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Thursday, 24 November 2011
Page: 9486


Senator EDWARDS (South Australia) (11:49): I rise to speak on the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Bioregional Plans) Bill 2011. Let me say from the outset that the coalition support a balanced approach to marine conservation. I noted in Senator Furner's earlier address on this issue that he referred to the Howard government and wrongly tried to accuse it of some kind of lack of commitment there—but the reason we have this bill before us is to try and rectify some of this current government's failings on this issue. I also applaud Senator Colbeck's work on this originally in the time of the Howard government. Here he is, still overseeing the fishes of Australia in a solid way, in a way which makes sense, in a reasoned and thoroughly commendable approach to preserving this industry and ensuring that it has a future in this country.

Let us firstly have a look at what a recent report from ABARES says about Australia's fish stocks. According to the ABARES Fishery status reports 2010, of the 96 fish stocks assessed, 71 are not subject to overfishing, which means that they are being harvested at an appropriate level. The report also found that 56 of the 96 stocks are also not overfished, meaning that the number of fish, or biomass, is adequate to sustain the stock in the long term. The balance of all the fish stocks not mentioned, the vulnerable, are the very reason that the Howard government and Senator Colbeck embarked on this conservation policy in the first place in the Howard era. So let us lose some of the hysteria being peddled about this debate.

Why is it an important bill? It is important because it will reinstate parliamentary scrutiny to millions of square kilometres of Commonwealth waters. Currently these tracts of oceans are undergoing assessment by the Gillard Labor government through the marine bioregional planning process, with the ultimate aim of creating marine parks. This process is being applied to waters from the state or territory boundary of approximately three nautical miles out to 200 nautical miles, the outer reaches of the Exclusive Economic Zone.

Australia, a land girt by sea, has had its ocean moat divided into five bioregional zones and the current government is developing bioregional plans for four of those areas. There will be areas closed to all but a few activities, areas where commercial and recreational fishing will be excluded and the areas where particular types of gear and fishing practice will be constrained. The marine bioregional zones and the subsequent declaration—

The PRESIDENT: Order! The time allotted for this debate has expired.