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Wednesday, 11 December 2013
Page: 1508


Senator BOYCE (Queensland) (16:57): I am not sure if I am speaking on the right motion here. I thought we were celebrating a decision finally being made, after more than five years, to drag Queensland's economy out of the dumps. Apparently we are not.

I was a little surprised earlier to hear Senator Boswell correct himself. He pointed out that there would be thousands of jobs come out of these projects that were approved yesterday by Minister Hunt. Senator Boswell went on to talk about hundreds of thousands of jobs and then corrected himself for being a little overblown in the language he had used. I think he can hold his head up high; I do not think he needs to worry about exaggeration when he is followed by a speaker who wants to talk about developing a coalmining port in Queensland as a crime against humanity. What has been a crime—an economic crime—in Queensland for more than five years is the way the state Labor Bligh government and the federal Labor government conspired to stop development, conspired to simply build up the debts of Queensland and not to go ahead with perfectly reasonable, perfectly adequate provisions.

The four projects that were approved yesterday by Minister Hunt will generate 3½ thousand jobs in their doing. And, as Senator Boswell pointed out earlier, the people of Mackay, of Gladstone and of Bowen are pleased to see these jobs happening. As the Deputy Premier and Minister for State Development, Infrastructure and Planning in Queensland, Jeff Seeney, has pointed out, these jobs will give a desperately needed boost to Queensland's coal and coal-seam gas industries. Mr Seeney has described the decision by Mr Hunt yesterday as a common-sense decision by the Commonwealth government that will encourage growth in Queensland's resource sector and underpin future jobs in the coal and coal-seam gas sector.

He goes on to point out that this is after Australia's longest and most comprehensive assessment process that has produced the strictest environmental conditions ever seen in Australia's history. If you look at the actual conditions that have been put on the projects, you will find 95 environmental conditions for the Abbot Point development and 53 for the Curtis Island LNG project. These are the environmental conditions that have been put in place. There are measures to protect marine species, the habitat, the ecological communities, and the flora and fauna.

I am often a little bemused by the way the Greens pull the reef out of their pocket every time they want to convince people that they are right, that they are not overblown and that they are not criticising simply for the sake of criticising. It is a bit like the people who find a cute puppy to have their photo taken with. 'Let's criticise the work on the Great Barrier Reef. Let's not worry about development in Queensland'—I am sorry, but I am more interested in development in Queensland than I am in listening to ridiculous claims made by the Greens about what is going to happen to the Great Barrier Reef.

I am hoping that Senator Milne's 63,000 figure for the number of jobs involved in tourism on the Great Barrier Reef is accurate. How dare the Greens tell the Queensland government in particular that the tourism associated with the Great Barrier Reef and the environmental health of the Great Barrier Reef are something they should try to notice. Tourism is a major industry in Queensland. The Queensland state government is very aware that tourism is a major industry. It is also aware that the Great Barrier Reef is a critical part of this. I can assure you that there will be nothing done by the Queensland government that would damage the Great Barrier Reef.

This point has been noted by Deputy Premier Seeney. He made the point that the conditions that have been put in place by the federal government under Minister Hunt will protect the reef but allow development to happen. They will allow development to happen in a more environmentally responsible way than had been intended under the Labor government and they will put in place a very well accepted and developed policy of expanding existing ports rather than building more ports so that one concentrates the economic activity in areas where it can be well monitored, surveyed and researched.

There is no suggestion whatsoever that the reef is threatened in any of the material put out following the decisions announced yesterday by Minister Hunt. That is not true. It is an untruth that is as overblown as the suggestion that the decisions made yesterday by Minister Hunt are a 'crime against humanity'.

The government has imposed some of the strictest conditions in Australia's history. Among the things that will happen is that the water quality will be 1½ times better than it currently is. That is one of the requirements of the work. That will mean a long-term net reduction in fine sediments entering the marine park from land based sources. That will go on for years and years, well after the life of the project. Up to $89 million will be put into a reef trust to ensure the health of the Great Barrier Reef. As I mentioned earlier, there are 95 environmental conditions for Abbot Point and 53 for Curtis Island. Let us not forget that these projects that will not harm the reef but will grow jobs and the coal industry, which is the real bete noir that the Greens are out to stop—

Senator Whish-Wilson: Greenhouse gases.

Senator BOYCE: 'Greenhouse gases' is the interjection. These projects will generate between $1.4 billion and $2.8 billion per year in gross regional product for Queensland. They will boost employment, with 3,500 jobs during the construction phase and an operational force of about 600 in the end. These are projects that Queensland needs. These are projects that can be managed both economically and environmentally.

We do not need the Greens patronising the Queensland state government by suggesting that the government that relies, firstly, on mining and, secondly, on tourism for its income is not interested in what will happen to the Great Barrier Reef. I find the Greens comments in this area immoral. If they are going to talk about actions by Minister Hunt as 'crimes against humanity' then their exaggerated and overblown comments in this area constitute immorality. I congratulate the federal government, the Minister for the Environment and the state government for the work they have done to finally bring these projects to fruition for the benefit of all Queenslanders, particularly those in the regions and those who live along the coast that is bordered by the Great Barrier Reef.

Debate interrupted.