David Attenborough savages Australia

 

LIVING treasure and eco-warrior Sir David Attenborough has slammed Australia's environmental track record and taken a swipe at Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

In an unprecedented interview with Triple J's Hack program, the broadcast veteran has delivered his most scathing criticism of Australia to date.

And he singled out our current PM for particular blame, telling presenter Tom Tilley previous Australian leaders had said "all the right things" regarding the environment and climate change - until now.

"You are the keepers of an extraordinary section of the surface of this planet, including the Barrier Reef, and what you say, what you do, really, really matters," he told the program.

"And then you suddenly say, 'No it doesn't matter … it doesn't matter how much coal we burn … we don't give a damn what it does to the rest of the world'."

The 93-year-old also savaged Mr Morrison's infamous February 2017 stunt that involved brining a lump of coal into Question Time.

Then-Treasurer Scott Morrison gazes lovingly at a piece of coal during Question Time in February 2017. Picture: Lukas Coch/AAP Image
Then-Treasurer Scott Morrison gazes lovingly at a piece of coal during Question Time in February 2017. Picture: Lukas Coch/AAP Image

"I don't think it was a joke," he said.

"If you weren't opening a coal mine, OK, I would agree, it's a joke. But you are opening a coal mine."

He also criticised Mr Morrison's support for new coal mines, including the controversial Adani project.

"Do you think it's right that we go on destroying the natural world?" he said.

Sir David also stressed the solution to the world's environmental crisis would be an economic one.

"We have to convince bankers and big business that, in the end, the long-term future lies in having a healthy planet. And unless you do something about it … you're going to lose your money," he told Hack.

The wildlife documentary icon also warned the world would be running "seriously short of food" in the years to come and praised the world's young people who participated in the recent climate strikes.

Sir David has previously spoken out about Australia's treatment of the Great Barrier Reef, famously claiming it was in "grave danger" of vanishing "within decades" back in 2016.

He told Hack the most confronting example of climate change he had experienced was revisiting the Great Barrier Reef after first scuba diving in the area in the 1950s, describing it as a "desperately tragic sight" following significant bleaching.

Sir David praised the young people who participated in climate protests. Picture: Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images
Sir David praised the young people who participated in climate protests. Picture: Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images

The interview comes hot on the heels of Sir David's July speech at the UK Parliament's British, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee.

During that speech, he blasted "powerful" figures in Australia who still don't believe climate change is happening, saying it was "extraordinary" given the country was already dealing with some of the most extreme consequences.

 

LIVING LEGEND

After stints in the navy and as a textbook editor, Sir David eventually scored a full-time gig at the BBC in 1952, dipping his toe into nature programs for the first time.

He rose through the ranks and became a senior manager, but when he was put forward as a contender candidate for the role of Director-General of the BBC in 1972, he decided it wasn't for him, and the next year he left management and returned to broadcasting, with Life on Earth airing in 1979.

Dozens of hit documentaries followed, including the popular Our Planet, and he has been honoured with a slew of awards, including a knighthood, several BAFTAs and a string of honorary degrees from British universities.

Sir David regularly appears on "most trusted celebrity" and "living icons" lists and has had scores of species named after him.

A recent report by Global Web Index found the "Attenborough Effect" had led to a 53 per cent reduction in single-use plastic usage over the past 12 months in the UK and US.

He is now working on a new BBC documentary - Extinction: The Facts - which will examine the impacts mass extinctions of animal and plant life would have on humankind.

The Hack interview will go to air today at 5.30pm. You can also watch it on 7:30 tonight on ABC TV.