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Wednesday, 16 June 2010
Page: 5634


Mr TURNOUR (11:31 AM) —It is great to be here to talk about the environment, and it is good to have the minister here to answer questions. I come from a great part of the world. Cairns, Cape York Peninsula and the Torres Strait represent some wonderful environmental assets. They are particularly important assets that underpin the tourism industry in Far North Queensland. We have been through some tough times and we are seeing some positive results. The national tourism survey figures came out today, and they show that domestic tourism numbers in Cairns have grown. Tourists are staying longer and spending more because it is a wonderful part of the world. Part of the reason people come to the Far North is to visit the Great Barrier Reef and the wet tropics rainforests, and to experience Cape York and the Torres Strait. They are important parts of the minister’s portfolio.

I appreciate the fact that the minister has been up to the Far North a number of times recently to meet with scientists in relation to rainforest research in the Great Barrier Reef area and the Torres Strait; to look into the good work that is being done under Reef Rescue, a very good program, to tackle issues of water quality in the reef and to protect and support the reef going forward; and to look at a Jobs Fund project up in the Daintree which is also supporting jobs in my region. All are very important projects and represent not gammon action but real action on the ground to support jobs and make a difference to the environment.

Another important issue in my electorate is turtle and dugong hunting. Unlike the former government, we are actually doing something in this area. The minister has put more resources into compliance. We are working with the North Queensland Land Council and local Indigenous traditional owners. The minister has already talked about the Reef Rangers program. That program is to develop TUMRAs, traditional use marine resource agreements, and to provide rangers who can provide information and help implement, and support compliance with, those agreements. We are working cooperatively and productively in a range of different areas in the north to protect the environment; to protect the capacity of our Indigenous people to manage the environment; and to support and protect our tourism industry through protecting jobs. Those initiatives are all interlinked.

I take up the member’s comments in relation to climate change. We on this side of the House are still very committed to action on climate change. Members of the community often talk to me about this issue. I recognise that the Independents have been very supportive in this area, but we took our emissions trading scheme, the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, to the Senate three times and the Liberal Party—who are now criticising us—voted against it in the Senate. The Greens also voted against it because of their right-wing ideological purity. That has prevented us taking practical action through the emissions trading scheme.

These are all very important issues in my own electorate of Leichhardt. Coastal erosion is a huge issue in the Torres Strait. We had Minister Wong up a month or so ago. We have communities that are under threat from rising sea levels. We need to take action on this issue. We are still committed to it. It is a partnership between ministers such as Minister Wong and Minister Garrett, and it is about doing real things on the ground, whether it be the jobs fund, the National Environmental Research Program reforms that are going on at the moment, Reef Rescue or the investments in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. So I would appreciate it if the minister could outline some of the things in the budget this year that are particularly related to support for environmental measures in my own electorate of Leichhardt and in North and Far North Queensland generally. I would appreciate his advice on how things are progressing.