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Tuesday, 4 June 2013
Page: 5116


Mr JOHN COBB (Calare) (17:52): I rise to speak on the disallowance motions logged for each of the six Commonwealth Marine Reserves Network Management Plans moved by the coalition. The coalition opposes the flawed methodology underpinning the announcement of marine reserves. The creation of the marine reserves was not disallowable, but the management plans are. Disallowing these plans will allow the coalition to ensure that scientific rigor is restored and due process is followed.

The areas to be locked up include the following regions: the Coral Sea region; the south-west marine region; the temperate east marine region; the north marine region; the north-west marine region; and the south-east marine region. The government has offered a package of $100 million to the fishing industry to try to buy their silence after ignoring them in the consultation process. Australia's fisheries are globally benchmarked and recognised as among the best managed anywhere in the world. Why, then, do we need to lock Australians out of our oceans? The coalition is committed to returning balance and fairness to marine conservation. Marine protected areas are intended to protect and maintain biologically and culturally significant marine areas of Commonwealth waters.

It was the previous coalition government which commenced the process of establishing marine protected areas around Australia's coastline, in line with Australia's internationally declared commitments. For this purpose, the Commonwealth waters surrounding Australia were divided into five bioregional planning regions—the south-east, south-west, north-west, north, and east. The regions cover Commonwealth waters only, not state waters. The boundaries are usually from three nautical miles from the coast out to the outer limits of Australia's Exclusive Economic Zone, approximately 200 nautical miles from the shore.

The coalition guided development of the south-east marine bioregion plan, which was formalised in 2006. It included a network of 14 marine reserves, which were agreed after careful consideration and consultation with all stakeholders, including the recreational and commercial fishing sectors. This consultation ensured an appropriate balance was struck between protecting marine biodiversity and minimising social and economic impact on fishers, businesses and coastal communities, and better outcomes. The final result was a greater area protected with less impact on industry. The Gillard government does not have a track record of effective consultation, in fact quite the opposite. It is renowned for its sham consultation process.

There is considerable angst amongst fishermen regarding the declaration of marine national parks. Their concerns have not been heard. The consultation process was flawed and so the results are flawed. Industry was given just 30 days to consider and respond to the draft plans, which covered 2.3 million square kilometres. That is a huge workload, particularly for those who had to consider more than one management plan. How could industry possibly examine the detail of the impact around the entire Australian exclusive economic zone and comment in just 30 days?

Australia's $2 billion fishing sector was treated with complete contempt by environment minister, Tony Burke, yet again, and was given only 30 days to review management plans for his huge, unscientific ocean grab. Industry groups asked for 90 days but were ignored. On 16 November 2012 the minister declared 2.3 million square kilometres as marine reserves.

Fishing is an industry which provides 16,000 jobs for Australians. It is about time that Tony Burke and his government started listening to a productive sector and not to their Green coalition partners, who are intent on shutting industry down and locking Australians out of their own country. And what about the minister for fisheries, Senator Ludwig? Was he standing up for industry or using his department to support industry? No, not a chance. He was overruled by Minister Burke.

The socioeconomic analysis done by ABARE did not even consider the impact on recreational fishers or on coastal communities. So, rightly, recreational and commercial fishers, as well as the many related businesses and communities that rely on fishing, have raised substantial concerns about Labor's handling of the Commonwealth Marine Reserves Network. The Australian Fishing Trade Association estimates that the economic contribution of recreational fishing to the economy is between $10 billion and $15 billion per annum—that is not peanuts but we have monkeys running this show. Minister Burke's only response is that these parks are too far away for anyone to care. Well, Minister, if you had not noticed, it is the 21st Century and we have moved on from the canoe.

Now let us talk about the science. Surely a process that locks up 2.3 million square kilometres in marine reserves would be based on robust scientific data. I will now outline the science Minister Burke used in deciding on where to put the national parks, and all the scientific factors that went into the decision. This is the big issue, the science. Hang on, there is nothing on that page and nothing on this page either. There is no science. I set aside half of my speech to debate the science but alas there was not any.

Tony Burke's own department admitted that he has to put marine parks 'somewhere' and that there is no science behind the proposed lock-ups. Minister Burke has admitted that the scale of lock-up in the Temperate East zone is a payoff for the vast lock-up of the Coral Sea zone. Minister Burke's own department has been telling stakeholders there is no science behind the lines on the maps. I refer you to the Senate estimates hearings and to Senator Boswell's questioning of Mr Oxley, who was in charge of it then. He said the marine environment is generally not well understood. We have a relative dearth of information about the diversity of the Coral Sea but we really do not have the money to deal with it.

Minister Burke traded areas back and forth, playing stakeholders off against each other, in order to get the quantity of locked-up areas he needed for the ultimate appeasement of extremists. Minister Burke's tactics have included shamelessly playing commercial and recreational fishing interests off against one another, and playing both off against the environment groups.

Proper, grown-up government makes policy on its merit, on fact. There are key scientific reasons we should lock up more national parks only where the evidence is available. As Dr Ray Hilborn, Professor of Aquatic and Fisheries Sciences at the University of Washington, has explained: 'Australian fisheries are well managed', sustainable and do not need further locking up to protect them from overfishing. The existing tools are working. There is no threat to marine conservation. Closing Australian areas to fisheries will not increase food production from fisheries; it will reduce it. Reducing access to Australian fish stocks is irresponsible. It results in Australia importing more fish, often sourced from areas with less sustainably managed fisheries at much higher environmental cost, effectively offshoring our domestic requirements. Well-managed fisheries are more environmentally sustainable than most other protein sources. If we close the ocean and take less seafood, the environmental cost of the alternatives is much higher than the environmental cost of fishing. In Australia, the US and a number of other countries, stocks are rebuilding, not declining.

In the Senate inquiry into this issue, many of the substantive submissions and the coalition's dissenting report supported this view. Minister Burke claims tens of thousands of submissions in his sham consultation process but does not differentiate between the vast majority of electronically generated campaign emails, many from overseas, and the substantive, genuine submissions from affected communities and industries with valid concerns. The lack of process is extraordinary. For example, Professor Kearney highlighted three fundamental steps to be taken in order for an area to be adequately and appropriately protected, and stated that these have not been systematically applied to the declaration of Australia's marine protected areas. They are: (1) all significant threats must be identified—article 7 of the Convention on Biological Diversity; (2) the processes that constitute these threats must be addressed—EPBC Act, Commonwealth of Australia 1999; and (3) the management action that is taken must not be disproportionate to the significance of the environmental problems—Intergovernmental Agreement on the Environment, government of Australia 1992. And the government has failed on all three measures. It is not looking good.

This is not about marine parks. This is not about saving our environment. This is about the member for Watson, Mr Tony Burke, trying to get a few extra lines on his CV as he pushes his own case to be the next Labor prime minister. He is the best man for the job; just ask him! This stunt demonstrates aptly how little this government has learnt about good public policy—

Mr Frydenberg interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Murphy ): Order! I am having difficulty hearing the member for Calare because of the constant static across the chamber.

Mr JOHN COBB: It is a failure of process and a failure to understand the responsibility of government. The lack of methodical, systematic and collaborative government process is an unfortunate feature of a government built on reactive, populist policies.

The ban of the fishing trawler is perhaps the best or, I should say, the worst example of this government—again, led by the member for Watson. The member for Watson as minister for agriculture appointed the Australian Fisheries Management Authority board members and signed off on the management plan that invited the supertrawler to Australia. Then, as minister for the environment, he backflipped on his own policy and invented laws so he could ban it, ignoring the science, ignoring due process and ignoring good government practice.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for Kooyong is not in his place.

Mr JOHN COBB: Unfortunately, hopeless government has infiltrated the whole Labor Party. At the moment we have legislation from the Gillard government wanting to fix up their own mess in pulling money out of everybody who does not use an account for three years. We actually have a farmer with a farm management deposit, money designed to be put there so that a farmer can use it a few years later when he strikes trouble. What happened? He did not use it for three years; it is gone—a farm management deposit designed to be put there and not used. They have taken that.

Mr Lyons interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for Bass will cease interjecting.

Mr JOHN COBB: No wonder the government need to put in amendments to their own legislation.

The live exports ban is perhaps the best example which defines this government. The government's first decision was to ban live exports from the seven abattoirs where the terrible, inhumane practice took place, but the government, disappointed at being outdone by the Greens, then banned it unilaterally without even so much as talking to the Indonesian government or even contemplating the impact on industry. Just like the marine parks, it rolled out a $100 million package to solve its problems, but, as history now shows, the package did not even look at addressing the problems. This has led to the current crisis in northern Australia.

The live export ban imposed by this government and the resultant cut in live export and boxed beef quotas to Indonesia have led to a major unfolding animal welfare disaster in northern Australia. Our northern cattle farmers have carried over hundreds of thousands of extra cattle from last year, and now they have had a lean wet season and have this year's calves on the ground. Combined with a feed shortage caused by a dry autumn in the rest of Australia, this means that the whole cattle market is depressed and local abattoirs are booked out months in advance. Have we seen Labor, the Greens or Animals Australia coming out to help the animals who are starving because of the environment they created? No, we have not. In fact, we have seen the opposite.

The member for Watson has led the charge of those opposed to putting these animals into reserves as an emergency measure, even though many of the parks are former cattle stations and even though sensitive environmental areas are to be excluded. The member for Watson should be ashamed. He does not care about the humane treatment of animals; he just cares about keeping the greenies happy. The member has feebly offered the government Farm Finance package as a solution, but, even if the states signed up tomorrow, it would be months before that could take effect.

This marine park process—or lack of it—is just another in a long line of Labor disasters that shows just how much Labor has alienated its working-class base. We all remember the Prime Minister's pre-election commitment: 'There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead.' We all know that this turned out to be a major—

Mr Lyons interjecting

Mr JOHN COBB: You are still getting sick of it, are you? It turned out to be a major broken promise, although I have heard somewhere—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for Bass knows better.

Mr JOHN COBB: a somewhat justifiable claim that the Prime Minister has never led this government and that it is the Greens that are running the country. Nevertheless, we have the carbon tax that has accelerated the demise of our manufacturing and processing industry as well as devastating the wafer-thin profits of the agricultural sector.

Labor used to stand for the workers. Now it stands for closing the manufacturing industry, closing the food-processing industry and squeezing out the mining sector. The fishing industry is also hit by the carbon tax, with its high reliance on refrigeration and the resultant high electricity costs. Add to that the world's largest marine park networks shutting out the fishing industry, and we have another sector alienated by this government. But the government does not care. The government has built on its disasters—on backflips, broken promises and policy disasters. The coalition will not stand for it. Australia is a fantastic country and it can be again. Its people do not deserve to be treated like mugs. These marine parks are thought bubbles by the minister for the environment—poorly designed, poorly implemented. I implore the parliament to support this disallowance motion so that these marine parks do not become another symbol of the scourge of the Rudd and Gillard governments.

I would like to repeat something I said in this place earlier today when the member for Watson, the minister for the environment, accused us of wanting to get rid of a park that we had designated under the Howard government. In actual fact, I do not know whether the minister was telling untruths or he just does not know his own legislation and does not know the facts. On reflection, the latter is likely, because the disallowance motion does not—I repeat, does not—get rid of the maritime area the Howard government put in place. It does not get rid of the interim management plan put in place by the Howard government. In fact, it enshrines it, make sure that it stays there. It does get rid of the management plan being put by the Gillard government and the member for Watson.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Murphy ): In accordance with the resolution agreed to earlier, this order of the day will be debated cognately with the other orders of the day relating to the disallowance of the Commonwealth Marine Reserves Network Management plans. The question is that the motion be agreed to.