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Monday, 3 March 1997
Page: 1093


Senator CAMPBELL (Manager of Government Business in the Senate)(4.13 p.m.) —I seek leave to make a statement on behalf of the Prime Minister (Mr Howard) on the Australian government's oceans policy, to incorporate the statement in Hansard , and to move a motion to take note of the statement.

Leave granted.

The statement read as follows

I am delighted to fulfil another key election promise today by announcing the development of the coalition's oceans policy.

This is a policy which will balance the needs of the environment with the needs of resource security and jobs.

For too long, government activity concerning our oceans has been ad hoc and disjointed.

This has led to wastage of resources and less than optimal outcomes.

The government promises a fresh start.

We will work with state and local governments and communities to put together a comprehensive strategy.

It will cover the spectrum of issues:

Fisheries management.

Environmental management.

Multiple use reserves.

Resources and energy.

Transport.

Tourism and recreation.

Science and technology.

The government will spend $106 million from the natural heritage trust on the coasts and clean seas initiative to support the Australian oceans policy.

Today, the government will also announce some initiatives as a down payment on the oceans policy.

Community consultation.

All Australians have a real interest in how we conserve and use our ocean resources.

We want our coastal waters clean enough for our people to safely enjoy swimming and surfing

Our offshore gas and petroleum industries need sufficient freedom to invest in our resources and so stimulate economic growth

We want to ensure that the unique biodiversity of our oceans is conserved for future generations

Commercial and recreational fishers are facing the challenge of environmentally sustainable catches

We want confidence that the great barrier reef will remain as one of the natural wonders of the world.

As all Australians enjoy the benefits of the oceans, so they should have a say in looking after the oceans.

A consultation paper I am releasing today will stimulate views from the full range of interest groups

Public comment will be sought on an options paper in the middle of this year

By early 1998, the international year of the oceans, the Australian oceans policy will be in place.

During 1997 the government will release specific initiatives as they are finalised.

A balance between conservation and resource development.

Numerous reports have called for integrated decisions on marine resources across all spheres of government—commonwealth, states and territory.

Lots of reports, nothing done.

After one year in power, the coalition government will do what the alp could not do in 13 years.

We will put in place a balanced and integrated oceans policy ranging across all jurisdictions.

This will provide certainty for both industry and the marine environment.

For far too long, the environment has been used as a political football.

This is unnecessary, divisive and wrong.

This government believes one can reconcile the environment and development.

There can be balance.

This is exactly what we are doing with the forests.

And this is what we will do with the oceans.

The government supports the principle of multiple resource use for our natural resources.

At present, industries related to our ocean resources are worth around $30 billion a year.

However, any exploitation of the resources must be responsible.

It is simply not sensible to excessively exploit these resources.

Such a strategy is damaging both to the environment and jobs.

It would lead to a running down of stocks, reduced biodiversity, reduced production and so rising unemployment.

The best way to ensure long term growth in the industry is effective management of resources now.

The multiple use of resources will combine sensible exploitation of resources with environmental care.

The oceans policy will cover issues such as improved fisheries management, monitoring, surveillance and control.

It will also canvass the development of a representative system of marine protected areas.

While we support multiple use, there will be some very special areas of outstanding environmental value that should never be disturbed.

We will protect them accordingly.

Regional cooperation .

South pacific forum—strengthening fisheries management in the western and central pacific.

Our neighbours, especially in Indonesia, Papua new guinea and the south pacific, share the resources of the region's oceans with us.

It is simply not possible for any country to achieve effective management of these resources in isolation.

Marine resources and problems do not recognise international boundaries.

The region's small island states rely heavily on the oceans' resources and its bounty.

Its long term viability must be protected.

Placing more resources in pacific fisheries management is an important part of this.

I am pleased to announce that Australia will significantly increase support for regional fisheries management in the western and central pacific ocean.

An additional $1.15 million will be provided over three years.

This initiative will support south pacific fisheries agencies promoting the sustainable development of their marine resources.

In particular, the additional $1.15 million will:

strengthen the technical capacity of the forum fisheries agency;

allow the fisheries agency to draw on expertise within Australian government agencies;

expand fisheries management training through the south pacific commission; and

help pacific island countries attend regional multilateral fisheries meetings

This regional effort will be an important support of

Our own domestic efforts on oceans

Sustaining Australia's remote area fisheries:.

We must also be able to protect our fisheries interests in our remote waters.

Illegal fishing is a threat to the livelihood of our fishermen.

It is also a threat to the environmental sustainability of the oceans.

It is time Australia stopped tolerating these illegal activities.

The minister responsible for fisheries, senator Parer, will announce a $400, 000 program for improving the management and surveillance of our remote area fisheries.

This new strategy will include the development of satellite-based imaging for monitoring fishing vessels.

Fisheries management and bycatch .

Marine life is an important source of national income for Australia.

Our fisheries contribute around $1.6 billion to Australia each year and employ some 25, 000 Australians.

We have the third largest fishing zone in the world.

Nonetheless, we are not in the top fifty nations for fish take.

While our marine living resources are biologically varied, they are not plentiful.

In many areas they are in a delicate balance.

Past approaches to fisheries management have not always recognised this.

Stocks of some valuable resources—such as southern bluefin tuna—have been drastically reduced.

Other marine life, such as the albatross, have been under threat from significant `bycatch'—the fish and marine life caught by chance when fishing boats are fishing for other species.

Albatross.

Many thousands of albatross are killed each year by fishing practices which can be modified.

Our Australian tuna fishing industry is working well with the government to reduce this threat.

However, action must be global to be successful.

The government has nominated eleven species of albatross to be protected internationally.

This will lead to regional conservation agreements to reduce the threats they face, saving them from becoming seriously endangered.

Fisheries bycatch reduction initiative.

Reduction in bycatch in Australian fisheries is essential for sustainable fisheries management.

This will help conserve marine biological systems and protect populations of vulnerable species.

It will provide greater long term resource security to industries and communities which rely on fishing.

Today, I am pleased to announce a $440,000 fisheries bycatch reduction strategy to address this important issue.

The objective of the bycatch policy will be to minimise the volume of bycatch taken by fishers, particularly species of conservation significance.

The policy will develop mitigation measures such as trawl efficiency devices and bird scaring lines.

We will review management of our fisheries, so that measures incorporate bycatch reduction strategies and do not encourage discarding.

The Australian Fisheries Management Authority, AFMA, will finalise the policy by the middle of the year.

The policy will be the starting point for action plans for each commonwealth fishery.

This will become a key component under the Australian oceans policy

Industry development .

Offshore oil and gas.

Fishing is an industry with centuries of tradition.

Offshore oil and gas exploration is very much a product of our times and is still in the early stages of its development.

The future of the Australian offshore oil and gas industry looks bright, with new developments worth several billion dollars beginning on the northwest shelf and the Timor sea.

The industry currently contributes around $8 billion to the national economy.

All Australians benefit from this industry, through jobs, exports and taxation payments.

Oil and gas are not renewable resources.

To maintain the benefits from the industry we must continue to discover and develop new fields.

The economic importance of offshore oil and gas exploration and development will be given due recognition in the Australian oceans policy.

Tourism.

Our oceans provide an important resource for tourism and recreation.

Our coasts and oceans are major attractions for tourists, who contribute some $15 billion each year to our economy.

This creates considerable regional employment.

Tourism must have an equal chance to grow alongside other uses of our marine environment.

Resource use decisions must recognise its importance, including the importance of recreational fisheries.

The oceans policy will examine issues such as development of multiple use principles, current problems and ways to improve management regimes for this important sector.

Marine science and technology plan .

We also have an enviable reputation for marine science and technology.

However, unless we have a well focussed marine science sector, our conservation and resource development efforts will be poorly guided.

The minister for industry, science and tourism is developing the marine science and technology plan as part of the overall oceans policy.

The plan will set government priorities, consolidate the marine science effort, and raise options for a closer working relationship with those industries which depend on the oceans' resources.

Emerging industry opportunities.

The resource base of our oceans is vast—around twice the area of the Australian land mass.

In the longer term, our oceans have enormous potential for development in ways which are only just emerging.

The majority of anti-cancer drugs currently being tested are derived from marine organisms.

Highly effective sunscreens for humans can be derived from coral.

Australia's marine biological diversity has the potential to add great value to the pharmaceuticals industry.

The possibilities of the sea bed as a source of mineral wealth also remain to be assessed.

The government will support innovative and responsible industrial use of our oceans, which can coexist with essential environmental values.

In recognition of this, the oceans policy will examine issues such as the adequacy of existing data, resources survey, marine science and integration of data.

Marine pollution and ballast water .

Pollution.

The full benefits from commercial development of our ocean resources will only be available if the marine environment is protected from pollution and pests.

It is too easy to focus on dramatic and obvious ocean pollution such as oil spills.

The greatest threat to the marine environment is from the land, which is the source of approximately 80 per cent of marine pollution.

The oceans policy will canvass issues such as nutrient flows from rivers, environmental performance of sewage systems, oil spill responses and gaps in management regimes for pollutants.

Today senator hill will be announcing details of a $6.4m coastal and marine planning programme to fund integrated planning and management of coastal and marine environments.

State and local government's will be invited to submit proposals to reduce pollutants and minimise the impacts of uncoordinated coastal development.

Ballast water initiative.

The introduction of foreign pests also represents a serious threat to our ocean environment.

The balance of ecosystems around our coasts is very easy to tip.

We see this when foreign organisms are brought into our waters in ships' ballast or attached to ships' hulls.

While oil spills can be dramatic, foreign marine organisms are more insidious.

By the time they are noticed it is often too late to exterminate them—and they can do permanent environmental and economic damage.

We are only too well aware of the problems of controlling foreign marine organisms.

The northern pacific seastar—now a serious pest threatening the Tasmanian shellfish industry—was probably brought here in ship's ballast water.

Fan worms from the northern hemisphere are spreading in Port Philip Pay, threatening its $15 million scallop industry.

In all, at least 55 foreign organisms have become established in Australian waters.

Well over 90 per cent of Australia's trade in goods is transported by ship.

As international trade increases we must take stronger action to minimise the threat from foreign organisms in ballast and on hulls.

The shipping industry has agreed to an industry levy to fund a strategic ballast water research programme.

We welcome this.

Legislation establishing the levy will be introduced into the parliament to allow its operation in 1998-99.

To bridge the gap until the industry levy comes into effect, I am pleased to announce the government will provide $1 million in 1997-98 to fund the programme.

This objective will be to design and implement a cost-effective system for managing ships' ballast water based on risk assessment.

This will allow us to assess the risks posed by vessels, taking account of the port of uptake and the treatment of ballast water en route.

This system will be based on considering risks in relation to target organisms of concern to Australia.

This will build on current guidelines requiring ships to exchange ballast water at sea.

Community participation .

This government will take the lead in putting Australia's oceans policy into place.

But a partnership with other governments and the Australian people is essential if the policy is to turn words into action.

With the benefits that come from our oceans, so comes a duty of community care.

In the last budget, the government doubled funding for community coastal projects to $3 million.

This, at a time of tight fiscal discipline, is recognition of the priority the government gives such projects.

Senator Parer will today announce the details of the fisheries action programme, a community based programme that will help protect and restore Australia's fish habitats.

The fisheries action programme will provide funding, on a dollar for dollar basis, for activities such as fish habitat restoration and protection, and aquatic pest control.

The project will be delivered in partnership with the state and territory governments.

The government will spend $9.75 million in the programme over the next five years, including $3.75 million for projects in river catchments.

Conclusion .

The oceans cannot provide unending bounty while absorbing our uncontrolled waste for ever.

With the natural heritage trust of Australia, we will start to protect and develop our oceans' natural capital as a resource for all people.

This government is dealing with the issues concerning the environment.

We are doing this in a sensible manner, rather than politicising the fashionable issue at the time.

Combined with other policies, we will put in place an environment package ranging from air pollution to forests to rivers and now to oceans.

This government is serious about its responsibilities and we will continue to see them through.


Senator CAMPBELL —I table the statement by the Prime Minister and move:

That the Senate take note of the document.