Federal Govt might intervene in Qld's reef talks with UNESCO

WHILE the Queensland Government claimed it will engage directly with the UNESCO World Heritage Committee on the Great Barrier Reef this week, it may not be able to do so.

A letter Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney sent to Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke on Wednesday said the state would only communicate directly with the international organisation.

Mr Seeney said Mr Burke had made "inaccurate and irresponsible statements" about the state government's protection of the reef, but did not detail what they were.

Mr Burke replied, saying the Commonwealth had the legal power to intervene to ensure the protection of the reef, before Mr Seeney again hit out at the Gillard Government Minister.

In a statement released to the media, he said Mr Burke was not representing the best interests of Queenslanders, claiming he was listening only to "extreme activists".

But Mr Burke said the media statements "reads as a very strange document from a person who is meant to have a serious job".

"I'll continue to deal with the world heritage committee on behalf of Australia professionally and maturely," he said.

"I'm really not sure what's going on with Mr Seeney. The Great Barrier Reef is one of the most precious places on earth; this Government is committed to continuing to protect it."

According to the World Heritage Convention, the Committee is bound to report to "state parties", or the central government of any country with a World Heritage Area.

It is understood the Committee consults with the state party - the Australian Government - on World Heritage Areas, rather than with individual state or provincial governments.

Under the rules, this means that the Committee takes feedback direct from the Federal Government, rather than the Queensland Government.

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