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Thursday, 24 May 2001
Page: 24310


Senator BROWN (12:34 PM) —It is excellent that that amendment has been accepted. I now move Australian Greens amendment No. 1:

(1) Schedule 1, page 11 (after line 8), after item 12, insert:

12A Schedule 1

Repeal the Schedule, substitute:

Schedule 1—Great Barrier Reef Region

Note: See section 3

The area the boundary of which:

(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; and

(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.

My amendment is to enlarge the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, but I want to follow up on Senator Hill's second reading speech by saying that I add my support to this legislation and to the tougher penalties that are involved in it. As a deterrent, they will help to protect the Great Barrier Reef in the future but will not be able to give total blanket protection against those who will do the wrong thing. My amendment aims to enlarge the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park by extending its boundary to the exclusive economic zone to the east. For those who may have looked at the map, that would extend the park by approximately tripling it in size. It would also have a monumental value added effect on the conservation values of the park. By extending the boundary of the park and giving it the least restrictive zoning, all existing activities will remain unaffected, with the exception of mining and mineral exploration.

A recent proposal by TGS-NOPEC for seismic testing for oil in the Townsville trough, 50 kilometres offshore from the Whitsunday section of the park, was referred to Senator Hill under the EPBC Act, and he very wisely moved to stop that. The proposal had drawn strong public opposition, and the Queensland government also opposed it. There was concern that it would not only have a detrimental effect on marine life in the surrounding area but also pave the way for further oil production activities. The concerns about mining and seismic exploration focus primarily on the potential impact on the reef of incidents in extreme weather events—which are likely to become more intense and frequent through climate change—as well as on the potential impact of seismic exploration on the migration of whales and other marine mammals.

In other parts of the world, oil spills from wells have travelled over 1,000 kilometres and have caused serious environmental damage. Given the prevailing onshore winds off Central and Northern Queensland for most of the year, a major oil spill from any part of the Australian waters on the seaward side of the area would pose a major threat to significant and substantial areas of the reef and the industries that depend upon it. A recent spill in the Galapagos Islands off Ecuador demonstrated the inability of the petroleum industry to guarantee the safety of these areas against the impacts of its activities.

At the time of the seismic exploration proposal, there were public calls from environment groups like the Australian Conservation Foundation and from Queensland groups for a more permanent solution to ensure the protection of the conservation and economic values of the reef—specifically, to instigate a legislative prohibition on any oil exploration and development in Australian waters to the seaward side of the region. There has been little exploration in the area to date, as it is generally not considered to have high geological prospectivity for petroleum, though there may be some gas prospectivity, and the extension of the boundary would not prevent further scientific research but it would give legislative backing to that concern that there be a prohibition on oil exploration and such things as seismic testing east of the reef.

It is a window of opportunity to protect the reef from mining exploration and activities to the east without infringing upon other activities, like fishing and tourism, and so on, if the park were to be given the least restrictive zoning, which is inherently recommended in the amendment. What a great opportunity to give added protection and kudos to one of the nation's most loved, most visited, most significant and iconic regions, the Great Barrier Reef. A national park extension would logically be followed by a world heritage nomination for that extension. I recommend this amendment to the Senate. In the run to the election, I say to Senator Hill that it would be a great opportunity for the government as well. It would not really be stepping on anybody's toes but it would get resounding support from the Australian community.