Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 1 December 2004
Page: 54

Senator IAN MACDONALD (Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation) (1:39 PM) —Today, 1 December, is a very good news day for the Australian seafood industry and indeed for all Australians who are consumers of Australia's fine seafood. Earlier this morning I was privileged to be at the Sydney Fish Market to launch the `environmental tick', one might say, given to the Australian seafood industry under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. Senators will know that five years ago this very tough act was passed by the Howard government, requiring very strict regulations on, amongst other things, the management of the fisheries industries.

Almost on time, with perhaps a little extension, the Australian seafood industry has been able to get that environmental tick under the EPBC Act. That means that this Christmas time Australians can tuck into Australia's fine, fresh, `clean and green' seafood, content in the knowledge not only that seafood is healthy, good for their diet and very Australian but also that the Australian fish and fish products they are eating come from environmentally sustainable fisheries—some of the most environmentally sustainable fisheries in the world. The 11 Commonwealth fisheries that have been assessed by Environment Australia all came out with a clean bill of health. Four of them will be reviewed in three years time and the rest have a five-year review period in accordance with the EPBC Act. So it is a great result for the seafood industry and for those Australians who love seafood—and shouldn't that be all of us?

I know all senators would agree with me in urging all Australians to have a lot of Australian seafood come Christmas time. The seafood industry is doing it a bit tough at the moment with the very high prices of fuel, the high Australian exchange rate and the low-quality, low-value fish products that are imported into the country. But we as Australians can help the seafood industry and ourselves by getting stuck into some fabulous seafood this Christmas time.

I also want to touch briefly on the Howard government's commitment to Tasmania and indeed to all Australians in relation to the Tasmanian forests. Senators will recall that the government has given a commitment to add 170,000 hectares of old-growth forest to the reserve system in Tasmania. It is very important to emphasise to all Australians, many of whom have been confused by the ramblings of the Greens party over the years, that this will mean one million hectares of old-growth trees are locked away permanently in reserves in Tasmania forever and a day. If you listen to the Greens and the misleading that they are so adept at, you would think that there are only five or a dozen old-growth trees left in Australia. You would think that there are practically none left because that is the sort of misleading information that the Greens give. Over the last 10, 20 or 30 years, they have been able to hoodwink the public, particularly the public of Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, that there are only a couple of old-growth trees left.

The fact is that, following the implementation of the Howard government's election commitments, one million hectares of old-growth forests in Tasmania will be permanently locked away out of 1.2 million hectares, which is the total area of old-growth forests in Tasmania. That is not a bad result. I want to repeat that to emphasise it: of the 1.2 million hectares of old-growth forests in Tasmania, following the implementation of the Howard government's program one million hectares of old-growth forests will be locked away.

At the moment officers from my department, the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, from the Department of the Environment and Heritage and from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet are working with the Tasmanian government to put together the boundaries of those new additions to the forest. We had hoped to make those boundaries known today. That was the commitment we gave. We wanted to emphasise that we were not going to follow the Labor Party line of having yet another review into the forests—there have been hundreds of them already—and coming back in 12 or 18 months time, thinking about it and perhaps getting a policy then. We wanted it to be firm; we wanted to give the industry the certainty of knowing what is reserved and what is not. More importantly, we wanted to make sure that Tasmanian workers, such as the blue-collar workers and the other workers in the industry, including contractors—those people who are now flocking to the Howard government, to the Liberal Party, in droves because we look after their jobs—understand that we are concerned about their jobs, that we are concerned about the environment and that we are concerned about the forests. But we believe that a balance can be met which will add additional trees to the reserves and which will ensure that all of those workers in Tasmania maintain their jobs. That is the commitment we have given, and we are determined to keep it. It did not happen on 1 December, as we had hoped; it will happen in a few weeks when we complete our negotiations.

I want to read into the record, in response to Senator Brown's petty criticism, that even the Wilderness Society spokesperson in an article today said that he was glad the government was not rushing this decision. The article states:

“It's better to get a good decision than a rushed one,” he said. “We don't want to blow this opportunity to protect some of Tasmania's important wilderness areas and forests.”

Even the Wilderness Society are supportive of the Howard government's approach to the negotiations to add additional reserve, whereas all Senator Brown can do is complain and whinge.

I think Senator Brown is very uncertain at the moment. Most Australians have worked out that the Greens political party have nothing to do with being green or with the environment. They are all about those very left-wing social and political agendas. They have done nothing on the environment in the last three years. They have hardly asked a question, you might recall, Mr Acting Deputy President. Certainly, they have never turned up at estimates committees to ask any questions at all on the environment. They are just frauds when it comes to the environment, and I think the Australian public saw through them. The Greens have had their worst election result. The results for the Greens and the Democrats this time round were worse than they have been in many years past.

While Senator Brown has tried to put a positive spin on it, the Greens lost their only House of Representatives member and got nowhere near the number of senators he expected. The Greens did not even win the number of seats held by Democrats senators who were defeated. It has been an appalling result for the Greens as a political force, because Australians have worked out that they are frauds when it comes to the environment. The Greens are only interested in left-wing social and political agendas, whereas, by contrast, the Howard government is the greenest, most environmental government that this nation has ever seen. The addition to the reserves in Tasmania is just one element that demonstrates what an environmentally aware and environmentally conscious government the Howard government is.

I wanted to say a couple of other things about the election but, to allow Senator McGauran to speak on the very important subject of wool, I seek leave to incorporate the rest of my speech in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows—

The real winners on 9 October 2004 were the people of Australia who emphatically decided on the team to continue the Australian way of life and the prosperity we have enjoyed since 1996.

As well there were many unsung heroes. All those who worked our campaigns, the booth workers who manned the booths (in the North, many from 6:30am to 6:30 pm non stop!), our brilliant campaign team lead by Federal president Shane Stone and Federal Director Brian Loughnane. Their plans and strategies were carried out in Queensland by State Director Geoff Greene who did a great job—showing how a disciplined team and a well led organisation can make the difference.

To all of those who assisted—in ways big and small—my thanks for helping return John Howard and his team for another term.

Some members of the National Party in Federal Parliament suggest (wrongly) that I am anti-National Party.

In the Federal Election I seemed to have spent a lot of my time campaigning in National Party electorates.

Many of the major forest and fishing towns are in National Party electorates and I did spend time campaigning with National Party candidates in Page (NSW) and in Hinkler (Qld) twice and in Gippsland. I also helped the Nationals campaign in Kennedy.

After spending all day on October 9 manning the booths to help in Peter Lindsay's historic win in the Federal electorate of Herbert, Townsville Young Liberals have produced a second spectacular poll win only three days later with a clean sweep at the James Cook University Student Union elections held on the Tuesday and Wednesday after the Federal poll.

The Young Liberals under their banner of “Students for Choice” won the election for President, General Secretary, Education Officer, Welfare Officer, Environment Officer, Women's Officer and two general members.

“Congratulations to Jessica Weber and her team of Young Libs on a magnificent well organised campaign which will ensure student services at Australia's largest tropical University are well managed and directed for the next year.”

Young Libs manned the University booth for Peter Lindsay at the Federal election and received a remarkable swing on the booth achieving 47.59% of the first preference votes.

“I am so proud of these young people for their dedication and commitment to democracy and good governance at all levels of government.”

Senator Macdonald said that the involvement of young people in the political process in North Queensland augers well for the future expansion of the Liberal vote in the North.