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Wednesday, 25 June 2008
Page: 5886

Mrs D’ATH (1:54 PM) —I rise in support of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2008. This bill, as other members have stated, is an important step in the ongoing conservation and protection of the Great Barrier Reef. It fulfils part of the election commitment of the Rudd Labor government to genuinely tackle sustainable measures for the protection of our environment. As a Queenslander I am proud of the magnificent natural resource that we have on our doorstep and understand the importance of conserving and protecting such a resource.

The Great Barrier Reef has significant environmental, social, economic and cultural values. In introducing the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975 into parliament, the Australian government stated that protection of our unique Barrier Reef is of paramount importance to Australia and the world, and conservation and protection of the Great Barrier Reef will be the paramount aim of the authority in all zones of the marine park. This act, in providing for reasonable use to coexist with conservation, established a multi-use approach to management, with an overarching conservation objective. This concept has underpinned management of the marine park. The benefits of protecting our environment are immeasurable. Decisions made by all levels of government must take all necessary steps to balance the environmental, social, economic and cultural values. These values do not necessarily need to be in conflict with each other.

The Howard government did not believe in this approach. They believed in fear campaigns, alleging that any positive move to address climate change would result in economic pressures. In opposition they continue to follow this approach. We the government take a different approach. We believe that the protection of our environment is important. Tackling climate change is one of the most nationally and internationally challenging areas, but it is something that must be done in a responsible way. This challenge must be faced head-on. There is no time to waste in our willingness to take issues to the nations of the globe. By signing the Kyoto protocol, Australia can now be regarded as a nation that is helping with the solution as opposed to one waiting for an answer.

I acknowledge the work of the Minister for Climate Change and Water, Senator Penny Wong, who has immediately taken a proactive role in her diplomatic discussions with other countries on this important issue. I also acknowledge the work of the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts, the Hon. Peter Garrett, for his work on this bill and other important initiatives on the environment.

When we talk about the environment, we cannot do so without talking about climate change. Areas such as the Great Barrier Reef must be considered in the context of the changing nature of the environment due to climate change. Eminent scientists throughout the world have already reported on evidence of climate change resulting from elevated greenhouse gas concentrations. Since the beginning of last century, air temperature has increased by 0.6 degrees Celsius on average worldwide. In Australia, 2005 was the hottest year ever recorded. The temperature was 1.1 degrees Celsius higher than the average over the previous 30 years.

Levels of greenhouse gases continue to increase and therefore temperatures around the world continue to rise. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts that the average global temperature will rise by 1.4 to 5.8 degrees Celsius by 2100. The Australian Greenhouse Office has worked with scientists to develop models that predict the future climate of Australia. They predict that Australia will warm by one to six degrees Celsius by 2070, a slight variation from the global average. We have already set out our plan for responding to this challenge: reducing carbon emissions, adapting to climate change we cannot avoid and helping to shape a global solution.

To tackle the threats to the Great Barrier Reef, including the effects of climate change and declining water quality, the government has committed $2 million to a reef rescue plan. The rescue plan will help protect one of the world’s great natural wonders, while benefiting local conservation and Indigenous groups, agricultural production, tourism, fishing and aquacultural industries.

What does this mean for the Great Barrier Reef? Changes in the climate that will directly impact the Great Barrier Reef include increased water temperature, increased sea level, increased severity of storms and cyclones, ocean acidification, changed rainfall and run-off and changes to the El Nino southern oscillation. The ecological consequences of climate change will be serious. Mass coral bleaching, which is caused by sustained high water temperatures, has already begun to increase in frequency and severity. The range of other potential impacts on the Great Barrier Reef are numerous, with many only just coming to light.

The Rudd Labor government is genuine about tackling climate change. That is why in the government’s first budget we have delivered $2.3 billion in funding to tackle climate change through initiatives across government over the next four years. Australians understand that climate change is one of the biggest challenges we face as a nation. The impacts of climate change threaten both our economic prosperity and our way of life.

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 for Petrie will have leave to continue speaking when the debate is resumed.