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Wednesday, 9 May 2007
Page: 66

Dr SOUTHCOTT (1:57 PM) —In speaking to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Amendment Bill 2007, it seems an appropriate time to remember that it was the Fraser government in 1979 which first established the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park on the Capricornia section of the reef. It was also the Fraser government which prohibited exploration and drilling for petroleum in the area of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. In 1981, the Great Barrier Reef was inscribed on the World Heritage List. These were all actions of a previous Liberal government and a demonstration that we have had a good strong track record on the environment but have always been able to balance it with other things. The bill that we are considering provides for a management plan which will incorporate the needs of tourism—there is $5 billion in tourism to the Great Barrier Reef—but also the needs of fisheries in that area.

The Great Barrier Reef was inscribed on the list of World Heritage areas in 1981. It became the largest area of World Heritage, covering some 35 million hectares on the north-east continental shelf of Australia. It is the world’s most extensive coral reef system, yet the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage area consists of much more than just reefs. It is an outstanding representation of a number of significant, ongoing ecological and biological processes. The area consists of 2,800 reefs, ranging in size from one to 100,000 hectares, and provides habitats for many different forms of marine life—including species like the dugong, considered to be endangered on an international scale.

The reef provides food sources for fish, sea urchins and molluscs, is a nesting area for endangered turtles and a breeding area for humpbacked whales. According to the Executive Director of the Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators, these are some of the attractions that have led to the creation of a $5 billion reef based tourism industry. So there are very strong environmental reasons for the protection of the reef. But there are also massive industries around it—the tourism and fishing industries—and it is very important to balance all of those areas.

Since the election of the Howard government, the protected zones within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park have increased from 4½ per cent to 33.3 per cent.

The SPEAKER —Order! It being 2 pm, the debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 97. The debate may be resumed at a later hour and the member will have leave to continue speaking when the debate is resumed.