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Thursday, 11 October 2012
Page: 7949

Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (10:29): I must say I am rather disappointed to have heard the previous speaker. I have always had regard for Senator Siewert as being one of the few members of the Greens political party who is a genuine environmentalist, but clearly the speech she has just read was written for her by the Pew group or WWF. I have been around a long while and have seen Senator Siewert in action. Her hesitant approach to this and the fact that she read most of it shows that she clearly has no passion for what she has been told to say on this and so she trotted out all the old words in the rhetoric that the Greens go on with.

One thing Senator Siewert said that I did agree with was that it would not surprise anyone that the Greens are opposing this. Of course, the Greens and the Labor Party oppose anything that is put up by other than the Greens political party. Why? Because this dysfunctional government continues to operate because of the tainted votes of a couple of Independents and the Greens political party in the other place and on this side. So whatever Pew says, whatever the crackpot wilderness society says or whatever WWF says, the Greens just mouth that and, once the Greens say, it the Labor Party just rolls over because if it ever challenges the Greens it will be out of government and Ms Gillard will not have a job. So that is what this is all about.

Clearly neither of the previous two speakers have even bothered to read the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Making Marine Parks Accountable) Bill 2012. Senator Siewert's whole speech was about attacking the coalition for trying to put more science into marine protection. We are not opposing marine protection, Senator Siewert; we are trying to put some science into it. We are trying to get it out of the political system and trying to get it out of the clutches of that foreign oil based group, Pew, and into the hands of Australians who actually live, work and have fun on our coasts and seas.

I am not quite sure how Senator Siewert and the Greens can take much notice of the WWF, an organisation that used to have some credibility but, of course, now we hear that WWF's world leader wants to ban all trawling in Australia. 'We want to ban all trawling in Australia,' the WWF world boss says. But, hang on—WWF in Australia is taking money off commercial fishing trawler industry members to give them marine stewardship certification for their trawling in Australian waters. So, clearly, the WWF will do something when there is a buck in it for them so they can continue their work around the world but their true thoughts come out in a typical Greens political party approach: shut down all extractive industries in Australia. They have almost succeeded with the forestry industry, one of the most sustainable forest industries in the world, if not bar none. Thanks to the Greens political party and their lackeys in the Labor Party, that industry, which has employed hundreds of thousands of Australian workers, is now on its knees.

And they have started again on the fishing industry. We have seen that ridiculous decision on the Abel Tasman when Minister Burke, as fisheries minister, encouraged the five quota holders to combine their quotas and bring in a big, efficient fishing vessel to catch the quota take and then, when the boat arrives and people have spent a lot of money to bring it here, Minister Burke then, as environment minister, bans the operation that he encouraged as fisheries minister. Why? Because Ms Gillard holds her office as Prime Minister on the tainted vote of a couple of Independents and the Greens political party. The Greens political party will not stop until all extractive industries and, in fact, anything that extracts any of our national assets are stopped in Australia.

I have said before, and I say it again, to the few recreational fishing groups that still support some of the rhetoric of the Greens: don't be fooled; your senior peak body understands that the Greens are dangerous insofar as recreational fishing is concerned. The Greens political party would even go out—and this is typical of the Greens and the Labor Party—and rewrite a bit of history and hope that a bit of it sticks. We heard Senator Siewert say that under the coalition, it is alleged, these marine regions will stop people enjoying the beaches, stop them walking along the beaches and stop them having a swim in the surf.

Senator Siewert: Madam Acting Deputy President, on a point of order: Senator Macdonald is clearly misquoting something I said. I did not say the coalition said that. I said some other groups have been out there saying that. I did not say the coalition said it. I would ask you to ask him to withdraw that.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator McKenzie ): Senator Macdonald?

Senator IAN MACDONALD: I am not withdrawing that. It is not a point of order for a start, Madam Acting Deputy President, as you well know. Here are the Greens going around saying people are saying that doing this bioregional marine planning will stop people enjoying the beaches, stop people walking along the beaches and stop people having a swim in the surf. This is the sort of approach that the Greens and the Labor Party take to anything: verbal anyone you like and rewrite history as you would like and do not let that get in the way of your goal to stop any extractive industries or any fishing at all, recreational or otherwise, within Australia.

If you could believe anything Senator Siewert or Senator Thistlethwaite, for that matter, says, you would just ask them to read the bill. All the bill is saying is let's get a bit of science into it, let's talk to people apart from the oil supported Pew environmental group from America, let's ask real people in Australia rather than those wackos in the wilderness society and let's have this parliament have a bit of a say. Isn't it outrageous that some of the decisions on marine bioregional planning should be disallowable instruments so that the elected members of parliament, who in our system represent Australians, can have a say!

They could actually say, 'This is a good idea; let's support it.' Or they could say: 'This is going to affect my community. It's not going to do anything for marine planning so let's oppose it.' But, no; the Greens and the Labor Party would hate the representatives of the Australian people to have a say in this. This bill will make those decisions disallowable instruments. What is wrong with that? Why do you not want to have a say, Senator Siewert? You would be able to have a say in this parliament. Why do you not want a commission of independent social and economic assessment—

Senator Feeney: Madam Acting Deputy President, I raise a point of order. I ask that you ask the senator to address you rather than speaking directly across the chamber to Senator Siewert.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Thank you, Senator Feeney. Senator Macdonald, please address your remarks to the bill through the chair.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Thank you, Madam Acting Deputy President; I will do that. Madam Acting Deputy President, one thing I could say about Senator Thistlethwaite's speech—and this was new for the Labor Party—is that he did actually acknowledge that the world's first oceans policy was introduced by the people that Senator Siewert says are trying to destroy our marine environment. It was the coalition who introduced the world's first oceans policy, and part of that was to have marine bioregional planning.

The difference between the coalition's approach to this and that of the Labor Party is why this bill is before the chamber today. The coalition started this process, and I very proudly say that I was part of the first marine bioregional region, in the south-east, in Australia. That was good because, at the time that it was introduced by the environment minister, I as fisheries minister had equal say, and it was not going to be one of these whitewashes by the Wilderness Society or Pew, as this current process is. It was one where all stakeholders were consulted and all of their views were taken on board. As I always proudly say, 80 per cent thought that 80 per cent of it was okay. Nobody was 100 per cent happy but, after two or three years of intensive consultation with all stakeholders, all Australians, all the people involved, we got a good outcome in the south-east bioregional process which was generally supported by every stakeholder.

Contrast that with the Labor Party's approach. You have this being the sole prerogative now of a minister who has a litany of backflips and actions that show he cannot be trusted. As I said, the most recent is the one where he as fisheries minister encouraged the Abel Tasman out here and as environment minister blocked it. So that is the person who is in charge of this bioregional planning process. Under the coalition, the people in charge were all relevant ministers and, more importantly, we consulted the scientists, the fisheries managers, the recreational, commercial and charter fishermen, the people who live along the coast and the people whose livelihoods depend upon properly managed marine areas—and that is what this bill wants to do.

I have not heard any of the speakers opposing this bill indicate what they do not actually like about it. In case the next speaker has a speech written for her by the minister's office or by Pew that does not quite go to the facts of the bill, I will just relate what this bill actually talks about. It calls on the minister to commission an independent social and economic impact assessment before proclamations are made. What is wrong with that? Can anyone tell me why they would oppose that? The bill also requires the minister to obtain independent, scientific peer reviewed advice before making any proclamation and for that advice to be publicly available. Who could object to that? Please, can the next speaker tell me what is wrong with that?

Senator Pratt interjecting

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Tell me why you would vote against that. The bill also requires the minister to establish independent—I emphasise 'independent'—scientific reference panels and stakeholder advisory groups for each region to ensure rigorous decision making. Why in a democracy would we oppose that? Please, the next speaker—

Senator Pratt interjecting

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Senator, if you are going to be speaking on this bill, can you answer me what is wrong with those things?

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Macdonald, can I again remind you to direct your comments to the other side through the chair.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Yes, certainly. Madam Acting Deputy President, through you, I ask the next speaker to tell me what is offensive about that, what is wrong with that. Finally, can I ask the next speaker to advise what is wrong with members in this chamber and in the House of Representatives, what is wrong with the elected representatives of Australia, having a say on these things by making the minister's decisions disallowable instruments. Please, if you can give me a decent reason, Madam Acting Deputy President, or any speaker in this debate, on what is wrong with those aspects, which are what this bill is all about, I will listen intently. But I guarantee there will not be a speaker opposing this bill who can explain what is wrong with those four principal elements of the bill.

Madam Acting Deputy President, that will bring you back to the inevitable conclusion that this is all about the Greens telling the Labor Party that, unless they go along with what their wacky supporters require—that is, to shut down fishing in Australia—then the Greens are out of the coalition and Ms Gillard will have to go to an election which she knows she will lose remarkably.

The coalition is proud of its record in the management of our seas.

We have always taken into account the advice of qualified, independent scientists. I would point out that in Australia the latest Commonwealth fish data reports confirm there is an ongoing improvement in fish stocks. No-one else will ever praise me, so I might have to praise myself and say that I am very proud of having a significant role in getting Australian fish stocks to the state where they are more sustainable and improving each year. Of the 96 fish stocks assessed in Australia, 71 are not subject to overfishing, which means that they are being harvested at the appropriate level. All those statistics show that Australian fisheries are well managed.

If you take the advice of some of the world's leading scientists, then I will quote just one. Dr Ray Hilborn, a professor of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences from the University of Washington, says that 'Australian fisheries are well managed, sustainable and do not need further locking up to protect them from overfishing; the existing tools are working'. He goes on elsewhere to say that, 'Closing Australian areas to fisheries will not increase food production from fisheries; it will reduce it'. He then goes on to say that, 'Reducing access to Australian fish stocks is irresponsible'. And he says further that, 'Reducing access to Australian fish stocks results in Australia importing more fish, often sourced from areas that have less sustainably managed fisheries at a much higher environmental cost, 'effectively' as he says, 'offshoring our domestic requirement'. Look at what the serious, learned expert scientists in this area say.

Here is a bill which should receive universal support because it is all about properly managing our oceans and our marine areas. It is about getting the right advice, not advice tainted by various environmental groups who have a particular agenda. I have quoted the WWF, who on one hand want to ban commercial trawling but on the other hand are charging Australian commercial trawlers to give them a marine stewardship certificate—getting some money off them and saying it is okay. You cannot take notice of the people who support the Greens and who, because of that, impose upon this dysfunctional government their will.

This is a bill which anybody who has a serious interest in management of Australia's oceans would support. It is the sort of bill that would enhance Australia's world-leading reputation. Look at the way the Labor Party administer this. I mean, Ms Gillard and Senator Siewert are quoted as saying the compensation for all of these closures will be $100 million. I have to say that when we were in government we were in error. We thought that the compensation in relation to the Great Barrier Reef closures—something we were very proud of—would be about $10 million. The last I heard it was $250 million and rising. Ms Gillard, in her typical 'There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead' approach, says, 'This will only be $100 million'. Mind you, it is $100 million the Labor Party do not have. They do have a $120 billion black hole, and they can add this $100 million to it—but it is not $100 million. If people are to be compensated for the results of the Labor Party's mismanagement of our marine bioregional planning processes, the bill will be up in the billions of dollars. The Labor Party do not allow for that. We know them—they will not bother about compensation. They will not do what the coalition government did and try to adequately compensate all of those businesses and all of those people who were impacted by the decision. You can be assured the Labor Party (a) will not be interested in doing it and (b) will not be able to afford to do it.

I conclude my remarks on this by challenging further speakers to tell me what is wrong with the four principal elements of this bill: getting independent social and economic assessments done, getting independent scientific peer-reviewed advice and having the decisions as disallowable instruments. I look forward to hearing why they oppose it. (Time expired)