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Monday, 26 November 2012
Page: 13235


Ms GAMBARO (Brisbane) (20:46): In a little while, I plan to present a petition which has been found to be in order by the Petitions Committee and which has been signed by 4,541 Australians. I support the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Making Marine Parks Accountable) Bill 2012 introduced into the chamber by the member for Dawson. I acknowledge the passionate way he has represented his constituents since his election to this House. This bill proposes to insert a process into the EPBC Act to ensure that, prior to the declaration of any marine protected areas, the relevant minister will be required to commission an independent social and economic impact assessment before any proclamations are made.

The bill has become necessary because of the way the Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, Tony Burke, has gone about the latest designation of the marine protected area in the Coral Sea. The consistent feedback—it has been consistent every step of the way—from stakeholders has been that the current process of establishing marine park boundaries completely failed to include any genuine consultation and failed to recognise that Australian fisheries are amongst the healthiest and best managed in the world—as highlighted in the latest Commonwealth fisheries status report released in November 2011.

The government has not engaged in proper consultation—their approach has been take it or leave it. There has been no consideration for Australian fisheries or the coastal communities which rely very heavily on this industry. There are also major concerns about the rigour and consistency of the science used to determine particular boundaries of proposed marine parks.

Let me make one point very clear, however. The coalition does support the designation of marine parks and marine protected areas. We have a very strong record on this. When it comes to the protection of our fisheries and environmental sustainability, we have a strong and long record. One of the things that I was most proud of as a member of the Howard government was the effort which resulted in the establishment of 11 marine protected areas. That included, in July 2004, a new zoning plan for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, which increased the areas protected from extractive activities from 4.6 per cent to 33.3 per cent of that park. These declarations were achieved with broad community and industry support. This demonstrates that it is possible to implement marine park zones with the support of both the scientific community and the other communities involved. It was a stepped and staged process involving those communities all along the way.

I see the petition has arrived now and I plan to table it in just a little while.

This government has displayed a total lack of consultation. It is exactly the opposite of what we did in government when we first implemented the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. That is why this bill is necessary. It is necessary to give the industry and the communities confidence that decisions which governments make on the basis of environmental protection are genuinely made on those grounds alone—not based on some political ideology.

As set out in the explanatory memorandum, this bill will require the relevant minister to commission an independent social and economic impact assessment before any proclamations are made. The bill will require the minister to obtain independent scientific peer reviewed advice that is made publicly available. It will also require the government to 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 parliament in charge of final decisions by making declarations disallowable by the parliament.

I again remind the parliament of the very high levels of sustainability already observed by our fishing industry. As someone who has worked in this industry, I can endorse the view that Australia's fisheries are amongst the best managed in the world. (Time expired)