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Tuesday, 14 August 2012
Page: 8595

Mr EWEN JONES (Herbert) (22:00): I am not a fisherman's bootlace. I have caught fish. I can fillet a fish. But my brother-in-law will tell you that what I leave on the skin could feed a family of five for a week and a half. Those were my first words when I fronted the fishing forum that we had in Townsville last week. The fishing forum was called because of the imminent closure of the Coral Sea and turning it into a great big marine park off the north coast of Townsville and the north coast of Australia. In 2010 we campaigned hard, saying that a vote for Labor was a vote for the Greens to close down the Coral Sea. Labor, of course, said that they would not do this. We knew otherwise—they would, and they will.

The Pew Foundation came to North Queensland and spent nearly two days there. Of course they did not consult with anyone from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. They spent 20 minutes with Terry Hughes from James Cook University. They did not see anyone from the Institute of Marine Science. They still found that the establishment of a marine park off north Queensland should be a prime consideration for Australia. That they were not able to do this in the Gulf of Mexico off the United States coast was pretty much because they could not sustain any financial impact or impact on the local people.

We were also very clear that the marine park border off Townsville is miles away. It is not going to affect the recreational fisher much at all. But the recreational fisher came to this forum saying: 'What is going to be next? Because we simply cannot trust this government.' At the time I said I was a betting man. I said, 'The consultation period is not over yet, but I am prepared to bet that when it is the minister will come down and establish a great big marine park off the north coast of Australia, and that will force the commercial fishers who are no longer able to fish out there into where the recreational fishing is done.' The minister has stood there and said, 'We are not going to do this from a scientific basis.' This is just a decision that they have made. So it seems the North Queenslanders are to be collateral damage so that Labor can save votes in the inner city of Sydney and Melbourne where black-skivvy-wearing, Vespa-riding, soy-latte-drinking lefties can sit down and ponder themselves and say what a wonderful thing it is that we cannot fish anymore.

We passed a number of resolutions at this fishing forum. First and foremost was that recreational fishing is a lifestyle issue for north Queensland. It is, in our opinion, a right, and we want that protected. We resolved that the science should be the guide of the establishment of a marine reserve off the north coast of Australia. If the minister does proceed and establish the Coral Sea marine park, we ask that that decision be overturned by a subsequent government until an Australian scientific case for closure can be made.

What pleased everyone there was that the north Queensland recreational fisher supports bag limits and supports zonings. We also called for the establishment of artificial reefs in yellow zones. For those of you who do not understand what a yellow zone is, a yellow zone is one hook, one line, one rod, one angler. That is the zone. A green zone is no fishing whatsoever. We called for the establishment of artificial reefs in yellow zones to provide places for the migratory species and for those fish forced out of green zones. We called for a science based review of the green zones. How many days a year can people actually go out to fish? Look at the weather charts and see just how many times you can actually get five to 10 knots in north Queensland. The weather is the greatest protector of all fish. Can science and the recreational fishers do a survey over a green zone where we change the zone to a yellow zone, with no anchor provisions but either drift or trawl, and see what has happened after a year?

There needs to be work done to change the basic perception, also, that north Queenslanders are out there to rape the sea and fish at the reefs. Nothing could be further from the truth. There need to be some wounds healed here as well. Many people were reticent to speak because they felt that they simply do not get listened to by Canberra. Others said that they would never tell anyone what happened after what happened with the green zones. They entered into that with open minds and cooperation at heart, and they got shut out of the fishing spots. We need to re-engage here and tell them that we are not going to belt them.

Senator Richard Colbeck, the opposition shadow minister for fisheries, will come to Townsville. He will listen to the people of Townsville and the recreational fishing industry of Townsville. It is something that we truly believe in, and it is something that we will make policy on and move forward on as we go towards the next election.