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Thursday, 24 May 2012
Page: 5618


Ms PARKE (Fremantle) (12:50): Standing on the cusp of one of Australia's most historic conservation decisions, it was my privilege two weeks ago to co-host an extraordinary event in the Mural Hall of Parliament House. Like the cultural conscience of the nation, celebrated Fremantle author Tim Winton had flown in to deliver a keynote address as government enters final deliberations to create a network of marine parks and protected sanctuaries around our continent's coast.

In his own unique style, Tim reminded us all of the enormity of the role that our unique marine environment plays in defining our great coastal lifestyle and who we are as Australians. He reminded us of our childhood family trips to the beach: the sunburn and salt of a day's snorkelling adventure and the fishing, surfing and camping of a family coastal holiday. But he also reminded us that as an island people it is easy to take our marine inheritance for granted, that things are not what they used to be and that the trends are not looking good. And like hundreds of thousands of people have done recently through government public consultation, he was primarily there to remind MPs of our responsibility to get the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for nationwide marine protection right.

Marine protection is beyond doubt now a mainstream issue. As Tim put it, 'It is now white bread thinking. The overwhelming and uncontroversial scientific consensus is that in order to maintain or regain their health, our oceans need the balance tipped back firmly in their favour. How? By more sober management and more restraint, creating savings in the form of sanctuaries. Commonwealth waters are public assets—the family silver. It is silver that moves, breathes and swims. If you have ever swum in a school of trevally, or barracuda or anchovies you will know what I mean; it is like being Scrooge McDuck rolling around in the vault.'

The recent creation of two new marine parks in WA state waters by the conservative state government only serves to underline this fact. As Tim noted, when the same bumper sticker supporting marine sanctuaries appears first on the kombis, then on the BMWs and then on the tradies' utes you know it has taken hold in middle Australia. It has taken hold because people understand that setting aside key feeding and breeding grounds and our other special and iconic places makes sense. It is often these iconic places that inspire people to care and to take action. Iconic places like Ningaloo Reef, which Tim Winton reminded us sparked rallies—one which was 15,000 strong in my own electorate—seeking protection for this now World Heritage listed jewel.

It is now time for the sort of protection that visionary Labor leader, Geoff Gallop, bestowed in state waters to be replicated in our own federal waters; to protect our natural wonders which, as Minister Tony Burke has said, 'Would have been protected 20 years ago had they been found on land'. Places in the north-west, like the remarkable Rowley Shoals, the Kimberley Wilderness and the Pilbara's Coral Coast; and in the south-west the Abrolhos, Geographe Bay, the Albany canyons, Recherche Archipelago and the Diamantina Fracture Zone. In addition, just 20 kilometres from my own electorate lies Australia's largest canyon. Larger even than the Grand Canyon, the Perth Canyon is home to the world's largest animal, the blue whale. It would be an inspiring gift to future generations of Western Australians if such a remarkable natural icon was afforded full protection. The WA dive industry is also calling for another two sanctuaries off metropolitan Perth to safeguard their future business.

Another message from that evening which resonated was the need for prudent conservative management of our marine waters. As Tim also noted, we do not want to be 'the richest, most mobile and well-educated generation in Australia's history that passes on a dud inheritance and leaves the estate in arrears'.

I want to finish with this lasting message from Tim Winton:

This room is filled with people who came to this place with high ideals, to make a difference, to seek the common good, with thoughts of leaving a noble legacy for the future. Something your peers and your families will be proud of. Something that will give you deep satisfaction after you leave this place.

…   …   …

So, here’s my question. What will you have done this year to secure that birthright - for the common good?

…   …   …

So this is a genuine legacy moment. Supporting the introduction of a proper system of marine parks may well be the most significant legislative gift you will make to this nation. There’s no point being half-arsed about it, and going soft in the face of short term vested interests. If your predecessors had done that last century we wouldn’t have national parks on land. They held their nerve and took the long view. Let’s do it right while we can.

When your grandkids ask you what you did as a member of parliament some of them, I’ll admit, will be entranced by your stories of tax reform.

…   …   …

But think of the day when you help your granddaughter reel in her first flathead, the day you take your nephew to the aquarium, the morning you take your grandkids snorkelling in a marine sanctuary and their eyes are out on sticks. There’s always that quiet moment you get on the way home. After they’ve seen that turtle, those dolphins, the rockpool full of life. That’ll be when you let it slip. Offhand. You know, real casual, about what you did when you were in parliament. You helped save Australia’s oceans. You’re one of people who made the marine parks. And you did it for them. Tax reform might do it. Fair enough. But to get that rare moment when a little kid looks up at you with a flicker of interest, even a moment of admiration. My money’s on the dolphins and the marine parks.