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Thursday, 12 February 2015
Page: 619

Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaAssistant Minister for Education and Training) (13:32): Very briefly, the government will not be supporting these amendments. This policy about tripling penalties in relation to turtles and dugongs is one we took to the election. We have been very transparent about that. It is our belief that that is appropriate. It has followed extensive community consultation by Mr Hunt, by the member for Leichhardt, Mr Entsch, and by other members of the government and, indeed, through other quarters such as the Department of the Environment's Indigenous Consultative Committee.

We have made sure that we have worked hard to get broad support for this. To do so to other species would necessitate further public consultation, and that is why we do not believe that the amendments proposed by Senator Waters at this time are appropriate. We do believe that what is on the table will provide and boost a strong deterrent for the poaching or harming of turtles and dugongs. In relation to compliance, I would at least highlight the government's $2 million commitment to the Specialised Indigenous Ranger program which will improve traditional management and compliance. We will be launching it shortly as a program that sits alongside the work of the Australian Crime Commission in investigating penalties and ensuring that we have appropriate activities in place to stop the illegal harvesting of turtles or dugongs.

Finally, in relation to the points that Senator Waters made about the dredge disposal ban, I can tell her that drafting of that legislation is occurring at present, that its completion is expected very soon and that consultation on that draft legislation is imminent. This will be a step that the previous government certainly did not take and will enshrine in Australian law a dredge disposal ban in relation to those activities around the Great Barrier Reef.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN ( Senator Dastyari ): The question is that the amendments moved by Senator Waters be agreed to.