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Friday, 25 November 2011
Page: 9721


Senator BOSWELL (Queensland) (17:14): This morning the Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, Mr Burke, released the maps of the proposed Coral Sea marine reserve. The completion of that map encircles the whole of Australia with marine reserves, and I would like today to talk about some of the consequences of this. Unfortunately, the release was done in such a way that no debate can take place on it, and we were scrambling to speak on it for 10 minutes in the adjournment debate on the last day of sitting, when everyone else is trying to get on the planes.

All bioregions have been mapped—they have been zoned into green, multi-use and special-purpose areas—but not yet declared. The pressure was on the minister from representatives from America on the Pew foundation, including Imogen Zethoven, as well as dozens of green groups lining up. They heavied the minister to declare the Coral Sea a complete no-take zone. They have lobbied the minister to declare a million square miles of Australian territory, to lock out amateur and professional fishermen and to lock up resources that provide food security for Australia.

The minister was caught between a rock and a hard place. Burke replaced Garrett, who was politically inept, as the environment minister. Burke's job is to appease the Greens and keep the blue-collar workers on side. If he can bring this off, it will be a miracle—to get the conservative blue-collar recreational fisherman who wants to bond with his family by taking his kids out on his 16-foot tinnie and does not want a bar of gay marriage or a carbon tax to agree with the left-leaning green groups that want to run boycotts on Jewish chocolate shops, lock up the timber industry, bring in a carbon tax and destroy blue-collar workers' jobs. The two components of the Labor target groups are miles apart, so the minister had to make a choice, and he has made that choice. He has appeased the Greens to a fair extent. He has hurt the recreational fishermen, but he could have done worse for them.

But the industry that has copped it in the neck is the professional fishing industry. They are and always have been the target for the Greens. They do not have a lot of votes. They are becoming fewer in number as the Green and Labor governments, state and federal, continually offer them up at the altar of Green preferences. I have no doubt that the professional industry has borne the brunt of these big regional marine parks that surround Australia. The bioregion plans have not been declared. The interim maps are out and have been printed. The marine parks have been zoned, and in all zones trawling is 100 per cent banned—100 per cent locked out. That is a low blow for the fishing industry. These closures will see more boats leave the industry, more licences cancelled and more buyouts of fishing effort. They have to reduce the fishing effort so that the remaining boats will have somewhere to fish. This is going to cost big.

Minister Ludwig, at question time in the Senate the other day, committed the government to a socioeconomic impact assessment for each marine reserve prior to the declaration. The assessment will be done by ABARES, but ABARES will not be the government department that allocates the compensation. They will be measuring the impact of the zoning and the impact of the lines on the map, but where is the official displacement policy? The displacement policy should be made available. Who is going to make the decisions on how many boats have to be bought out? What is it going to cost to remove the boats and licences from the industry? If you do not have a fishing industry, you do not have a processing industry. They will all have to be compensated. What will be the cost to manage an area of 16 million square kilometres, and who is going to do it? There will be huge fallout from marine closures. No-one in the government is even mentioning it.

Before any decision is made, the government must come up with a compen­sation figure. Who is going to handle the compensation claims? Is it going to be done in the bowels of the environment department, with some faceless bureaucrat, with some large accounting firms to handle the compensation? Before the industry is destroyed, livelihoods of people must be maintained. The government must tell people what they are going to do. I appeal to Senator Ludwig and Mr Burke: do not even think about declaring any bioregions or the Coral Sea unless you have worked out compensation. You will end up in a political fight that is going to be very difficult to win.

The winners in this are Pew and the green groups, and the loser is Australian industry: the fishing industry, the charter boat industry, refrigerator mechanics and processors. This is going to cost millions. It is going to cost hundreds of millions. The big winners are Pew, and I think we should look at their tactics. Under the auspices of the Australian Conservation Foundation, the Save Our Marine Life campaign is financially supported by a coalition of Australian and international conservation groups to push the conservation agenda. They include Nature Conservancy, WWF, Pew Environment Group, the Australian Conservation Foundation, the Wilderness Society and a few others. We waited in anticipation of the proposed marine plan for the Coral Sea, which has been put down today. This is the prize for the green groups. The Protect Our Coral Sea-Greens coalition have called on the Australian government to declare the Coral Sea the world's largest ocean reserve.

I visited the website of Save Our Marine Life, and on their homepage was a call for action in large blue letters:

SOS LEAP INTO ACTION

Fishing industry fighting back.

A phone call can Save Our Sanctuaries.

…   …   …

Join the BIG BLUE ARMY …

Too right the fishing industry is fighting back! They are fighting for their economic survival. The website goes on to tell us that 42,000 people have called for a network of large marine sanctuaries in Australia's south-west. How many of the 42,000 submissions, however, were from overseas, given that this whole campaign to increase the closures is substantially funded by Pew. Who is Pew? This is an American organisation that seems to wield an enormous amount of influence. Most Australians would be surprised that an American organisation seems to have enormous sway over our environment policy.

Australians have the right to know why an overseas foundation is wielding enormous influence. They fund Greens conservation campaigns such as Save our Marine Life and Protect the Coral Sea. Make no mistake, Pew is all over these proposed marine closures. These campaigns are well funded and well resourced. The Save our Marine Life campaign employs a multistep targeted strategy on how to fight the cause of the 'Big Blue Army'. This is a highly professional campaign deployed for the south-west bioregional plan. Its first step is a Pew funded, beautifully produced, glossy coffee-table quality publication that highlights all the values that are being protected in this particular bioregion. In this case of the south-west it was called Atlantis found underwater: icons of Australia's unique south-west. For maximum attention, the book was laminated and launched underwater at Fremantle, making it Australia's first-ever underwater book launch.

Step 2 is for the Pew Charitable Trust to commission an academic, in this case the University of Queensland's Professor Hugh Possingham, and have him design a reserve system. Of course, in the brief to the professor there is the prescribed level of protection, and finally the professor becomes a spokesman for the cause. We saw it all with the carbon tax debate and we are going to see it again in this Coral Sea debate. The next step is to come up with the economic benefits of such a plan, given that you a delivering the death knell to the fishing industry and destroying the jobs and livelihoods of thousands of fisherman and their families and the related industry. (Time expired)