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Monday, 26 November 2012
Page: 13224


Mr CHRISTENSEN (Dawson) (20:05): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Making Marine Parks Accountable) Bill 2012 is about motivation.

It goes to what the drivers are behind the declaration of a marine park.

It ensures that any government seeking to declare a marine park can adequately answer the question: why?

Why is this marine park being declared?

It is a perfectly valid question and it is a question the Gillard Labor government cannot adequately answer.

Using the same excuse that was trotted out for the carbon tax—'The Greens made me do it'—simply will not cut it.

It certainly did not cut it for anglers when the Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities made the rushed declaration of marine parks two weeks ago.

Jim Harnwell, the managing director of advocacy group Keep Australia Fishing, which represents five million anglers, said:

There was no scientific rationale behind the government's moves to lock anglers out of 1.3 million square kilometres of ocean. We've been asking for years why we need to be locked out. However, Minister Burke has never yet answered our questions. All we can do is keep asking: Why are you doing this to us?

The best answer that Minister Burke could come up with was this. He said:

Australia's oceans support many of the world's endangered marine animals including the Green Turtle, the Blue Whale, the Southern Right Whale, the Australian Sea Lion and the whale shark.

Well, when dad takes the kids out fishing for the weekend, I really do not know how many blue whales they are going to take home or how they would cook a southern right whale or a sea lion for dinner, but the environment minister can now rest easy in the knowledge that the whales, the sea lions and the whale sharks will be safe from Australia's recreational fishers as long as they stay inside the marine park boundaries that he declared.

I am not actually sure that the minister understands what recreational fishing is all about.

Allan Hansard, the Director of the Australian Recreational Fishing Foundation, was quoted in my local newspaper, the Daily Mercury, on November 16, asking this:

What does Mum, Dad and the kids fishing … do to the environment that warrants them being locked out of vast areas of Australian waters, whether the marine parks are five or 500 kilometres from a boat ramp.

He said:

Australia's five million recreational fishers applaud good science based conservation measures that protects our marine environment for future generations …

… However, the Government's Marine Park Plan lacks scientific reasoning and—

there is—

no explanation why Aussie recreational fishers are banned from marine parks.

If peer-reviewed scientific studies proved that a particular species targeted by recreational fishers, or commercial fishermen, for that matter, was an endangered species in the Coral Sea, then fishing families and the rest of Australia could probably understand bag limits and no-take zones.

But the Labor Party and the Greens are kidding themselves if they think locking a relatively small number of fishers out of an area already teeming with fish will make any environmental difference, because fish cannot read maps.

Owner of Mackay Reef Fish Supplies, David Caracciolo, describes the concept of the marine park as fundamentally flawed. He says:

If the idea of a marine park is to conserve the animals or stock in it, to me it is hypocritical …

… A lot of these fish are migratory, you could say we are farming them for other countries to benefit.

What is more, Lance Murray, the President of the Mackay Regional Recreational Fishers, points out the reserves would place pressure on nearby fishing grounds, meaning there would be more competition for recreational anglers.

He said:

What'll happen is commercial fishers are going to be compensated but that'll also add pressure to other areas, which creates a funnel situation.

The minister and his cronies have tried to pretend no-one fishes in the Coral Sea at iconic fishing spots like Marion Reef, because that is 300 kilometres off the coastline.

Well, if no-one fishes out there, if no-one is fishing in these areas, then why are we locking them up?

Here is a dose of the truth—taken from the Nomad Sportfishing Adventures, which takes people fishing out to Marion Reef, one of those areas which is actually going to be locked up. They say:

Throughout each year, we fish the entire 1500 mile length of this reef system, moving between the most remote areas of the reef, to ensure you the absolute best fishing every week.

Nomad's owner, Damon Olsen, says 'travelling way out to Marion Reef on a calm ocean is one of the truly special experiences in the fishing world'.

In his report on a trip to Marion Reef with Nomad, Glanville Heydenrych had this to say about a fishing spot the minister would have us believe no-one visits:

… without a doubt some of the best fishing experiences I have ever uncounted in the Coral Sea and feel blessed to be a part of it, it just makes you hope that we will be allowed to partake in fishing here in the future, trust me this is a place you want to visit and having the government close this beautiful part of Australia due to some political uprising is a disgusting shame to say the least!!! Everybody should have the right to have the opportunity to experience the beauties of the Coral Sea, I am one for sure who would love to go back there …

Mr Olsen, in his blog, apologises for making fishing political, but he goes on to say:

… there are times when you just have to stand up and be counted, as the alternative is to sit back and watch many of the areas you love to fish get closed over the next few months and years.

On one hand, we have the environment minister telling us how important it is to lock people out of the Coral Sea and, on the other, the same environment minister is trying to convince us that the closure is not going to affect anyone because no-one goes out there.

You cannot have this both ways.

In recognition of the fact that some of our fishing industry will be forced to close down, the environment minister is actually putting $100 million worth of compensation on the table—an amount that is widely regarded by the industry as desperately insufficient.

There is no compensation for the businesses behind recreational fishing and an inadequate $100 million on the table for commercials.

If that is all the fishing industry is worth—over a million square kilometres of ocean—then why is it being closed down?

Australia has some of the most underfished waters in the world and closing down our seafood industry will only increase imports from some of the world's most overfished waters. That is the height of hypocrisy.

How does the government determine that to be a good environmental outcome?

Damon Olsen, from Nomad Sportfishing, is all in favour of marine parks if they are done for a reason—for the right reason—which is what this bill before us will ensure.

Mr Olsen says:

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.

The massive problem that we face here is that Science has long ago been abandoned by the politicians, and they are now playing a game of drawing colours on maps simply to keep the powerful and well funded green lobby groups at bay.

He goes on to say:

I have a first hand example of this from the meeting with the federal environment minister. 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.

That is great! Science by felt pen!

Obviously, this bill was aimed to stop the reckless announcement made by the environment minister some 10 days ago, and some people in this place may have a concern that the declaration of the marine parks will negate this bill.

I want to signal my intention right here and now that, if this bill should reach the consideration in detail stage, I will move an amendment that will negate the declaration of the marine protected areas that was made by the minister earlier this month, and then he would have to follow the accountable processes that are set forth in this bill before the House to create any new marine park in Australia. That would include a range of things, from allowing this parliament to have a say on it by making it a declarable instrument and by also ensuring that there are community stakeholder advisory groups set up so that there is real consultation on this, not the fake consultation that the minister has put forward. There would also be scientific review panels established to assess the conservation value. All of these things are in this bill.

I would urge particularly the crossbenchers, who might think that this matter is put to bed with the minister's declaration, to think again. They still have the ability to negate what the minister has done. Instead of having marine parks based on the extreme green agenda and science by felt pen, they can be based on real science with real consultation, real accountability and real transparency, and this parliament can make decisions as it is created to do. Hopefully this bill will be accepted by this parliament. Hopefully this bill will restore balance. Hopefully this bill will make the marine parks process accountable, as it is intended to do.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. DGH Adams ): Is there a seconder for the bill?

Ms Ley: It is with delight that I second the bill for the member for Dawson.