the Great Barrier Reef.
Minister David Littleproud has come out swinging against UNESCO over the Great Barrier Reef.

Nationals deputy leader David Littleproud has come out swinging against UNESCO for recommending the Great Barrier Reef be listed as in danger.

The Queenslander accused the international agency of making the call from the comfort of an office in Europe, a claim UNESCO flatly rejects.

Mr Littleproud challenged the agency to provide concrete proof it conducted more than a desktop review.

"They might want to demonstrate to the Australian government because there has been no inspection, as they have articulated, as far as I have been advised," he told ABC radio.

"I'm not the environment minister and I'm prepared to be corrected on that, but as I am advised, there has been no formal inspection or ask of the Australian government."

Mr Littleproud demanded UNESCO clarify the process.

"You just can't take a desktop assessment of the Great Barrier Reef, something as complex as the Great Barrier Reef, and make assertions," he said.

UNESCO has rejected Australia's claims it was told the Great Barrier Reef would not be listed as endangered.

The agency also denied suggestions it bowed to political pressure in making the recommendation.

UNESCO insists its recommendation was based on science, not political interference.

Australia's chief diplomat is aware of suspicions within government that China orchestrated the ruling.

But Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade secretary Frances Adamson has declined to wade into the politics.

"We will deal with it as a technical issue and work it through the system the best way we can," she told the National Press Club.

"Due process around these things is really important."

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has previously warned climate change put the reef in extreme danger.

Mr Littleproud said billions of dollars had been set aside to support the reef and ensure it survived for generations to come.

"Those are the productive steps and the practical steps this government has taken and will continue to take," he said.

"But if you're going to make assessments, you shouldn't do it from an armchair in another country."

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk continues to lay blame for the recommended in-danger listing at the feet of the federal government.

Ms Palaszczuk was challenged on Wednesday about how she could blame the federal coalition when her government approved the Carmichael coal mine being built by Bravus, formerly known as Adani.

"It's not about that," she replied, listing water quality and other initiatives her government had implemented to protect the reef.

Pressed on whether a thermal coal mine posed a risk to the Great Barrier Reef, the premier replied: "The greatest risk at the moment is the National Party in Canberra".

Ms Palaszczuk argued coal would be needed across the world for many years to come, alongside renewable power sources.

Australian Associated Press