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Tuesday, 4 June 2013
Page: 5121

Mr BALDWIN (Paterson) (18:11): I rise to speak to the disallowance of the six Commonwealth Marine Reserves Network Management plans, noting that this is a cognate debate across all six regions. The six management plans were introduced into the House of Representatives and the Senate on 12 March 2013. Management plans are enabling documents that allow certain management of recreational and commercial activities to occur that would otherwise be restricted under the EPBC legislation. These plans are prepared by the Director of National Parks in accordance with section 368 of the EPBC Act. The management plans cover the following areas: the Coral Sea, north, north-west, south-west, temperate east and south-east Commonwealth Marine Reserves Networks.

I must correct a misleading statement made by the Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities at question time today. He said that we are moving disallowance of a management plan put in place by the former Howard government in 2006. That is incorrect. By repealing this minister's management plans of 2013, what will stand is the interim management plan introduced by the Howard government in 2006. In fact, as I said, that plan was put in place in 2006. I am really concerned that this minister is not even across the detail of the marine reserves network management plans that he has put in place.

I was honoured to second the motions of disallowance on the south-east and temperate east plans. Unlike the minister, I am fully aware of what I am talking about. These are the proposed management plans, Minister, not the one that is already there. I have done this because the very reason I came into parliament was to stop bad policy and to make good policy. This management plan is bad policy. The government's handling of the whole process has been an extreme disappointment. It reflects an attitude of disdain towards the five million Australians who partake in recreational fishing in one form or another. I also reflect on the complete disgust of our commercial fishing industry in the way that they have been approached by this government. As I said, an estimated five million Australians go recreational fishing each year. The contribution by the recreational fishing sector to our economy is estimated to be $10 billion per year. That $10 billion is largely spent in rural and regional areas. There are some 90,000 Australians employed in supporting the recreational fishing industry, as well as some 3,000 fishing tackle stores across Australia. This is not a small sector of our community.

Another thing that really concerns me is this minister's continual statements that these management plans will not affect anyone because they are all too far offshore.

Mr Burke interjecting

Mr BALDWIN: I am glad to hear, Minister, because I will go through a couple of select ones. In the area of Port Macquarie, where the member for Lyne is based, the Cod Grounds, which are fished by thousands of people annually, are a mere 27 kilometres offshore. The Coffs Harbour Solitary Islands are 12 kilometres offshore. From Yamba, it is 29 kilometres offshore. In Tasmania, from St Helens, in the Freycinet area, it is 60 kilometres offshore. From Bicheno, again in the Freycinet area, it is 32 kilometres offshore—

Mr Burke interjecting

Mr BALDWIN: Mr Deputy Speaker, are you going to put up with this? Are you going to bring him to order?

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Murphy ): Order!

Mr BALDWIN: There are a range of places—and they are only to name a few—that are close and approachable.

I am one of two people in this parliament who have actually had a master's ticket, who have worked in the commercial and recreational fishing environment. The other is Senator Nigel Scullion. If I have left anyone out, I apologise. I understand how far tinnies go offshore; I understand how far charter boats go offshore. And let me tell you: they can all travel more than three miles offshore, which is where the Commonwealth waters actually start. Admittedly, not too many of them will go out 200 miles to sea, but a number will.

These plans are flawed. They are in the face of what the industry, both recreational and commercial, want. I am very concerned. I am concerned as the member for Paterson, representing two areas which relate to fishing—in other words, the Nelson Bay and Port Stephens area and the Great Lakes region.

I am also concerned as shadow minister for tourism and shadow minister for regional development, because the impact of these regulations will affect my portfolios right around the Australian coast, from Cairns—which is in the electorate of the member for Leichhardt, who is here and who is going to speak—a critical fishing area, down through the Whitsundays and the Mackay area, which my colleague Mr Christensen represents.

I have visited many areas and I have talked to a lot of the fishing people. I have spoken to people in the fishing tackle shops, fishing clubs, fishing co-ops, commercial fishermen and even abalone divers, and they all have grave concerns about this minister's process. When he talks about accountability and transparency, that must only apply to the discussions and negotiations with the Greens and the environmental groups, not to those who are actually involved and those who will be impacted.

There are many compelling reasons why the coalition has moved these disallowance motions today. Firstly, there has been inadequate consultation; secondly, a complete lack of transparency; thirdly, a lack of understanding of the science that the minister purports to espouse; and, fourthly, a predetermination that these plans were to be to the detriment of the fishing community and for the benefit of a small select group.

As I said before, the marine park's regions cover Commonwealth waters only, not state waters. The boundaries range 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.

These new marine reserves take the overall size of the Commonwealth marine reserves network to 3.1 million square kilometres, by far the largest representative network of marine protected areas in the world. In fact, prior to this, Australia had 25 per cent of global marine protected areas. With the Coral Sea and the other planned expansions it now comprises about 50 per cent of the entire global marine parks, just in Australia.

So any perceived biodiversity protection obligations are already overfulfilled. Yet the minister argues science. It is all going to be based on science, but only when the science suits him. The arguments put forward by Minister Burke, who changes his mind as regularly as the direction of the wind, do not stack up.

Firstly, we had his personal approval and imprimatur, as the fisheries minister, of the MV Margiris and the 18,000-tonne allowable catch. Then the wind changed and so did his mind, all allegedly based on science. The first science said it was okay; the second load of science, when the political winds changed, said it was not. And the minister did not even explore regional total allowable catches, which would have been based on common sense.

The minister at the time then wanted unfettered legislative powers to shut down any fishery—I repeat, any fishery—at any time based on social uncertainty. In its original form, it would have included any recreational fishing, as I said, based on social uncertainty. That social uncertainty might have come through a campaign against recreational fishing groups by green groups or groups like GetUp! or Pew, just to shut down something, because this government is a slave to the green vote. There is a definite lack of understanding and effective consultation other than with the green groups. They were going to rush through the process with these Commonwealth marine reserve network management plans without proper understanding of the implications of these plans for the broader communities. If that is not so, Minister, then why are the communities up in arms?

This minister will talk about science and sustainability. Minister, are you aware that there is a general global agreement that the EEZ fishery harvest rate is about 1,000 kilograms per square kilometre? I seek to inform the House that Australia's harvest rate is about 40 kilograms per square kilometre. In fact, the latest global survey of coral reefs, produced in 2010 by the World Resources Institute, states that well-managed reefs can sustain an average harvest rate of 15,000 kilograms per square kilometre, and I seek to inform the House that the harvest rate for our Great Barrier Reef is just nine kilograms per square kilometre. So, Minister, there is no scientific argument that you could put about sustainability in relation to fishing in these areas.

I have grave concerns that we have pushed our fishing from Australian waters into other waters yet we turn around and buy that fish back into Australia. You see, Australia imports around $1.7 billion worth of fish—in particular from areas where sustainability is in question. I quote Dr Ray Hilborn from an interview with Eleanor Hall on The World Today on Wednesday, 29 February 2012:

When you're not over fishing, marine parks simply reduce the amount of fish yield you can get by locking up areas. And the result is that you're going to have less seafood produced in Australia and you will need to import more from places that are typically much less sustainably managed.

I believe that the actions of this government are unconscionable to say the least. We have a minister who says he wants to save our fish, and he is saving them all right—for fishermen in other areas to catch and sell back to Australia.

In the time that is left to me, I want to make sure that people understand that the coalition will never deceive the people by promising not to do something prior to an election only to do the direct opposite after the election, as this Prime Minister did with her promise, 'There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead.' I want people to know and to understand that the coalition's position is very, very clear. There are no misleading or secret agenda. Our policy—and I quote from page 29 of the coalition's 'Our plan—real solutions for all Australians'—is:

Building on our strengths in Agriculture Exports

We will unleash the real economic potential in our agricultural industry by removing the shackles and burdens holding the industry back and by making the industry more productive and globally competitive. We will … support our fishing industry and review the declaration of new Marine Protected Areas. We will establish genuine consultation with the fishing industry on research and strengthen the connection between science and fishing policy …

I further quote from page 46:

Supporting communities—creating a sustainable environment

We will adopt a practical, balanced and sustainable approach to environmental issues based on linking sound scientific findings with the needs of all users resulting in more sustainable commercial activities and better environmental outcomes.

As I said, our position on this is very clear. We are not going to do one thing or make a promise to one group ahead of an election with the intention of deliberately doing something diametrically opposite after the election. We will support the fishing industry, both recreational and commercial, without any reservation, because you can do the two together in good management practice. We will adopt a more balanced approach by setting up a more rigorous assessment for new marine protected areas that will mean areas are assessed in accordance with objective science and economic and social evidence.

I have grave concerns about where this government is taking the fishing industry and, in particular, the recreational fishing industry. There is no doubt that the best thing that can occur is for those five million people in Australia to go out fishing—recreational fishing. It is a boost to our economy, spread right around the coastline of Australia. There is no doubt that there are good social outcomes when families are out enjoying the outdoors together rather than being parked in front of a television or a computer. One of the key ways they can do that is out there, recreationally fishing.

I say to this minister: why all the rush? What are you scared of? Are you scared of qualified information coming along that contradicts your position and your sell-out to the Greens at the expense of five million recreational-fishing people? You stand up in the parliament and talk about how you can stand in a tinnie and how you cannot visit here. I would suggest that, like your bureaucrats, you get out from behind your desk, get out in front of the people, talk to them and understand the industry. Failure to do so will only lead to dire results for our recreational and commercial fishing industries here in Australia.