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Thursday, 9 February 2012
Page: 519


Senator RONALDSON (Victoria) (10:51): I am very pleased to rise and supp­ort my colleague Senator Colbeck and others who have spoken in relation to this matter, including Senator Boswell, in whom there is some considerable passion. Today I want to put on the record some of the background to the coalition's approach to this. I know that Senator Colbeck and others have already said it but I want to repeat that we support a balanced approach to marine conservation. It was our policy in the 2010 election, and we stand by that. But what is at the nub of this bill, which is being driven by Senator Colbeck, is the lack of consultation with those who have a legitimate interest in current marine parks or in the declaration of further marine parks. I am sure that many honourable members will remember the debacle of the mako shark issue, where fishers throughout the country rose up against a decision to ban the fishing of mako sharks. There was no consultation. At Torquay in the seat of Corangamite there were some 700 people at a public meeting complaining about mako shark fishing being banned. Of course, the local member was nowhere to be seen, but that is not unusual when it comes to the member for Coranga­mite; he would never dare to be seen when there are issues.

At the heart of this conservation debate is a lack of acknowledgement that the real conservationists in this country are the fishers, shooters and others. Anyone who knows anything about these areas and who speaks to and has grown up with the fishers and the shooters knows they are the true conservationists. These are the people whose sporting and recreational avenues are determined by the amount of fish and other species that are available to be taken. They actually own the conservation of this and have done for decades. Look at organisations such as Field and Game. Look at other fishing organisations. They are about conservation. For quite obvious reasons they want to preserve the species that they are shooting and hunting—if they are not there then their sport goes. They are the true conservationists in this country. They are never given appropriate credit for it, and they should be.

What these people want is consultation. The past process with marine parks has been completely bastardised by this lack of appropriate consultation. These people know when they enter these discussions that the decisions have virtually been made. They know that when they enter these discussions their voice will be heard but almost certainly will not be acted upon; and, on occasions, they cannot even get it heard. This bill is about enabling this parliament, when there has been that lack of consultation, to take on behalf of those people the right to make a decision about whether there has been appropriate consultation and whether, indeed, we should move to address it if there has not been.

I will very quickly read from the bills digest:

This Bill seeks to amend the Environment Protection Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) to require that declarations of new Bioregional Plans1 and Commonwealth Reserves2 be disallowable by either chamber of Parliament.

…   …   …

Currently, Bioregional Plans are not legislative instruments and are not subject to parliamentary disallowance. The effect of this amendment would mean that they would continue not to be legislative instruments. However, they would be disallowable under Part 5 of the Legislative Instruments Act 2003 as modified by section 46B of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901. Common­wealth Reserves are legislative instruments which are not currently disallowable.

If these people—this nation's true conserva­tionists—are not being appropriately consulted then they should be. That is why I fully support Senator Colbeck's bill and fully support the comments made by others, including Senator Boswell.

The interesting part of this whole debate on marine parks is that we get the most extraordinary comments from some of those on the other side. Senator Marshall, who has been in his office listening, is down here immediately to make some comments. I think he knows what I am going to talk about. There are, of course, some on the other side who believe that we will have increased marine national parks through global warming. They might not be declared at this stage, but the member for Coranga­mite thinks that global warming will inundate massive areas of his home electorate. This is part of his defence of the carbon tax. It beggars belief that this man is actually allowed to be a federal member of parliament. On 17 August 2011—

Senator Marshall: Tell us about your candidate!

Senator RONALDSON: When the preselection is settled, I would be happy to talk to you about it. I am sure you and I will talk about it ad nauseam at airport lounges when we discuss what is likely to happen to the man whom you are so passionately defending—which I can never really understand, I have to say. Anyway. I am sure it is a faction based thing, because you have absolutely nothing in common. I have some regard for your intellect, for starters! That is the one clear difference between the two of you. But anyway. As I say, if you want to talk about preselection candidates, I am happy to engage in that later on.

Interestingly, Mr Cheeseman gave a speech on 9 September 2009 in relation to rising sea levels but posted on his website in March 2010 the speech that he was not allowed to give. Presumably he would requ­est that the rising sea be made a marine park. He posted this speech on his website. It was not the speech that he actually gave. It said:

The Great Ocean Road Mr Speaker, an icon of Australia and the engine room of our local tourism economy, will be largely destroyed.

It will be breached in place after place, if sea level rise is as expected.

Huge swathes of the Bellarine Peninsula will be inundated.

Current areas of the mainland will be cut off and become islands.

Queenscliffe will become an island.

The area from Barwon Heads to Breamlea will become an island.

What drives this man? This is all in defence of Labor's toxic carbon tax. I want to talk about that carbon tax and, indeed, rising sea levels and the requirement, presumably from the Labor Party's point of view, for more marine parks to take in this massive inunda­tion of what is currently land. I presume that will form part of the discussions in relation to the act at some stage further down the track. What was very interesting indeed was to look at the view of the people of Geelong in a recent survey of some 800 people. In that survey the people of Geelong made it quite clear that they do not and will not accept Labor's toxic carbon tax.

This was the outcome of their voting intention in relation to the carbon tax. I should throw this in because it is probably of some interest to honourable senators as well. The question was: is the federal government doing a good job? What do my colleagues think? Would 10, 15 or 20 per cent be the 'strongly agree' figure? No, it was not; 1.6 per cent of people in Geelong strongly agree that the Labor government is doing a good job. Neither agree nor disagree: 29.5 per cent; disagree: 29.9 per cent; strongly disagree: 25.1 per cent of people in the Geelong region. In relation to the carbon tax, the question was: do you support or reject the general concept of a carbon tax? Support: 22.9 per cent; reject: 53.5 per cent of the 800 people surveyed.

Senator Birmingham: They deserve a say.

Senator RONALDSON: They deserve a say, as Senator Birmingham said, as do those who will be potentially impacted upon by marine parks. That is why this parliament, as a result of this bill, must maintain the ability to represent their interests.

The local member for Corangamite thinks that we are going to be inundated. I notice that last year he commissioned a report into sea levels. Again, it was doom and gloom. It is almost approaching religious fervour, I have to say. I presume he is out there build­ing the boat as we speak to at least get some people from Corangamite onto the boat when it all floods. I have not yet seen the report. Maybe it has been released. If it has been, I apologise to the member for Corangamite. But apparently he commission­ed a report and gave some interim findings in September last year, but I do not think the report has been released. If it has been, again I will humbly apologise to the honourable member.

I have been talking at length about the matter before the chamber today and I will continue to do so. We have an incredibly proud history in relation to legislative protection of the environment in this country. In fact, in any reasonable assessment of who drove strong environmental protection measures in this country, it has indeed been the coalition parties. We are as committed to that today as we were when we first started this process, and we are committed to returning balance and fairness to marine conservation. Like anything else in this country, if you do not approach an issue such as this on the basis of balance and fairness, then there will never be appropriate outcomes. When these issues are hijacked by fringe groups, often associated with the Australian Greens or under the banner of the Australian Greens—but they are fringe groups nonetheless—and they take owner­ship of these issues, then we get the sorts of outcomes that I know others opposite sitting in the chamber today know are not appro­priate outcomes. There is the great state of Tasmania, where Senator Colbeck and Labor senators come from, and I hope that they are also committed to fairness and balance in relation to these debates. On that basis, they should be supporting this bill.

One of our greatest responsibilities in this country is to make sure that those who have a voice are able to have that voice heard. One of the great challenges in this country is to ensure that, in relation to this particular area, it is not the radical green fringe groups who drive the debate but the honest Australian men and women who are pursu­ing their recreational interests. They need to have the opportunity for some input into this decision-making process. They should not be confronted with a fait accompli when they go through the consultation process. That is their complaint: they arrive and the decision has already been made; their view on these matters is not wanted and most certainly not listened to. What causes me enormous concern about this is that at the moment we have a government that is completely paralysed. The only consultation that is taking place is consultation between the factions about who is going to lead the country. So we have people involved in marine parks out there looking for the opportunity to have some input and appro­priate consultation, but the only consultation this government is involved in at the moment is, indeed, who is going to lead the party.

We know that one of those opposite is actively involved in those discussions—a very significant player; a man of incredible power in this country. But I say to him and others opposite: let us stop worrying about who is going to be the Prime Minister and let us start worrying about the sorts of issues that have been raised by Senator Colbeck in relation to the lack of consultation. We see what has happened recently with the loss of manufacturing jobs. We see the risk to Alcoa workers in places like Geelong and we see two members down there refuse to do anything to support them because they know, and I know, and everyone in this chamber knows, that this toxic carbon tax is going to kill manufacturing jobs in places like Geelong. Where are the absentee members in defence of those workers? What the Alcoa workers want and what every other manu­facturing worker in this country wants is for Mr Rudd and Prime Minister Gillard to stop worrying about their own jobs and start worrying about the manufacturing jobs. That is what the Australian people want, that is what the Australian people demand and that is what the Australian people deserve. Do not worry about the Prime Minister's job; worry about the jobs of average working Australians, many of whom fish, many of whom shoot and many of whom want to have their voices heard in relation to these marine parks.

That is the great challenge for those opposite. Their great challenge is to stop talking about those things in which the Australian public has no interest, like the job of the Prime Minister, and start worrying about the jobs of these manufacturing workers. Start acknowledging once and for all that this toxic carbon tax is going to destroy this country. It is already under enormous pressure from the high dollar. There are a lot of external factors, which I acknowledge have an influence in this, but the one thing, the one pivotal government decision which can turn around perceptions in head offices around the world, including the Alcoa head office, is to drop this carbon tax. If the Labor Party and the Prime Minister sent out a clear message that this carbon tax is going to go because it will destroy jobs then we will start to see investment again. We will start to see the Alcoas of this world say there is some hope for manufacturing in this country. At the moment they are not, and the boardrooms around the world are looking at what we are doing and they are saying: 'Have they completely and utterly lost their minds? Are they stark raving mad to introduce a tax ahead of the rest of the world which will destroy Australian jobs?'

Make no mistake about it: there is one party, one coalition in this country that is concerned about the jobs of blue-collar workers, and that is the coalition. We will fight to defend their jobs. We will fight to defend their right to pursue their recreational pursuits without unnecessary interference from government. We will defend their rights to fish and shoot. We will defend their rights to have consultation on marine parks. We will stand up for them, which I can tell you is a far cry from what is happening with the Australian Labor Party, this Prime Minister and Mr Rudd at the present time.