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Monday, 18 June 2007
Page: 6

Senator IAN MACDONALD (12:50 PM) —I thank Senator Bartlett and Senator Boswell for allowing me to intervene for just two minutes to express my support for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Amendment Bill 2007. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has done a magnificent job over the last 20 or 30 years that it has been operating. I have not always agreed with it. I was a bit disappointed with some of the boundaries of the zoning. I thought they could have been easily fixed. It would have helped the fishing industry. But, by and large, the authority has done a marvellous job. I want to place on record the very high regard in which Virginia Chadwick, the CEO and chair of the board, is held throughout Australia and, indeed, the world for the contribution she has made to the protection of the Great Barrier Reef and coral reefs right around Australia. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has that influence and expertise right around the world.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority was an initiative of previous Liberal governments and has done absolutely mighty work in protecting what I always say is the eighth wonder of the world. The reef supports a tourism industry worth, from memory, upwards of $5 billion annually, so it is very important to all Australians that that reef is protected. The fishing industry will be able to operate in the reef marine park, but perhaps not in the way I would have liked had I been in charge; I think it could have easily been made a little easier for the fishing industry, but the industry will still be able to continue to operate and in fact does continue to operate.

Senator McLucas has raised some political issues in her amendment. I was at a public meeting recently and I asked the oil and gas industry whether they had ever had any interest in drilling for oil on the barrier reef. The spokesperson could not get to the microphone fast enough to say, ‘It’s not on the radar; we’re not interested; it will never happen.’ That is the industry’s position and it is the government’s position as well, which has been clearly enunciated by any number of ministers over a long period of time. So that is a furphy. It is good politics, Senator McLucas; congratulations. Perhaps the ‘Barrier Reef Party’ you are setting up—apparently in opposition to the Fishing Party, which I understand a former Labor Party staffer, a former Labor apparatchik, is setting up, no doubt to put preferences to the ‘Barrier Reef Party’—is, again, good politics, but it is not really appropriate.

I want to emphasise that the rezoning will not be reviewed for, I think, seven years, which is great work. That gives the fishing industry the certainty they need, but it also is an assurance that the boundaries will not be changed willy-nilly as we go along. By and large, these amendments still maintain a statutory authority answering to the minister. There have been some arrangements made to bring it in line with the Uhrig report to government on statutory authorities, but I support the amendments to the bill. I might say I had some severe trepidation in the early stage, but I have been convinced that, with one or two very minor exceptions which I have been unable to alter, the bill is appropriate and the authority will continue to do the good work it does.

I again want to emphasise the sterling work that Ms Virginia Chadwick has done in her role over the past many years. She has been a great CEO and board chairman, and I wish her well as she moves into her retirement. I support the bill.