Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 7 June 2001
Page: 27620

Mr LINDSAY (10:20 AM) —The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is a national treasure. Indeed, it is an international treasure, and it is right outside my backdoor. I am very privileged to represent part of the park in the parliament. The boundary of my electorate extends 240 kilometres offshore to the outer Barrier Reef and encompasses 14 islands. So I have had significant experience in dealing with the problems and issues that occur across a number of facets with respect to the users of the marine park.

On the one hand, we have a responsibility to protect that national treasure forever. On the other hand, we have a responsibility to ensure that the operations in the park are sustainable and that people can get the most enjoyment out of the use of the marine park. It works very well on Magnetic Island, which is only eight kilometres across the bay from Australia's largest tropical city, Townsville. It is a marine park zone B, which means you cannot touch anything or take anything; you can only look and experience. This is right in the middle of a major tropical city, and it works. People respect the need to preserve forever our wonderful heritage, as does the Howard government.

The Howard government has got a strong and proud record of protecting the Great Barrier Reef. Since its election in 1996, the government has taken a series of initiatives to enhance the conservation and management of the world heritage area. We have extended the park by more than 2,400 square kilometres. That, in itself, in the totality of things, might not seem important, but what it did was to include small areas of the marine park in very strategically sensitive areas—for example, along the coastline. That has been a very good initiative and certainly was worth doing.

Species such as dugongs and turtles are now much better protected. In 1977, we established the world's first chain of dugong sanctuaries in the southern Great Barrier Reef region. We have extended the prohibition of mining to the entire reef region through regulations under the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975. I can tell you, Mr Deputy Speaker, that in my patch the very thought of mining on the reef or just outside the reef is anathema to the people whom I represent. Some mining companies get a little clever in this regard and, with the technology that is available these days, they can park their rigs outside the reef, drill down and then drill sideways under the reef. It is quite remarkable. Even that technology is opposed by the majority of constituents in my electorate.

Something that is also important is the surveillance and enforcement measures, because they have been upgraded. Patrols have increased substantially. I pay tribute to Australia's Coastwatch team. Coastwatch, which is the agency that delivers the surveillance on behalf of many clients, one of them being the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, delivers it in a very effective—indeed, cost-effective—manner. The Coastwatch aircraft, which are Dash 8s—there are also some helicopters in the Torres Strait—are very well equipped. In fact, those in the know would concede that their technology is significantly better than what we have in the PC3 Orions which fly out of RAAF Edinburgh and which are run by Surveillance Australia. They look out for Australia; they look out for the reef. They detect all of the illegal activities that are happening, as directed by their client agencies.

Regulations have been introduced to deal with the discharge of waste from aquaculture operations. These regulations operate as a safety net to protect the Great Barrier Reef from loopholes in Queensland legislation. I note that in the budget this year an extra $1 million was provided to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority in relation to the problems of aquaculture discharge into the marine park. That was a very welcome initiative in this year's budget. It will enable the marine park authority to further enhance its control and supervision of these discharges.

Sitting in the electorate of Herbert, right on the coastline at Cape Ferguson, is the Australian Institute of Marine Science. It was mentioned earlier by a previous speaker. The Australian Institute of Marine Science is the leader in marine science research in the world. The Australian Institute of Marine Science, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, James Cook University and some elements of the CSIRO combine to produce a marine science body that is unparalleled and unequalled anywhere in the world today.

I visited AIMS a couple of weeks ago, along with the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Industry, Science and Resources. We saw coral cores taken off the reef which dated back to the Battle of Hastings. The entire history of the modern world could be tracked in those coral cores. Because of the research that the Institute of Marine Science is doing, you could see where there were floods, droughts, polluted water and so on.

This legislation carries on the government's commitment to the protection of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The measures contained in the bill which will further enhance the protection have already been articulated. I am particularly pleased to see that shipping companies will now have to sit up and take notice, and make sure that whatever happened to the Malaysian vessel does not happen again. I pay tribute to the marine park authority for managing that impact on the reef so extraordinarily well.

I will close by pointing out to the parliament that the Natural Heritage Trust, which has been extended in this year's budget by $1 billion for another five years, has been warmly welcomed. The government's attention to the environment, the marine park and elsewhere has been widely welcomed. It is fascinating that the green groups and the conservationists, who see this as their traditional patch, cannot quite bring themselves to say to the Howard government, `You've probably done better in the environment than any government in the history of Australia has ever done.'

Mr Slipper —The greenest government in Australia's history.

Mr LINDSAY —The greenest government in Australia's history. I welcome this bill. I support it strongly, my community supports it, and I commend it to the parliament.