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Thursday, 24 June 2004
Page: 31532

Ms LIVERMORE (3:09 PM) —My question is to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage. Is the minister aware that the government's energy statement identifies four areas adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park as high priority for oil exploration? In the face of overwhelming community, business and industry opposition to oil exploration and mining on or near the reef, how can the minister justify jeopardising Queensland's tourism and fishing industries, as well as the natural values of the largest coral reef system in the world, which provides an annual boost of over $2 billion to the Australian economy?

Dr KEMP (Minister for the Environment and Heritage) —It is hard to express how grateful I am to receive that question from the Labor Party, because I have been intrigued by a statement made by the leader of the Labor Party that has been repeated just now in the question by the member for Capricornia. The statement is that the Labor Party will ban exploration and drilling on or near the Great Barrier Reef. The fact is that drilling on the Great Barrier Reef is prevented by law under the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975. In other words, since 1975, drilling on the reef has been prevented, yet the Leader of the Opposition is going around telling the Australian people that he is going to do something about this. He is either completely ignorant of the laws or utterly dishonest and deceitful in what he says about the protection of the Great Barrier Reef, because he is undertaking to do something which has been law in this country for over 25 years.

Then we have concerns being expressed about possible dangers to the reef from drilling off the reef. This government has introduced environment protection and biodiversity conservation legislation which specifically empowers the Minister for the Environment and Heritage to prevent any action which could have any detrimental effect on the values of the Great Barrier Reef. Of course, this legislation completely protects the reef from any of the activities which the member is implying may possibly have an adverse impact on tourism and other industries within the reef.

The government which has protected the Great Barrier Reef more than any government in Australia's history is this government. I am delighted to be able to say that on 1 July the new zoning plan for the Great Barrier Reef will come into operation. It will lift the protections of the Great Barrier Reef from some five per cent of the marine park to over 33 per cent of the marine park. It is very interesting to hear what the major interests concerned with the reef have said about the government's policies. The Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators, the industry quoted by the member, said:

I doubt that I will see a more important conservation effort in the world anywhere in my lifetime.

The Game Fishing Association of Australia Research and Development Foundation said:

... the minister and GBRMPA—

the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority—

have listened to the concerns expressed by hundreds of gamefishers from all over Australia ... restoring faith in the public-consultation process.

The recreational fishing body Sunfish, through its chair, Bill Turner, said:

Just like we stopped the rape and pillage of the rainforest, we think the same should apply to the Great Barrier Reef.

Sir David Attenborough said:

The Australian people are increasing protection for one of the natural wonders of the world.

In other words, this government is the government that has put in place the protections that the Great Barrier Reef requires. What we have on the other side of the House are deceitful and misleading statements promising the Australian people that Labor will do things which have been law in this country for almost 30 years.