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Monday, 17 September 2012
Page: 10672

Mr CHRISTENSEN (Dawson) (10:43): I am pleased to present the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Making Marine Parks Accountable) Bill 2012.

The Gillard Labor government's current process of declaring marine protected areas is not the result of rigorous scientific analysis that has been made publicly available or extensive industry and community consultation. The government have not engaged in a proper consultation—their approach is one of 'take it or leave it', with no consideration for Australia's fishers or the coastal communities that rely on the fishing industry.

The fishing sector is worth billions of dollars to the Australian economy. The sector employs thousands of people across the whole country. However, the government has dismissed the social and economic impacts that its announcement will have on local communities which rely heavily on a vibrant fishing industry. Recreational and commercial fishers across Australia, together with the communities that rely on the fishing industry, will be adversely affected by the government's latest announcement regarding proposed marine protected areas.

Furthermore, the government has failed to understand the importance of recreational fishing to many Australians and has failed to consider the important economic contribution that recreational fishing makes to coastal communities. Fishing is a recreational past time enjoyed by five million Australians, and the industry generated by recreational fishing makes an important economic contribution upwards of $2.2 billion. In government, the coalition undertook rigorous assessments that resulted in the establishment of 11 marine protected areas. These declarations were achieved with broad community and industry support. The Liberal-National coalition acknowledges that Australia's fisheries are amongst the best managed in the world; however, the government should not take this for granted by attempting to put forward marine protected areas proposals that have not been subjected to proper scientific and commercial rigour or followed a consultation process that has been conducted in an open and transparent manner.

The Australian fishing industry is one of the most environmentally responsible fishing industries in the world. The government, in attempting to lock out fishing access, is at the same time damaging the livelihood of thousands of people across the country. This bill rectifies the government's shortcomings. It will require the minister to commission an independent social and economic impact assessment before any proclamations are made.

The bill will also require the minister to obtain independent scientific peer-reviewed advice that is made publicly available. It will also require that the government establish an independent scientific reference panel as well as a stakeholder advisory group so that decisions are made with rigour following extensive consultation and analysis of the possible scientific, economic and social impacts of any proposed marine protected areas.

Finally, the bill will put the parliament in charge of final decisions by making declarations disallowable by the parliament. This bill returns balance and fairness to marine conservation so that all Australians can have the confidence that the best decisions are being made in protecting our marine biodiversity as the fishers and communities that feed so many Australians. This bill is, as its name suggests, about control and accountability. It is about making the marine parks process accountable to the science, to the community and industries that the proposed marine parks proposal will affect. It also makes it accountable to the people by giving this parliament a say on the process. So it is all about accountability.

But it is also about taking a stand and saying who is in control in this country. The environment minister, as we have seen in recent times, is very susceptible to lobbying through social media, but in this case he has been very susceptible to lobbying by foreign environmental groups, such as the Pew foundation. What the government is seeking to do with its marine parks proposal is increase the number of marine parks, basically fishing lock-out areas, across Australian waters from 27 to 60, and it is doing it without correct and proper community consultation.

Labor is creating new marine parks as a way of placating the Greens. The new marine parks are about politics rather than the result of genuine and publicly available independent scientific investigation and community consultation. As I have said before, we have seen in recent times how the minister is very susceptible to social media campaigns and, again in this instance, Pew and GetUp! and a whole bunch of environmental groups have taken to the internet to spread chain emails, which have hit many politicians' offices, including the environment minister's. And that is what is driving this agenda, the new government by social media.

The decision to close down the Coral Sea in my area of Queensland, and also many other areas around Australia, has been driven by this Pew environmental group. The head of the Pew environmental group, a fellow by the name of Lee Crockett, who is Director, Federal Fisheries Policy for the Pew foundation in the United States, was quoted in Fishing World magazine as rejecting the concept of actually locking up waters in the Gulf of Mexico. He said the push to close the Coral Sea to all angling was supported by:

… hundreds of thousands of people throughout Australia and around the world—including recreational anglers.

He went on to say that closing the Gulf of Mexico to fishing would not make sense because these waters are a 'major US economic driver'. He said:

The Gulf offers excellent angling opportunities, and sport and commercial fishing generates billions of dollars and fresh seafood to much of the nation—

and he refers there to the United States of America. So we have, in essence, policy being driven in this country locking up Australian waters to recreational and commercial fishing, while in the case of US waters, where there may be similar vague conservation values, the Pew foundation, the driver of this policy, are not willing to go there for fear of what it may do to recreational fishermen and commercial fishermen in their country. They will not touch American waters, but they are touching Australian waters, and they are touching them with the help of this government. It begs the question: who is actually in control here?

There has been a lot of talk from the minister and from environmental groups about how this does not affect recreational fishermen, which is complete rubbish, because the sector is quite against it. Talk to the Australian Recreational Fishing Foundation, who have started the campaign Keep Australia Fishing. Talk to the Australian Marine Alliance, who represent some of the recreational-fishing groups. Talk to the Australian Fishing Trade Association, who will also tell you that they are against this proposal.

The minister talks about how no-one is taking a tinnie 400 kilometres off the coast, but, if you have a look in any North Queensland marina which is off the Coral Sea, there are not tinnies in those marinas; they are serious boats. We do not just have commercial fishermen and recreational fishing boats there; we have tourism charter operators like Nomad Sportsfishing Adventures, which operates out of Mackay and goes out to Marion Reef, which I notice is one of the areas proposed to be locked up under the government's marine parks proposal.

I want to quote something here because it proves the falsity of the claim that this process has been based on science. Damon Olsen, who is the head of Nomad Sportsfishing Adventures, says:

All we want to achieve here is to ensure that our marine reserves are implemented with thorough scientific planning, scientific principles and practical outcomes that work for all user groups. All recreational fishing groups support closed off areas, but only when thorough scientific processes have shown that these closed off areas are required. The current process is closing off huge areas to recreational fishermen simply so the government can keep green groups happy and stay in power.

He goes on to recall a meeting with the federal environment minister. He says:

The current process is proposing to close off the main area of the Perth trench to all gamefishing activities, essentially shutting down the entire gamefishing industry and community in Perth. We asked the minister why this zone had been placed in it's proposed position. We were told that the minister drew that zone himself because they needed one in that area, and there was no information to tell him where to put it, so he just placed it where he thought was appropriate.

This is science by texta; this is not real science.

This bill makes the marine parks process accountable not just to the science but to the community, to the industries that it impacts upon and to the people by giving this parliament the ultimate say in the process. I am very pleased to present this bill to the House, and I look forward to its support from the crossbenchers.

Bill read a first time.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr KJ Thomson ): In accordance with standing order 41, the second reading will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.