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Wednesday, 25 June 2008
Page: 5961

Mr PERRETT (7:17 PM) —The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2008 deals with the overlap between the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act and various pieces of Queensland legislation. It does this by establishing the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act as the authority for environmental impact assessments and approval arrangements. In doing so, this bill eliminates duplication, reduces compliance costs for business—which is always very important and which the Rudd government is committed to—and ensures that the Great Barrier Reef will receive strong legal protection as a matter of national environmental protection. This bill also improves investigation and enforcement powers through the EPBC Act. It includes a civil penalty regime, expanded infringement notices for minor offences and administrative enforcement. These are very sensible approaches in terms of having a continuum. These penalties strike an appropriate balance of adequate deterrence while ensuring that penalties are not excessive for minor offences.

I also welcome the measures in this bill to encourage individuals to take responsibility for their environmental impact. This is a cultural debate that should have occurred 10 years ago. Unfortunately, it is now up to the Rudd government to inform the community about the importance of this. The bill introduces an environmental duty requiring marine park users to take reasonable steps to avoid or minimise any environmental harm. This is a common-sense approach. This bill also delivers on our election commitment to reinstate a requirement for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to include an Indigenous member. This measure is out of respect to the more than 70 traditional owner groups along the Queensland coast, many of whom are represented very ably in the federal parliament by the member for Leichhardt. These 70 traditional owner groups have a continuing relationship with the Great Barrier Reef. These measures build on our comprehensive strategy to protect and manage the Great Barrier Reef for the future, including our $200 million reef rescue plan and action to help protect the reef from the impacts of climate change.

As I mentioned earlier in my speech, there were many missed opportunities to address the environmental damage of climate change in the 1970s. However, we cannot rewind time. This bill is part of a suite of responses to climate change. It is appropriate at this moment that I ask: what have the opposition done? I heard in question time today some suggestions about shadecloth, and I did a bit of research to find out what that referred to. It was in the context of the government talking about its green paper on climate change which is to be released next month. I looked at the ABC News online webpage for Thursday, 2 November 2006, which said:

Federal Tourism Minister Fran Bailey says using ‘shade cloth’ over parts of the Great Barrier Reef off Queensland could protect it from the harmful effects of global warming.

Earlier this week, Britain’s Stern report said climate change could cause a global economic downturn and bleach the reef.

Skipping forward a few paragraphs:

One of the suggestions is to attach the shade cloth to pontoons, which is an idea Ms Bailey says is worth considering if it will help protect the reef.

I would like to have the contract for that 2,500-kilometre-long pontoon. It certainly would do a lot for manufacturing in Queensland and for Labor on the coast. It would certainly keep the member for Leichhardt’s electorate happy for a while. The Rudd government is realistic and has a green paper. Those opposite have some green shadecloth. That is their approach. Under the Rudd government an emissions-trading scheme will be a reality. The fear and smear campaign launched by the Kyoto sceptics opposite—the ‘missing in action’ group when in government—will come to nothing. Hopefully, people will understand that the cultural change that we need on carbon will produce some real results.

When releasing the Stern report, which was referred to in this article, the author made the point that the failure of the Western world to put a price on carbon is the greatest market failure of all time. We in the Labor government, strangely enough, are much more believing about the role of the market than those opposite. I wonder what the carbon charlatans on the other side believe in. Will they just go with a fear and smear campaign—talking about petrol and the like—or will they really try to address the future of the planet?

Surely the Great Barrier Reef is one of the world’s greatest natural wonders. My three-year-old son went to North Queensland to meet my in-laws when he was a two-year-old. He is yet to go snorkelling or diving on the reef or to experience many of its great wonders. For his sake and for his children’s sake it is hoped that the opposition will embrace the fact that the world has changed. I am very pleased to support a bill that will help ensure that the reef can be enjoyed for generations to come. I commend the bill to the House.