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Monday, 9 February 2015
Page: 192


Mr PERRETT (Moreton) (12:25): I am very grateful to speak on this motion put forward by the member for Leichhardt. I note some of the contribution from the member for Bowman, who was able to rope in the election results from Queensland last Saturday, which is quite amazing because I can go back three years to the last state election, an election in the lead up to which former Premier Newman gave an assurance to the Australian Conservation Foundation that the environment had nothing to fear under an LNP government. That was publicised far and wide. Then on the Sunday, the day after the election where the Liberal National Party was swept into power with the biggest electoral majority in the history of the Westminster system, the very next day, the former Deputy Premier, Jeff Seeney, the member for Callide, said, 'By the way, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park needs to be smaller.' Fair dinkum, he said that the next day, the day after the election.

So the member for Bowman did get something right: the people of Queensland rejected his party's approach to the environment and their betrayal of the Great Barrier Reef. The protection of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is of concern not only to the people of Queensland, not only to the people of my electorate, but all across Australia and all across the globe because the reef has that international status because it is an international icon—the largest living organism—and as elected representatives we must work to protect this natural asset. I say that not just because I am married to someone from Cairns and I do spend my holidays, when I can, not only up with her in-laws but also in one of the greatest places in the world: Cairns and the area abutting the Great Barrier Reef.

This current government, sadly, is intent on destroying these assets and has been a bit of an embarrassment on the world stage when it comes to responding to climate change and the impacts that will have on the Great Barrier Reef. The Great Barrier Reef is known to divers throughout the world and to tourism operators as the largest coral reef in the world. It stretches from the tip of Cape York Peninsula, nudging Papua New Guinea, to just north of Fraser Island, covering some 347,000 square kilometres. As people know, Queensland is a lure for tourists from all around Australia and the world who want to see the Great Barrier Reef, and it is a great boon to our economy, obviously. It is great for the Queensland economy and great for the Australian economy. At least 65,000 Australians owe their livelihoods to the reef, and it generates around $6 billion in economic activity every year. It is not something that is dug out of the ground, never to be seen again. It is an environmental and economic resource that can generate income year after year if we look after it.

The science of marine sanctuaries is actually quite settled. They are critical to restoring the abundance and diversity of marine life and to preserving the health of our oceans. The Labor Party is committed to the sustainable management of Australia's marine resources and we are a strong, proud defender and manager of these oceans and those who use them.

This motion from the member for Leichhardt is very timely following the state election in Queensland, where a Liberal government had actually shown by its actions—not by its last-minute words but by its actions—that it was determined to destroy the reef through dredge spoiling. And what did the people of Queensland say? They said, 'See you later—sayonara.'

When it comes to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, those opposite and I have very different views on how to protect this World Heritage site for future generations. We can see some desperate lobbying from Minister Hunt, trying to conceal the true facts about how much in danger the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is. But the reality will come out and UNESCO will give a clear ruling on the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, and that will be a shameful legacy to hang around Prime Minister Abbott, the current Prime Minister. If we do not do what we can to protect the Great Barrier Reef for our future generations, our names will be blackened in the history books, and I do not want to be associated with that shameful legacy.