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Thursday, 18 November 2004
Page: 77


Senator IAN CAMPBELL (Minister for the Environment and Heritage) (3:09 PM) —The Labor Party's indignation over this issue is entirely false and it seeks to draw a veil, a blind or even a red herring, to use a fishing analogy, across one of the most disgraceful political backflips and pieces of environmental policy in the history of Australia. During the federal election campaign the Australian Labor Party promised to the Australian people that they would tear up the plan that delivered historic protection to the Great Barrier Reef; confirmed it as a multiuse park; ensured that both recreational and commercial fishermen and other users of the park such as tourism operators knew where the boundaries were and what the uses were; ensured, very importantly, that the unique environmental and biodiversity features of the reef were protected in perpetuity; and moved the protection of areas within the reef from, I think, around four per cent to close to 34 per cent. It was a massive environmental achievement and a great credit to two great environment ministers in Australia's history, Senator Robert Hill and Dr David Kemp, who put in place this historic protection for the reef.

The Labor Party during the campaign, in the very small print of their policy—and I hope other Labor senators will read this—tore up that plan and said that they would reopen the protected areas. They did not say whether they were going to have a review, how they were going to do it or what the criteria were going to be. They were prepared to jettison the entire multimillion dollar structural adjustment package that was put in place to assist fishing and other related businesses. They were going to throw that entire structural adjustment package into turmoil. Luckily, the Queensland population had figured that Labor were not going to get elected so they were not bothered about their policy.

But what a shame that organisations like the World Wide Fund for Nature, and particularly the Australian Conservation Foundation, would not criticise Labor for tearing up this historic protection. The Australian Conservation Foundation spent the entire election campaign running around criticising the coalition. Regardless of what Mr Latham or Mr Garrett said about policy, or how hopeless it was, they came out and supported them. But when Labor came out and tore up the historic protection of the reef and said, `We'll reopen the whole thing, tear the plan up and throw it out the window,' where were the Australian Conservation Foundation? They stayed in bed that day, I think. That was Labor's first environmentally disastrous policy that went entirely unnoticed by the so-called conservation groups like the ACF, who seem to be far more enthusiastic about cheering on Mr Latham, Mr Thomson and Mr Garrett, regardless of what they say. The ACF were missing in action. You wonder whether they do care about conservation.

The other backflip that went unnoticed was when the Australian Labor Party said 12 months ago that they were going to extend the marine park out to the economic zone—a massive increase in the marine park. Clearly, the oil industry or someone got to them and said, `Hang on, this isn't a very good policy.' So quietly but surely, in the fine print, Mr Thomson and Mr Latham jettisoned that policy as well. Again, was there a single word of criticism from the so-called Australian Conservation Foundation? They should be called the `Australian Labor Party Foundation', shouldn't they? That is their policy; the conservation element of it has dropped out. To conservation organisations I say: cheer the Liberal Party when we make a good policy and give us hell when we do not, and do the same to Labor. Labor's policies on the environment were a disgrace. I wondered what Kelvin Thomson was doing for the last 12 months. What he was doing was taking the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park protection and tearing it up. His one big policy was `let's take the marine park out to the economic zone'. He tore that up too and cut funding to crown of thorns starfish research. What does Senator Wong do? She comes in today and turns the guns on Senator Boswell. Senator Boswell has made his position clear. He supported the coalition policy in all of his discussions, public and private. I table a press release from Senator Boswell of 25 October reiterating the government's policy and making it quite clear that that is what he said to anyone who asked him. Well done, Senator Boswell; thanks for the support.