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Tuesday, 4 June 2013
Page: 5131

Mr ENTSCH (LeichhardtChief Opposition Whip) (18:56): I am very pleased to have the opportunity of speaking tonight on this motion and of speaking up for all the coastal communities around Northern Australia. In my view it is a great disappointment that the creation of the Commonwealth Marine Reserves network is not disallowable. But, given the management plans, maybe we can make the best of a bad situation.

I seconded the motion on the north and north-west Commonwealth Marine Reserves, and I have something to say to the member for Kennedy, who earlier on made a lot of noise in here, about a bit of history in this area. If we go back to the introduction of green zones in 2004, I am on the record as being vehemently opposed to the introduction of those, and, again, to the texta 'science' behind it. It was, at that stage, members of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority that had actually encouraged the fishermen to come forward and identify the areas that they could not afford to lose. And then, when the next draft was released, every area that had been marked in purple texta had been turned into a green zone. At the time, I was highly critical. Obviously, the member for Kennedy had no idea what he was talking about, in so much as there was not a vote; these changes in the green zone were done by regulation.

At the time I spoke up against my own minister because within that regulation there was a compensation package of $10 million, and, at the time, I said that that was absolutely ridiculous and that the impact that this was going to have on the fishing community and on these coastal communities was going to be well in excess of $200 million. I was told by the minister and his bureaucrats at the time that exaggeration like that really did not do me any favours in relation to my credibility. Yet what is the compensation package so far? Over $240 million, and that is nowhere near the damage that has been done to the businesses and communities that were affected by this very, very flawed regulation.

I might add that the member for Kennedy had nothing to do in relation to trying to deal with that compensation; that was me and Senator Boswell. He mentioned his mate Fred being prosecuted in this area; again, it was Senator Boswell who effected the changes that allowed these people to get a fair hearing in relation to that issue.

On the western coast of Cape York Peninsula, fishing is a highly valued commercial, recreational and tourism staple, and I doubt that that changes much as we move further west. I share the concerns raised by my good colleague here, the member for Dawson, specifically addressing the Coral Sea Commonwealth Marine Reserves.

Just to highlight the lack of common sense and of science that surrounds the restrictions on the use of our marine resources under the existing management plan, I would like to highlight a number of businesses based in my electorate. The Northern Prawn Fishery extends from Cape York in Queensland to Cape Londonderry in Western Australia. An article in the Cairns Post on 20 November celebrated the fact that overseas buyers are:

… lining up to take product from the Northern Prawn Fishery after its sustainable certification by the Marine Stewardship Council.

Gaining this certification is no mean feat. It proves that the operators in this fishery are using world best practice to harvest their catch very sustainably with less impact on the environment and on bycatch.

So what does this government do? It takes this certification and it rubbishes it absolutely by declaring the North and North West Marine Reserves, shutting down effectively 20 per cent of the Northern Prawn Fishery. What about the millions these operators have invested and the thousands of jobs they support? I just shake my head in disbelief.

I will talk about a couple of our small marine businesses in Cairns. Wayne and Sally Bayne have operated Mitchell's Marine since they founded it in Sydney over 40 years ago in 1972. They moved to Cairns in 1981 and had a highly respected, very successful business. Because of the uncertainty that has been created by this nonsense that has been peddled by this minister, four months ago they shut that business down. It is completely gone. The same goes for Marcel Marjean of Cairns Custom craft. He has been building recreational and commercial vessels in Cairns for 25 years but has shut his business down completely. It is little wonder that we have such high unemployment—the highest in the country—in my region, and a lot of this has contributed to the nonsense that the minister has been peddling as he continues to be a slave to cancerous organisations like the Pew foundation in the United States.

We also have Daniel McCarthy, owner of Big Fish Down Under. He will be heavily impacted because of the restrictions on big game fishing in the Coral Sea. Bob and Annie Lamason of Great Barrier Reef Tuna in Cairns really take special consideration and the minister is very aware of this family. They have been beaten senseless over what was an incredibly successful business. It used to pay about $2,000 to $3,000 per vessel per year for licences in the 1990s and had seven boats that cost about $20,000. I opposed the impact the green zones had on them but it has continued to compound. Back in the 1990s Bob was catching about 1,200 tonnes of tuna a year. Back then, there were no by-catch restrictions, there was no wire trace, there was no VMS. Bob also had a much wider range that he could move around. Now the area where he can catch has been totally constrained. He is restricted down to four vessels for which he is paying on an average more than $40,000 per year—a total of $160,000 per annum—and is now permitted to catch 600 tonnes of tuna a year. Due to the fact that he has been forced out into areas where the species no longer congregate because of the science that this minister talks about, last year he only managed to catch 300 tonnes. In addition, since the announcement of the government's marine park network—another challenge and it is death by 1,000 strokes—he has lost two of his skippers because of the uncertainty of the industry. Bob says:

We are catching less than half a percent of the Western Pacific Yellow Fin and Big Eye tuna, so what is the government really managing for their money?

It is just an absolute outrage. I say that if we do manage to change this, we need to be reintroducing a sustainability requirement into this area so that people can go out there and fish. We need people like Bob and Annie. They deserve to be paid out and we should be selling and expanding licences based on sustainability. We can use some of the reserves that we get from the sale of those licences to assist people like Bob and Annie, the last family standing in that area, to give them a chance to get out with some level of dignity.

I talked to Annie tonight. T hey are in a bit of an unusual situation. They are in their 60s and they cannot sell their business. It is no longer viable because of the restrictions that have been put on them. They want out and I believe we have an obligation to make sure that they have access to a package that allows them to move forward with their lives because they have really copped the brunt of a lot of these flawed decisions.

Cairns Marine Aquarium has another three generations who have been catching reef fish for aquariums from where there was no sustainability issue. They were forced to withdraw from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. I managed, working with them, to get them compensation of some $3.8 million. They used that money to purchase bigger boats that enabled them to go further out into the Coral Sea to operate and set up the infrastructure at their Cairns base. But now with these new Coral Sea Marine Reserve restrictions it is likely that, out of 16 operators currently working in the area, only three will be able to continue. The casualties will include line and trap fishermen, the rock lobster and beche de mer fisheries, along with other aquarium operators.

The major issue here is that the government is looking for 100 per cent cost recovery. The total cost of the management is currently about $300,000. Instead of spreading it around 16 licences, it will have to be spread over three.

As Ryan Donnelly said:

The funny thing is that the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority holds us up as a 'poster child' for the fishing industry on the Great Barrier Reef. These are the people who you'd think would want us to stop fishing on the Reef.

If we're forced out of the Coral Sea, the infrastructure and boats and buildings at our Stratford site will all have to go.

Of course we do not need to talk about the impact that it is going to have on our restaurants in the area, from Cairns and Port Douglas through to Cooktown et cetera and right across. They will be seriously impacted by the lack of fresh fish. As the member for Dawson said, we are already importing something like 70 per cent of our seafood. It is amazing: we have the largest economic exclusion zone, one of the largest in the world—there is nowhere at all that there is any pressure at all on this—and we are underfishing to blazes, and yet we are shutting it down.

The classic example is the Coral Sea. Bob Lamason said that out of our percentage of the Coral Sea, we took 300 tonnes; Papua New Guinea, 1.7 million tonnes; and New Caledonia, 2.1 million tonnes. I just wonder how much of an impact on the environment our 300 tonnes will have when we shut it down. Absolutely none at all. We would have been far better off talking to Papua New Guinea and to New Caledonia about doing a sustainable arrangement instead of getting on our knees and crawling across and sucking up to putrid organisations like Pew. They won't touch them in Papua New Guinea; they won't touch them in New Caledonia. Why? Because it is American licensed fishermen who are working in those areas, and they have not got the guts to take them on. Unfortunately, this minister over here, Minister Burke, also does not have the guts to take these people on. He would rather sacrifice Australian businesses than take on his mates from the Pew foundation. It is an absolute disgrace.

The other thing that worries me—of course a lot of this stuff has been based not on flawed science but on no science whatsoever. It is also based on a whole lot of claptrap and lies. This went out at 4.15 this afternoon. It was a bulk email sent by one of our senators and a minister in the other place—Senator McLucas. I will just read this to you. This went out, as I said, at 4.15, and it said:

Just last year, Labor declared the biggest network of marine parks in the world. But what we've fought so hard for could disappear in just a few months.

If the Liberals get their way then as of tonight, it will be legal to drill for oil and gas off Margaret River. It will be legal to drill for oil and gas in the Coral sea.

What a load of hogwash! This is the rubbish that these people try to peddle.

One of the biggest problems we had when we tried to deal with this in 2004 was that 80 per cent of the population lives in this little golden triangle on 20 per cent of our landmass. For the rest of us who live out there in regional Australia and try to make a living out there, using our natural resources, it makes it very difficult—that is, the 20 per cent of the population. And all of this rubbish that gets peddled goes into metropolitan Australia. They see it on their TVs, on these flash ads that are put up by these gangrenous organisations like Pew and others. Not only does the minister believe it—or is silly enough to believe it—but it is also rammed down the throats of people in our metropolitan areas. But people started to realise when they came to places like Cairns that it was not the fact. I think we will see a very different situation now.

She goes on to say:

It will be legal to use long lines, gillnets, trawls and spears in the marine national park—

This is just absolute rubbish. This is the sort of scare tactic these people have continually used to justify their actions. We should be using the resources that we are blessed with. We should be going to out there using them sustainably. There should be no restrictions on the access or the use of this. We should be using it based purely on sustainability— (Time expired)