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Monday, 9 February 2015
Page: 193

Mrs PRENTICE (Ryan) (12:31): I rise to speak in support of this motion by the member for Leichhardt, and I thank him for bringing it to the attention of the House. There is no disputing that the Great Barrier Reef is a natural wonder of the world and deserves the best possible protection. The reef brings two million tourists a year to Australia from all around the globe. It supports 69,000 jobs and generates $5.6 billion in revenue for Queensland and Australia. Anybody who suggests, therefore, that the government is not serious about protecting the reef is, quite frankly, delusional.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is managed using a zonal system. The whole of the park—all 344,400 square kilometres, an area larger than Victoria and Tasmania combined—is divided into one of seven zones from general use to preservation. The zoning of a particular area determines the type of activities permitted in that area. For example, trawl fishing is only allowed in the general use zone. I believe this is part of the perceived problem that the Greens have with the way the park is managed. The general use zone covers approximately 95 per cent of the park, and the Greens and their alliance partners think that it should be less. The zones for the marine park were based on the application of systemic conservation techniques—science. Yet those opposite say that the science is wrong and that they know better. This is such an extraordinary irony: Labor and the Greens, of all people, who extol science when it suits them, rejecting it when it does not. The zones protect the most delicate areas of the reef from damage by commercial and recreational activities. They were selected for special protection by the science as the most vital parts of the reef. These areas are the breeding and spawning grounds, nursery areas and refuges for endangered species, all of which help to boost the number of species on the reef and the abundance of fish.

The Queensland LNP government has a proud history of protecting the reef. The LNP government immediately acted to cut the Bligh Labor government's plan to dump 38 million tonnes of dredge spoil in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park by 90 per cent and developed a better plan to dispose of dredge material on land. The UNESCO World Heritage Committee has publicly recognised the significant work and progress made by the Queensland government in managing and protecting the Great Barrier Reef. The Newman LNP government introduced the toughest laws ever to protect the Great Barrier Reef, increasing penalties for serious environmental harm to the reef to over $3.5 million in fines or five years in jail.

What did Labor do? Labor had a chance to support these laws but voted against them. The Queensland LNP's reef protection package provided more than $155 million for practical reef initiatives, including new funding of $17.1 million for the Great Barrier Reef Foundation's eReefs project and increased vessel tracking to protect our reef. What we have in those opposite are Great Barrier Reef deniers—those who fail to accept the science and think they know better. They fail to look at the dreadful record of their own party and cannot recognise the good management when it is presented to them. Their status as Great Barrier Reef deniers is settled, because they have delayed the Environment Legislation Amendment Bill 2013, which would triple the penalties for those people poaching turtles and dugongs on the reef. As usual, they offer no actual solution; they just sit back and criticise everyone else. While those opposite harp and complain, they are proving themselves yet again to be the problem and not the solution. They are continuing to block the budget measures even on their own savings bill, and they refuse to pass the environment legislation so they can continue to blame others.

The Labor opposition's record of stewardship of the reef is a disgrace. How is it that the reef has deteriorated when Labor were in government in Queensland for the vast majority of the last 23 years if they are such good stewards? The simple answer is that they were not and they neglected the reef. It is time for them to get out of the way of those who want to take positive, direct action. I thank the member for Leichhardt for his motion and I commend the motion to the House.