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Thursday, 21 June 2007
Page: 210

Senator ABETZ (Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation) (7:49 PM) —I can understand the sentiments of Senator Bartlett’s amendment. The legislation indicates that board members need to have ‘extensive experience in a field related to the functions of the authority’. Clearly, knowledge of Indigenous issues is relevant to the matters that would be before the authority’s board. But if we start picking and choosing with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, which has such a large and extensive range of interests associated with it, I daresay we could get a list with over a hundred different categories and classifications on it: tourism is clearly vitally important, the various rural sectors on land that might have an impact on the reef, the building sector, a whole range of scientific sectors and climate change experts. Quite frankly, the list could go on. In my own portfolio area of fisheries, undoubtedly there would be recreational fishing interests, commercial fishing interests—the list could go on. What we are saying is that we as a government will make a decision on the basis of all the requirements and the expertise that is being offered by those who ultimately make themselves available for the board. Having said that, I am happy to pass on Senator Bartlett’s views, and I assume the views of other senators as well, to the minister for when this matter of appointments is given consideration. Knowing the minister, in fact knowing all my colleagues, I think it would be one of those situations—and I do not say this often—where it might not make a real difference as to who was in government, that consideration would be had and there would be a favourable disposition to an Indigenous person being appointed. But, at the end of the day it has to be expertise based, and that is the government’s position.