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Wednesday, 13 September 2017
Page: 7214


Senator MOORE (Queensland) (18:25): I strongly support the contribution that's just been made by Senator Scullion. I think you've been reading the same resources I have, Senator Scullion. Certainly, one of the things I want to do is pay my respect to the wonderful work that Helene Marsh has done through James Cook University and also the various researchers who work in that space.

Senator Hinch, one of the things that's really clear is that there has been considerable effort put in place over many years by people who care very, very deeply for these wonderful animals: the dugong and the turtle. There are different groups of turtles—there's not just one type—but the dugong is pretty special. It's probably one of the most precious and unusual animals you could find. I don't think anyone can truly describe a dugong. Through the work at James Cook and also through the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, there has been consideration of the various issues around the importance of having an effective balance between protecting these extraordinary animals—which belong to all of us; they are part of our natural environment; they are precious to all of us—and working very effectively with the local people up there who share the love of these animals.

In fact, the first time I learnt about the dugong was when I was working in Townsville. Some of the elders from the Torres Strait came to Townsville, to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, and talked to us about the special relationship that the people have with these animals in that region. They also talked about the longstanding relationship in terms of hunting these animals, but they talked most particularly about the balance, which is so important in community, to grow community and maintain tradition.

Senator Hinch, I have also heard the stories you described. They are horrific and they don't reflect the kind of respect that is traditional in this area. When the Traditional Use of Marine Resources Agreements were developed, they were very clear. The traditional-use agreements describe how Great Barrier Reef traditional owner groups work in partnership with the Australian and Queensland governments to manage traditional-use activities on their sea country. The important thing—and I think it is one of the things that Senator Scullion was talking about—is how we get people working effectively in these partnerships, sharing the traditional respect and sharing the traditional knowledge and skills. One of the things that was most concerning, Senator Hinch, was when you talked about how you feel there is a breakdown in generational respect and that what we need to do is rebuild the core of what we're talking about when we're talking about the agreements. When individual agreements are signed, that brings into being how the long-term historical relationships are established.

There should be further development of the marine rangers program, which uses local people to continue to not just maintain and keep records of where the animals are and how they can be best looked after but also retrain the people who live in those communities about their responsibilities to their own communities, to their families, to their history and to the protection of this wonderful marine life. Also in this space, it is particularly important that we keep a balance. There must be effective scientific monitoring. James Cook does do monitoring, but I think we can do better. We can collect better data.

One of the things that Helene Marsh has talked about is the fact that there are other contributing factors to the loss of animals in this space. The things that stay in my mind are the welfare issues around being caught, drowning in nets and ingesting marine debris. We had a Senate inquiry on that quite recently, and the horrors of marine debris and the impact it had on the marine life in that place still haunt me.

When you brought this forward, Senator Hinch, I did some background research. That referred to a federal government report done last year by the Australian Crime Intelligence Commission, which looked at issues around the taking of turtle and dugong meat. This particular report doesn't seem to have been made public yet; they've made statements out of it. The ACIC chief executive said that the two-year investigation found no substantive evidence of any organised illegal trade in meat. I think you were referring to that aspect of the illegal trade. This ACIC report looked at those issues and came up with the finding that there was no evidence of that trade. But what we have not seen is that report and, as a result of this discussion this afternoon, I will continue to ask about whether we have had— (Time expired)