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Tuesday, 4 June 2013
Page: 5128


Mr CHRISTENSEN (Dawson) (18:41): I hope the member for Kennedy will stick around because I want to respond to some of the things he said. When the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park green zone system was introduced, I was actually working for a member of parliament, the former member for Dawson, De-Anne Kelly. De-Anne remained inside the tent with the coalition and we fought that long and hard. I was one of her key advisers, and it was done by regulation; it was not done by legislation. I have got to tell you that I was one of the people who went and saw the fishermen, saw the heartache that this great betrayal of the farmers of the sea was causing them. It tore you to pieces. Blokes whose livelihoods for generations had depended on farming the sea, fishing, were destroyed by the stroke of a pen with little real consultation, with little real science. What it was was a push from an overseas organisation called Pew dictating to Australia. It is to my great shame as a member of the National Party that it was the National Party in coalition that allowed that to happen. We were fighting against it, make no mistake. But there was no convincing the environment ministers at the time.

Now we are faced with the same situation once again where more of our marine area is going to be locked up and fishermen locked out—recreational fishermen and commercial fishermen. The member for Calare and the member for Paterson have both spoken on this motion and spoken very well outlining a number of facts, but I have to tell you that there is no doubt in my mind that these marine parks, and certainly the management plans associated with them, need to be disallowed. We do not have the opportunity to disallow the marine parks themselves. The people in this place, the representatives of the Australian people, should have that say. Unfortunately we do not, so we are resorting to disallowing the management plans here, the things that will give the marine parks the teeth. These management plans, indeed the marine parks that this government has imposed, are opposed by just about every representative of recreational and professional fishing organisations in Australia: the Australian Recreational Fishing Foundation, the Australian Marine Alliance, the Commonwealth Fisheries Association, Sunfish, Tuna West, the Australian Fishing Trade Association, Recfish, the Australian Sportfishing Association, the Game Fishing Association of Australia—I could go on and on with names of representative organisations in the recreational and professional fishing game that are against this marine park proposal. You name it, when it comes to fishing they are against it. They are against it because of what is actually in these management plans.

Let us have a look at what this marine park proposal will do. It will effectively lock up 1½ million square kilometres of marine environment around this nation. There is no scientific integrity at all about this process. The science was kept secret—secret from the industry and secret from recreational fishermen. When they wanted to see it—

Mr Burke: It was tabled in parliament.

Mr CHRISTENSEN: It was kept secret for way too long. And the science was not real science; it was based on political horse trading with the coalition partners of the Gillard Labor government—the Greens.

This proposal is going to result in lost revenue for fishing industries and fishing businesses right around the country. There are at least 60 regional communities that this will impact upon. It is estimated by the Australian Marine Alliance that there will be a six per cent gross downgrade in local government revenue as a result. There will be thousands of jobs lost as a result of this fishing lockout. There will be 70 to 80 trawler operators displaced and an increase of probably $1½ billion in seafood imports into this country. We already import into this country 70 per cent of our seafood. That figure will increase. It will probably be at 80 per cent within a few years of this marine park proposal coming into effect.

The southern eastern scale fishery is threatened as a direct result of this. We have basically wiped out a $2 billion commercial aquaculture industry. The Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery is threatened. There is $12 million displaced in Jervis Bay and we have $58.2 million in management costs for closures around the country. The minister and the government say that compensation is around $100 million, but the industry is saying that it could be closer to half a billion dollars. One of the big things that I am worried about is the complete closure of the Coral Sea to any form of fishing. This is ridiculous. This is clearly ridiculous.

Mr Burke: And untrue.

Mr CHRISTENSEN: It is not untrue. The Coral Sea will effectively be closed down to commercial fishing. You shake your head, Minister, but it is in your plan. Your plan closes down fishing right around this country, and the Coral Sea is front and centre of that closure. The minister has treated the industry and the recreational fishermen with absolute contempt—contempt because there has not been genuine consultation in his approach. The member for Calare talked about 30 days of consultation when the industry begged the minister to give them at least 90 days of consultation.

The minister comes in with here with a bundle of books saying, 'This is the science behind it; look at this bundle of books.' There is one simple question to prove that there is little science at all behind this, and that simple question is: what is the conservation value of the places that you are locking up? I have not heard what the conservation is. There is another question as well: what is the threat that is imposed upon the biological diversity in the area that you are locking up? The threat simply cannot be recreational fishermen. It is hardly likely to be commercial fishermen either.

The minister always gets up and has a bit of a belly laugh: 'Oh, you can't take a tinny off the coast that far—ha, ha, ha!' Go to the Mackay marina and have a look at some of the boats that are there. I can tell you that they go pretty far off the coast. Some of them go out to Marion Reef, which is also being locked up. The Keep Australia Fishing movement have been campaigning very strongly against this proposal. They say:

The proposed marine parks start three nautical miles to sea and extend to the limit of Australia's 200-mile exclusive economic zone. It's true to say that many of these areas are a fair distance offshore but the fact is it doesn't matter where the zones are. The main point is that these anti-fishing lockouts are discriminatory, unfair and not necessary. Many of the proponents of these lockout zones go to great lengths to say that these zones, especially those in the Coral Sea in northern Queensland, are too far out to be of interest to the average angler. But they then talk about these areas as being fantastic locations for recreational divers and other tourists to visit. If these places are within range of divers and other groups, then surely it's reasonable to expect that anglers also have the ability to access these areas? The fact is anglers can and do travel big distances offshore in their own vessels and with charter operations, just like recreational divers and other marine tourists. The argument that the marine parks are too far offshore just doesn't stack up.

And I have to say that it does not stack up. I also have to say that you cannot have it both ways. If there is no fishing happening out there—if there are no tinnies going out there, as the minister says—then what is the threat? Why are we locking these areas up? It just simply does not make sense. The fact is that there is fishing happening out there but it is not a threat to these areas.

One operation that actually goes out there is Nomad Sportsfishing. Nomad Sportsfishing takes boats out of Mackay and they go out to Marion Reef—again, one of those areas that is going to be locked up under this proposal. One of the people who runs Nomad Sportsfishing is a fellow by the name of Damon Olsen. Damon has an interesting letter on the Nomad Sportsfishing website. It is a letter to all of his customers. He takes people out there on recreational fishing trips. He says in the letter:

I've been in Canberra recently, and been to meetings with the federal environment minister, Tony Burke, and had a significant involvement in this process so far. The previous letter that everyone sent to the minister, through the Nomad Sportfishing website, made this meeting possible, and made the government realise that this is a serious issue for recreational anglers.

All we want to achieve here is to ensure that our marine reserves are implemented with thorough scientific planning, scientific principles and practical outcomes that work for all user groups. All recreational fishing groups support closed off areas, but only when thorough scientific processes have shown that these closed off areas are required. The current process is closing off huge areas to recreational fishermen simply so the government can keep green groups happy and stay in power.

The massive problem that we face here is that Science has long ago been abandoned by the politicians, and they are now playing a game of drawing colours on maps simply to keep the powerful and well funded green lobby groups at bay.

When I read that about drawing lines on maps, I thought, 'Oh, he is being a bit metaphorical there.' But no—he is actually being literal. Listen to this:

I have a first hand example of this from the meeting with the federal environment minister. The current process is proposing to close off the main area of the Perth trench to all gamefishing activities, essentially shutting down the entire gamefishing industry and community in Perth. We asked the minister why this zone had been placed in it's proposed position. We were told that the minister drew that zone himself because they needed one in that area, and there was no information to tell him where to put it, so he just placed it where he thought was appropriate.

That is great science—fantastic science! That is science by texta: 'We'll get out a whiteboard and a map and we'll just circle an area and say, "That is what we need to lock up."' How ridiculous. So all the books you want can be brought in, but here is something that was said to a recreational fishing business, and the minister has to answer to that allegation, because it is quite damning.

We have a major impact, which has been spoken of before by the member for Calare and the member for Paterson, on our domestic commercial fishing industry, and they are really going to feel the squeeze from this. But we are removing all of their effort—protecting these marine parks from the recreational fishermen and from the commercial fishermen.

The minister raised the prospect earlier today that, 'If we do this, we could have oil rigs suddenly popping up there.' But actually there is a process that that would have to go through. If we were to pass this tonight, they would not simply be set up tomorrow; they would not be set up at all, because there are processes that they have to go through: the environmental protection and biodiversity conservation process is one of those.

So what is actually being stopped in this area? It is not recreational diving, it is not tourists, it is not pleasure boats and it is not commercial shipping. Not even naval vessels will be excluded from the zone. A huge oil tanker could actually go through some of these zones. There are no restrictions on that sort of stuff. But there is a restriction on the fishermen. There is a restriction on the commercial fishermen. There is a restriction on the recreational fishermen. This is basically demonising an Australian pastime, saying that it is wrong and harmful to the environment. But there is no proof of that.

I sit on the House's Standing Committee on Agriculture, Resources, Fisheries and Forestry, and I have heard the testimony from the government-funded Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, and they have actually said that our commercial fisheries here in Australia are sustainable. There are no unsustainable practices taking place. That is what the Fisheries RDC said—the Fisheries RDC that this government helps fund. So we have government policies at loggerheads here. On the one hand, we have the policy before us saying, 'There is a threat posed by fishing to the marine environment,' but on the other hand we have the people who actually know—the guys doing the research—saying that there is not.

This disallowance motion should be passed by the House. We need to knock this off the agenda and let people just get on with fishing—the pastime that they enjoy. (Time expired)