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Thursday, 10 May 2007
Page: 32


Mr GARRETT (11:12 AM) —I move:

         Schedule 1, page 15, after item 34 (after line 27) add

35 Schedule 1

Repeal paragraphs (a) to (j), substitute:

              (a)    commences at the point that, at low water, is the northernmost extremity of Cape York Peninsula Queensland;

              (b)    runs thence easterly along the geodesic to the intersection of parallel of Latitude 10º 41’ South with meridian of Longitude 145º19’33” East;

              (c)    runs thence south-easterly along the geodesic to the point of Latitude 12º20’00” South, Longitude 146º30’00”;

              (d)    runs thence south-easterly along the geodesic to a point of Latitude 12º38’30” South, Longitude 147º08’30” East;

              (e)    runs thence south-easterly along the geodesic to a point of Latitude 13º10’30” South, Longitude 148º05’00” East;

               (f)    runs thence south-easterly along the geodesic to a point of Latitude 14º38’00” South, Longitude 152º07’00” East;

              (g)    runs thence south-easterly along the geodesic to a point of Latitude 14º45’00” South, Longitude 154º15’00” East;

              (h)    runs thence north-easterly along the geodesic to a point of Latitude 14º05’00” South, Longitude 156º37’00” East;

               (i)    runs thence north-easterly along the geodesic to a point of Latitude 14º04’00” South, Longitude 157º00’00” East;

               (j)    runs thence south-easterly along the geodesic to a point of Latitude 14º41’00” South, Longitude 157º43’00” East;

              (k)    runs thence south-easterly along the geodesic to a point of Latitude 15º44’07” South, Longitude 158º45’39” East;

               (l)    runs thence south-westerly along the geodesic to a point of Latitude 16º25’28” South, Longitude 158º22’49” East;

             (m)    runs thence south-westerly along the geodesic to a point of Latitude 16º34’51” South, Longitude 158º16’26” East;

              (n)    runs thence south-westerly along the geodesic to a point of Latitude 17º30’28” South, Longitude 157º38’31” East;

              (o)    runs thence south-westerly along the geodesic to a point of Latitude 17º54’40” South, Longitude 157º21’59” East;

              (p)    runs thence south-westerly along the geodesic to a point of Latitude 18º32’25” South, Longitude 156º56’44” East;

              (q)    runs thence south-westerly along the geodesic to a point of Latitude 18º55’54” South, Longitude 156º37’29” East;

               (r)    runs thence south-westerly along the geodesic to a point of Latitude 19º17’12” South, Longitude 156º15’20” East;

              (s)    runs thence south-easterly along the geodesic to a point of Latitude 20º08’28” South, Longitude 156º49’34” East;

               (t)    runs thence south-easterly along the geodesic to a point of Latitude 20º32’28” South, Longitude 157º03’09” East;

              (u)    runs thence south-easterly along the geodesic to a point of Latitude 20º42’52” South, Longitude 157º04’34” East;

              (v)    runs thence south-easterly along the geodesic to a point of Latitude 20º53’33” South, Longitude 157º06’25” East;

             (w)    runs thence south-easterly along the geodesic to a point of Latitude 21º12’57” South, Longitude 157º10’17” East;

               (x)    runs thence south-easterly along the geodesic to a point of Latitude 21º47’21” South, Longitude 157º14’36” East;

              (y)    runs thence south-easterly along the geodesic to a point of Latitude 22º10’31” South, Longitude 157º13’04” East;

               (z)    runs thence south-easterly along the geodesic to a point of Latitude 22º31’38” South, Longitude 157º18’43” East;

             (za)    runs thence south-easterly along the geodesic to a point of Latitude 23º14’54” South, Longitude 157º48’04” East;

            (zb)    runs thence south-easterly along the geodesic to a point of Latitude 24º30’00” South, Longitude 158º19’54” East;

             (zc)    runs thence westerly along the parallel of Latitude 24º 30’00” South to its intersection by the coastline of Queensland at low water; and

            (zd)    runs thence generally northerly along that coastline at low water to the point of commencement.

This has been an important debate, and I want to acknowledge the contributions of speakers in the House, including the member for Throsby, the member for Wills, the member for Capricornia and, most recently, the member for Scullin.

I refer to the remarks by the member for Leichhardt yesterday when he spoke on this matter and referred to the ‘ideological zealots who were in charge of this process through the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’. Those struck me as being somewhat exceptional and extravagant comments, given that it was actually the government that was in charge of these processes. Notwithstanding that, we certainly acknowledge that the significant protection of the Great Barrier Reef is one of the Howard government’s real environmental achievements. I think it is a great pity that we have members in the House effectively bagging that position, but nevertheless we do recognise the significance of the protection that has been afforded to the reef.

The purpose of this amendment, though, is to extend the boundary of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park region out to the exclusive economic zone, as identified by the locations described in the amendment. This is to ensure that oil drilling cannot take place near the Great Barrier Reef and reflects longstanding Labor policy which recognises the unique and significant role the reef plays as a place of outstanding natural beauty and value. This amendment follows on from private members’ bills moved previously by Labor members and senators, including most recently the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (Protecting the Great Barrier Reef from Oil Drilling and Exploration) Amendment Bill 2006, by the Manager of Opposition Business, the member for Grayndler.

We believe this amendment is necessary, given that, whilst drilling for oil or prospecting for oil is expressly prohibited by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act, the Howard government’s policy is to accommodate exploration in areas adjacent to or near the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and thus open up the prospects of oil drilling in the area around the Great Barrier Reef. The 2004 Liberal Party election policy titled Securing Australia’s Energy Future included a map which outlined offshore frontier basins and identified their potential for oil exploration. So this amendment extends the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park region eastward to the economic zone in order to preclude any additional pressure on this sensitive area.

It is the case that the government’s energy white paper additionally identifies four offshore basins immediately adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park as being of high priority for exploration and with that the possibility of subsequent oil drilling in the region. Those basins—Queensland and Cato troughs, and the Capricornia Basin, all lying to the east—have been specifically identified as prospective exploration sites despite overwhelming opposition from scientists, the fishing community and, especially in North Queensland, community groups, including conservation organisations, to any oil drilling in the region of the Great Barrier Reef. This amendment only applies to oil exploration and drilling; it does not affect any other activity, be it recreational or commercial fishing, tourism operations and the like.

Speakers to this bill made wide mention of the value of the reef for the range of services it provides, widely estimated at around $4.6 billion. The possibility that oil drilling could even be contemplated by the government puts the reef at risk and necessitates this amendment being considered by the government. The tourism industry has expressed the view that a permanent ban on any activities that have the potential to harm the reef is desirable, and there is widespread support for such a position, which, under this amendment, would provide clarity for commercial interests as well.

In previous debates, Labor has emphasised that the terms of the amendment provide a practical, no-cost mechanism to provide direction to the oil industry and to rule out exploration and mining in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park region for good. Given the extraordinarily fragile state of the reef and surrounding environment that speakers have highlighted in this debate and the range of pressures it already faces, in particular from climate change, this action would allow an additional level of security to the reef, and again Labor urges the government to accept this sensible amendment.

The future of the wondrous Great Barrier Reef is one of risk and uncertainty. So much is at stake, given the fragile nature of the reef and the region it inhabits, especially as a consequence of the crucial challenge posed by climate change and by a range of other threats. We need to do everything we can to ensure the reef is properly protected for all time. This amendment is aimed at ensuring we have exercised that responsibility. I commend it to the House.