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Thursday, 29 November 2012
Page: 10173


Senator COLBECK (Tasmania) (09:52): I rise to make my contribution to my private senator's bill: the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Bioregional Plans) Bill 2011. This is a very simple piece of legislation. It does one thing. It gives the parliament the opportunity to have oversight over the declaration of marine protected areas. It is a very simple piece of legislation.

We have just heard from the Greens what we continuously hear from the Greens—a whole heap of mind-reading. I love it that the Greens think that they know what we are thinking. They attribute thoughts to us. They attribute motives to us. They misrepresent what we say and what we think, even though I do not think they really do know what we think. We have just seen that again today. The representation from the Greens is that the coalition does not believe in marine protected areas. That is patently not true. If you look at our record with respect to marine protected areas, you will see that the areas we implemented in 2006 in the south-east around Tasmania, which is our home state, Senator Whish-Wilson—

Senator Whish-Wilson: What? One per cent of state waters, Senator.

Senator COLBECK: Again, you have no idea what you are talking about. There is danger in coming into this place and not knowing what you are talking about. The marine protected area in Commonwealth waters around Tasmania that we delivered was 20 per cent larger than the area that was proposed by the government in the initial round. What we implemented in those waters in the south-east was 20 per cent larger than what was initially proposed. The Greens were running around Tasmania saying that the coalition wants to shrink it. The initial boundaries were proposed by us. They were not good, I have to say. They had seriously bad impacts on the fishing industry in Tasmania.

There was a cooperative process that allowed negotiation between the fishing industry and the environment groups. We put everybody in the tent. We did not do what this government has done, which is silo the negotiations and play parties off against each other and basically take the line being run by giant environmental groups from not just Australia but the United States. Thousands of emails have come into Australia from overseas trying to push the government into implementing these marine protected areas. Through that negotiation process we changed the boundaries, provided the environmental values and provided the representative areas that were required under this process. We reduced the impact on the fishing industry in Tasmania by 90 per cent and increased the area by 20 per cent. So, Senator, do not come in here talking rubbish. You have no idea what you are talking about, and you have demonstrated that again here today.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Marshall ): Order! Senators will address their remarks through the chair.

Senator COLBECK: Let us go to what a globally recognised expert says in respect of marine protected areas. The senator has just gone through that process here yet again in his representations this morning. Professor Ray Hilborn is one of the most globally recognised marine scientists in the world.

Senator Whish-Wilson interjecting

Senator COLBECK: You say he is paid for by the fishing industry, but when he went to find out what was going on he put together a group of people from across the spectrum. He did not just go and science shop; he put together a group of peers from across the spectrum—from those directly opposed to his view of the world to those who have a more extreme view in the other direction. He did not just go and science shop. He did not find somebody who did not know anything or did not have any expertise in the area, which is what the Greens quite often do, and get them to comment on a scientific area in which they have no expertise and attack scientists who do have expertise.

He got a full spectrum of people to provide a report that put a very different picture than what one of the scientists, Dr Boris Worm, had initially indicated. He went to the person involved in that piece of science that said that the oceans could be empty of fish by 2047. That was the science that Dr Boris Worm had put together. Professor Hilborn went to Dr Worm. A group of 23 scientists put together a report that caused Dr Worm to step back from his initial statement. That was the work he was prepared to do. Senator, you should not just science shop and pick out a few people who will provide the answer that you want. You should go to the direct science, the real science and the credible science. Do not come in here with your claims.

I am proud of the record that the coalition has with respect to marine protected areas. Our record stands. The people who have been involved in working with us know that that is the case. Why are we taking the stand that we are taking right now? Not because we do not believe in marine protected areas but because in the development of these marine protected areas the science has not been used. That is why we have a concern about this current process. How do we know the science has not been used? Because the government has admitted it.

The Greens are happy to go along with lockups, because that is what they do. They live in the past. Before the EPBC Act came into being and before a whole range of other management tools came into being, the only way to protect some areas was to lock them up. I am happy to concede that that was the case. We in Australia have done some pretty average things to our environment—to our marine areas and our land areas—but we have learnt. As Senator Whish-Wilson has conceded, we do have among the best fisheries management systems in the world. We need to continue to improve those.

Rather than just lock up bits of the environment, which is what the environmental groups who still live in the 19th century would like us to do, we need to look after all of our marine environment. We should not just lock up huge swathes of the ocean and say, 'You can't go there.' That is not what we ought to be doing. We ought to be looking after it all. So do not come in here and tell us that we do not have any desire to look after our marine environment and we do not have any desire to protect areas. We believe that if there are areas that deserve to be protected then we should protect them, but we should not be making decisions based on representations by, for example, the Pew Foundation, which has run a campaign to lock up pretty much the entire Coral Sea.

Senator Whish-Wilson talked about economics. What really gets up the nose of my constituents, your constituents and other people here in Australia is that the Pew Foundation then admit that it is not going to pursue the same scale of lockups in the United States because it does not stack up economically, because of the negative economic impact on the American economy.

So they are happy to come and lock ours up but they will not do it in the United States because of the economic impact.

Here we have Minister Burke admitting that there are fewer marine protected areas off New South Wales because he has locked so much up in the Coral Sea. Tell me that is based on science. What a load of baloney. Here we have an area that has huge potential in respect of meeting our future seafood needs—and they are significant as 25 per cent of the globe's protein currently comes from seafood. If you were to replace that with terrestrially based protein, you would have to clear the world's remaining rainforests 23 times over—so talk about a small picture view of the world from the Greens and talk about a small picture view of the world from the government!

Let us have a look at the broader picture. Let us look at the requirements to look after our environment and also to feed ourselves and those of us on the planet. Let us not lock ourselves out of a huge swathes of the ocean when we have a whole series of other management tools. Let us not lock ourselves out of our oceans and our fisheries because somebody else is raping and pillaging theirs. What a sensible move that is! How ridiculous to suggest that, because fisheries management is unsustainable in other parts of the world, we should close down ours. Give me a break!

What we should be doing—and, in fact, this is what Australia is doing—is participating in improving fisheries management in other parts of the world. We are acting in a whole range of fisheries, through a number of fisheries management systems and through a number of international agreements, to improve fisheries management in those regions. You talk about small pelagics; we are involved in looking at the South Pacific small pelagic fishery and improving that, an area where the fish stocks have collapsed because of overfishing, not because of supertrawlers—as would be implied by the Greens and their environmental group friends—but because the fishery has been overfished for years long before the advent of large freezer vessels. The fishery has been overfished for years and it has not been improved by the fact that there have been no fisheries management systems in place and there have been no quotas in place, but fortunately there now will be. That fishery will have the opportunity to recover because there will be fisheries management put in place and there will be quotas put in place. The decision to do that is already having an effect on the amount of effort that is put into that fishery.

So for Senator Whish-Wilson to come in here and misrepresent where the coalition sits in respect of fisheries management of marine parks is quite dishonest because we have a strong view about utilising the science and about believing the science. And this was coming from a person who said, 'We don't care about the science. We just don't want the boat.' I have to say it is quite hypocritical of him to come in here and lecture us about science.

Senator Whish-Wilson: Where is your evidence of that?

Senator COLBECK: Well, you repeated it in this chamber—through you, Mr Acting Deputy President. In fact, questions to the minister in question time here this week confirm they are not interested in the science around the small pelagic fishery, because the weight of the science—the credible science—supports the quota that was set in all of those fisheries.

Senator Whish-Wilson: Credible science?

Senator COLBECK: So here they go bashing scientists again. If it does not agree with what they say, they will attack the scientists. That is the process that they run through, and if you do not believe me have a chat in Tasmania to Nigel Forteath, who was hounded out of the state by the Greens because he dared to disagree with Bob Brown. Death threats, phone calls in the middle of the night and he had to take his family out of the state—an absolute disgrace what the Greens did to that man.

Senator Whish-Wilson: Where is your evidence?

Senator COLBECK: I will bring the evidence in here, Senator, and I will table it. I sat down and had conversations with Professor Forteath so I can tell you that very well. In fact, the Greens were censured in this place for what they did to him, so go back and have a look at the Hansard and you will find your own history.

This is a very simple piece of legislation. We know because the government has admitted that these zones that are being proposed by Minister Burke at the moment are not based on science. I have already given an indication as to the zones that were declared off New South Wales. I was in Queensland at the beginning of the year. I went up to have a talk to some of the fishermen in that region about the proposed declaration of the Coral Sea. Unfortunately, they could not meet with me on the day because they were meeting with the department to talk about the proposals for declaring the Coral Sea. One of the questions that they went into the meeting and asked of the department was: can you put on the table for us the science that supports declaring the entire Coral Sea a marine zone? When I met with them at morning tea directly after they had had that conversation with the department, I found the answer was: 'There is none.' The only thing that there was was a campaign by the Pew Foundation and environmental groups here in Australia. That is the basis on which Tony Burke has closed off the Coral Sea.

I go back to the discussion I had a moment ago about our seafood needs. As I said, 25 per cent of the globe's protein comes from seafood—a full quarter. The broader environmental impacts of having to replace that with terrestrially based protein do not bear thinking about. As I said, if you were to replace it with grass-fed protein, you would have to clear the globe's rainforests 23 times over. It just does not add up. The health of our marine environment and the capacity to achieve and maintain a level of protein from wild catch fisheries is absolutely vital. In fact, if you look at the wild catch fishery you will find that it is the most environmentally friendly form of gathering protein of the lot. It is much more environmentally friendly than any form of terrestrial farming. It is the most environmentally friendly because you can take out your quota, based on sustainably set quotas with proper management tools, and the natural environment does the rest for you. It is the most environmentally friendly form, so it is vitally important that we maintain it as part of our overall protein task.

Australia's potential demand for seafood will grow by 850,000 tonnes by 2020. I am not talking out to 2030 or 2040 or 2050 but by 2020—that is, in eight years we will need an extra 850,000 tonnes. The potential fishery in the Coral Sea alone is of that magnitude in two species.

Senator Whish-Wilson: You'd better start protecting it, then.

Senator COLBECK: So that is the answer from the Greens: shut down a potential fishery and import from unsustainable sources. Let us offshore our environmental responsibilities. Let us calm our conscience by offshoring. Let us take it somewhere else where they do not have the fisheries management tools in place.

What the coalition would like to see is marine protected areas based on science, not based on campaigns by environmental groups from the United States, not based on, 'Let's move it away from this Labor seat and put it up here next to this coalition seat.' Let us have marine protected areas based on science. Let us put everybody in the room together. Let us put the science on the table. Let us have the conversation between everyone. Let us not play groups off against each other, which is what the government has done in this particular process, because the groups come in and tell me what has just happened to them. Let us have a genuine consultation. Let us not just have show-and-tell, where the government turns up and says, 'Here's the maps; that's what's going to occur.' Let us have a consultation process where the final maps—the maps were put out 60 days ago or a bit longer and the minister said, 'This is not about the boundaries; this is about whether we do it or not.' That is not a consultation. That is a take it or leave it process.

That is what the coalition is concerned about. The coalition is concerned about the process. We are not contesting the science, as the Greens contend we are. We have said we believe in the science. If something needs to be protected, we should protect it. But we need to look after it all, not just bits of it. Let us not salve our conscience by saying that we have locked up 30 per cent of our marine environment, that we have locked out our fishing industry from all of those areas. Let us not salve our conscience by thinking that we have done our job. Let us look after it all. Let us ensure that we have strong fisheries management.

Senator Whish-Wilson indicated that this is a fisheries management tool. Not even the scientists contend that it is a fisheries management tool. The government does not contend that it is a fisheries management tool. It is not a fisheries management tool. The process around the marine protected areas is about looking after important parts of our environment. One of the issues around that is that fish tend to congregate around formations in the ocean. That is just the nature of things, and that is where the contest comes into place as part of the development of these marine protected areas. That is where the difficulty is.

This process also has not compensated people. There is $100 million sitting on the table for the fishing industry, but what about the downstream businesses and communities? There is absolutely nothing there for them. What about the recreational fishing sector, which is something like a $10 billion a year industry? There is nothing there for them. There is no recognition of the bait shops, the boat sellers and the charter operators, so any argument about proper compensation as part of this process is completely and utterly out of order. There is not proper consultation. The process that was put in place in the south-east put up $220 million, just for the south-east. In this process, we have $100 million for the rest of the country. We have a very simple proposition here: allow this declaration process to be scrutinised by the parliament. That is all we say, and that is what this bill does.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Furner ): The question is that the bill be read a second time.