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Wednesday, 16 August 2017
Page: 5780

Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaMinister for Education and Training) (12:06): I thank senators who've contributed to this debate, although I do note that this is essentially a very non-controversial bill. The requirement to have had some eight or nine senators speak in a debate that has gone on for a couple of hours was probably quite unnecessary. I appreciate that people like, sometimes, to seize the opportunity to wax lyrical about matters relating to climate change policy or mining approvals or the like. Ultimately, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Amendment Bill 2017 is very precise, very short and very specific in terms of what it seeks to do.

This bill makes minor technical amendments to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975 to rectify an unintended consequence of the sunsetting regime that was established under the Legislation Act 2003. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act provides for the protection and conservation of the environment, biodiversity and heritage values through zoning issues of permissions and implementation plans of management in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The amendments made under this bill will simply prevent plans of management made under this act from being revoked if regulations giving effect to these plans are repealed and remade to address sunsetting.

Plans of management are an important environmental management tool for managing activities within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park on the basis of ecologically sustainable use. This will simply allow the protective measures in those plans, currently in place, to continue uninterrupted into the future. Plans of management are prepared specifically for intensively used or particularly vulnerable groups of islands and reefs and for the protection of vulnerable species or ecological communities. There are currently four plans of management in place, mainly around Cairns, Hinchinbrook Island, Shoalwater Bay and the Whitsundays.

The Australian and Queensland governments have been working together for the long-term management of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park for over 40 years.    We note and respect Senator Leyonhjelm's passionate views in relation to federalism and the responsibilities of the states and territories. We also note that the Great Barrier Reef is, of course, a World Heritage item. It is one in which the cooperation of Commonwealth and state governments has been long-established. And we are proud of the type of effective regime that has been put in place for the protection and management of that World Heritage area.

We are also very proud, as a government, of the significant investment that we have made in relation to the establishment of the Reef Trust and cooperative arrangements with the Queensland government that have seen record sums invested in the ongoing protection of the Great Barrier Reef into the future. As all members of the Senate and Australians appreciate, it is one of the world's largest coral reef systems and includes 2,900 coral reefs, 600 continental islands, 300 coral cays and about 150 inshore mangrove islands. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the Queensland Department of National Parks, Sport and Racing, through the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, operate a joint field management program for the marine and island national parks, ensuring efficient, coordinated, cooperative management and oversight. Among other management tools, the field management plan uses the management plans that this bill seeks to ensure continue into the future to deliver practical on-ground actions to support and maintain well-functioning marine and island ecosystems that support economic, traditional and recreational uses of the Great Barrier Reef.

I commend this bill to the Senate. The government will not be supporting the second reading amendment moved by Senator Rice. As I said at the outset, this bill is very precise in its intent. This bill deals particularly with ensuring the continuity of management plans. It does not need to be sidelined or used as a mechanism for other issues to be debated. There have been plenty of debates in this place already in relation to the Adani mine. I'm sure there will be others in future. However, the government stands by the very strong environmental safeguards that are in place in relation to the approvals around that mine and is absolutely confident that its operation would provide jobs and economic activity in regional Queensland and would not have any negative consequences for the Great Barrier Reef.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: The question is that the amendment as moved by Senator Rice be agreed to.