TRANSCRIPT: RADIO INTERVIEW - ABC RADIO SYDNEY - WEDNESDAY, 17 OCTOBER 2018
ABC RADIO SYDNEY
WEDNESDAY, 17 OCTOBER 2018
SUBJECT: Remembering Ian Kiernan; Environmental campaigner, Founder of Clean Up Australia and Australian of the Year 1994
ROBBIE BUCK (CO-HOST): Ian Kiernan the founder of Clean Up Australia has died after a battle with cancer. He was 78 years old. He's survived by his wife Judy and two daughters Sally and Pip and our thoughts are with his family of course. Ian Kiernan is recognised worldwide as the founder of Clean Up Australia which of course very quickly was taken around the globe. The impact that the man had when it comes to taking rubbish out of our waterways and out of our parks, it is huge and somebody who is friends with him and recognises that legacy is Tony Burke the Shadow Minister for the Environment and Water. Good morning to you.
TONY BURKE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR ENVIRONMENT AND WATER: What a sad day. It was a bit uplifting to hear some reggae when you came in on the opening there. You rarely get someone as forthright and fearless, just dedicating every day to doing something good.
WENDY HARMER (CO-HOST): You're quite right when you say here he was in your tribute on Twitter. That's why we thought of you Tony “He was strong principled on the right side of history. I'll miss his leadership strength and good humour.” Tell us about your life and times with Ian Kiernan. When did you first meet and how did you work together?
BURKE: I got to know him when I was environment minister. I think it's probably pretty hard to be an environment minister in Australia without getting to know Ian. The thing that surprised me when that work first started was I had always thought of him purely in terms of cleaning up the rubbish after the event but it was a complete view of getting the oceans back to health.
So, a lot of the engagement we had right at the beginning was about establishing the Commonwealth Marine Parks. I remember one of the tests for us as to whether we got it right, we ended up trying to get different people to give endorsements and we put a video together. We had different celebrity type people like Jackie Chan, Jackson Browne, people like that.
But the real win when we knew we were going to get credibility was when Ian Kiernan came through and he had the simplest line in explaining why he supported the increased protection of the ocean. He just said “when it comes to Australia's oceans it's about time we cleaned up our act”. And that's where the cleaning up our act for him wasn't just removing the rubbish it went to making sure we had national parks in the oceans and it also went through all the work on container deposit legislation as well.
HARMER: Tell us what it was like to have Ian Kiernan on your tail Tony.
BURKE: Look, you shouldn't mistake the friendliness of Ian for a minister occasionally living in fear of making sure you're getting it right. There was a big push for container deposit legislation which was a state decision but he wanted our advocacy on it and this was one where he made clear this link, which a whole lot of people I think had simply presumed if there's rubbish in the harbour it's because people have dropped rubbish in the harbour.
He said no, wherever you are in Sydney if you're dropping something in a gutter its ending up in our waterways and ending up in the ocean. Linking all of that and saying one of the things we need to do is to create the incentives so people aren't dumping stuff on the ground anymore. That's part of cleaning up the ocean.
That's the concept that all of this was connected was something that I don't think many Australians had thought about. You look at something like the War on Waste and the conversations that that's initiated. All that great work that Craig Reucassel has done there that has all built on something that wouldn't have been possible were it not for that first day that Ian Kiernan said we're going to clean up the harbour
BUCK: Tony Burke is with us this morning and we're speaking about Ian Kiernan and the great legacy. As this conversation has been unfolding we've had a call this morning from Kim McKay who of course is now the director of the Australian Museum. But Kim, you and Ian go back a long way and you were the co-founder of Clean Up Australia?
KIM McKAY, CO-FOUNDER CLEAN UP AUSTRALIA: That's right Robbie. I first worked with Ian actually in 1986/87 on the solo around the world yacht race when he sailed the Spirit of Sydney and created a new Australian record for solo sailing. It was of course because of that race and his passion for the ocean that he decided he wanted to clean up Sydney Harbour. He literally walked into my office one day and said you know years ago I saw a clean-up on the Ala Wai Canal in Hawaii, do you think that it will work here? And I said yes let's do it. Then he got a group of friends together, people like Moe and Joe who wrote that ubiquitous ‘Yucky Poo’ jingle that you’ve been playing.
BUCK: Yes, that is, I mean it's pretty obvious. Listen to this for a jingle.
BUCK: I apologise because it's going to be stuck in your head for days to come Kim.
McKAY: Look I think it's been stuck in my head for about 30 years Robbie. It really was amazing that contribution that Moe and Joe made. But also all the volunteers, that first clean up the Harbour day on the 8th of January 1989 was the day Sydney Harbour turned the corner. When we all got to realise that it was our waterway and that the government wasn't going to fix it. That people had to get out and fix it and create the awareness that we cared about the environment. It was interesting listening to Tony Burke because we always used to say that politicians were only welcome if they bought their own bucket and rake along and gumboots.
BUCK: Did you do that Tony?
BURKE: Yes at the Cooks River! The Cooks River is the spot. And it's exactly that, that water finds its way out to the ocean. One of the times that I met Ian was on the banks of the Cooks River. The focus when the TV cameras were there was always the Harbour but he found his way to each of those waterways around the suburbs.
HARMER: My gosh I think one of the other qualities that Ian had which was so attractive and it remains so in the environment movement is one of optimism. That attitude of ‘Yes We Can Do This’. It beats all the gloom and doom doesn't it?
BURKE: That's right. And you know on an occasion where Ian might be calling you wanting to give you a push, it was frank but it was also ‘now we can fix this’. It was always that concept of if he didn't think you'd gone hard enough on something he'd tell you straight, there'd be no doubt about it but then he moved straight to here’s what we can do to fix it.
BUCK: Well it is a sad day obviously but the legacy as we've been talking about this morning is huge not just for us here in Sydney but across the country and around the globe too. Tony Burke, Shadow Minister for Environment and Water thank you so much for your time.
BURKE: Thanks for the conversation.
BUCK: And Kim McKay thanks so much for calling in this morning as well.
HARMER: And our condolences Kim for the loss of your great friend.
MCKAY: Yes, thank you. .