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Thursday, 26 June 2008
Page: 6090

Ms SAFFIN (1:51 PM) —It is not very often that one gets the opportunity to speak on a matter that is of profound importance to the marine life of Queensland, of national importance and of international significance. Madam Deputy Speaker, could we please not have that chitchat across the table. This is an issue of national importance but equally one of international significance, given the Great Barrier Reef’s World Heritage status. Also at a very local level the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2008 is important because the Rudd Labor government is honouring yet another election commitment that this government is characterised by. We have honoured our commitments unlike those opposite, who, when they first got elected around 12 years ago, fell almost immediately into what became known as core and non-core promises. Who had ever heard of such a thing until they were elected? These were raised by the then Prime Minister, endorsed by the then Treasurer and endorsed by many others still here in this place today—ex-ministers, aspiring ministers, aspiring authors, aspiring diplomats, aspiring trade barons and the like—all of them on the opposite side of this chamber.

The election commitment that the Rudd Labor government is honouring is specifically to reinstate a requirement for the authority to include an Indigenous Australian on the board. That gives expression to honouring an election commitment—in other words, doing what you say. The longer I sit in this chamber and familiarise myself with this place and those on the opposite side, the one thing that I have noticed is that the opposition say one thing and do another. They say anything and do anything and they are not consistent in the positions that they put forward, unlike us on the government side. I have never seen so many positions on the same issue—and sometimes on the same day. First of all we heard from the opposition about inflation—it was not a problem, then it became a problem, then it was a fairytale, then it was a challenge, then it was a charade and then it was a problem again.

Those opposite had three positions on the means test for the baby bonus, which changed in as many days, and they have had about five positions on Fuelwatch. Now they are starting with emissions trading and a fear campaign. We on the government side on the other hand are characterised by consistency—we say it and we do it. This legislation and the parts contained therein reflect our consistency. I labour this point as it is a mark of clear differentiation between the record of this government and the shambolic approach to law-making and policymaking by those on the opposite side of the chamber.

I will now turn to some of the specific provisions that are to be included in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act by this amendment bill. I can remember quite some years ago, when I was a law student, having the benefit of studying the act . It is an act from 1975, so it is 30 years old. It has served us well but it was in urgent need of reform. I acknowledge that reform was begun by way of review under the previous government, but then it was sat on and not acted on by them. They were too busy worrying about things like peddling their Work Choices paraphernalia rather than focusing on seminal reform issues like this one. It has been left to the Rudd Labor government to pick up this issue and run with it, as we have done with other issues.

The act will be enhanced by the inclusion of Indigenous representation. Indigenous representation is one of those seminal issues when we look at the protection and management of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. It is one of those issues that go to the heart of social and Indigenous inclusion. The Rudd Labor government have been left with a lot to pick up—and not just this amendment bill. We have been left to pick up problems such as inflation, skills shortages, health crises, housing crises and the spiralling cost of living, which were all left behind unchecked and untouched by the previous government. The opposition initially did not believe in climate change. Then they said that maybe they believed in it. Now, with the scare campaign that they have started, they are saying that they are not too sure.

This bill is aimed at establishing a modern and resilient regulatory framework that will give strength and capacity to ensure that management can effectively function to give the protection required to the Great Barrier Reef now and into the future. The 30-year-old act was a good act, and it has done its job, but it is just not capable of meeting the future challenges that are now presenting themselves at the Great Barrier Reef. This bill in essence represents an approach that is meeting the long-term challenges of protection along with human use. The Great Barrier Reef signifies values that are held dear by the community, such as environmental protection, but it is also an area that people want to use. This is always a challenge, but it is a challenge the government is rising to. This bill demonstrates that the Rudd Labor government is rising to the challenges we have now as well as the challenges we will have in the future.

Combining environmental protection and human use is a challenge for anyone, but an area like the Great Barrier Reef cannot be untouched by human activity. That is not practical and it is not the reality. We have to manage that combination of activities and protection. This bill recognises the primacy of the federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, known as the EPBC Act, and it integrates with but does not duplicate other appropriate legislation. This is reflected in part in the new objects sections, which recognises the World Heritage values of the Great Barrier Reef. The objects sections in the act are clearly out of date. They are a product of the time when the act was first drafted, when the focus was on establishing a marine park. The objects sections served that purpose well, but at that time the Great Barrier Reef had not been declared a World Heritage area. Concepts such as ecological sustainability had not emerged and been adopted into the nomenclature. The new objects sections provide a modern, future oriented focus to guide administration of the act and management of the marine park.

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