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Monday, 26 November 2012
Page: 13085

Mr ZAPPIA (Makin) (10:31): On behalf of the Standing Committee on Climate Change, Environment and the Arts, I present the committee's second interim report of the inquiry into Australia's biodiversity and the changing climate entitled Case studies on biodiversity conservation: volume 2.

In accordance with standing order 39(f) the report was made a parliamentary paper.

Mr ZAPPIA: I welcome this opportunity to make some remarks in connection with the second interim report of the inquiry into Australia's biodiversity in a changing climate. This report discusses the issues that have arisen in the course of the committee's site inspection activities in Victoria, South Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland. I also take this opportunity to update the House on the progress of the inquiry.

As I reported to the House earlier this year, the inquiry's terms of reference are very broad, and the committee considered that an extensive evidence-gathering process was the most appropriate way to conduct the inquiry. Part of that process involved carrying out site inspections around the country and visiting a broad range of ecosystems of national importance as defined by submissions the committee received. Through the first interim report presented in May and with presentation of the second interim report today, the committee has now fully reported on key issues that arose throughout the site inspections.

Although the inspection program has concluded, the committee continues to gather evidence for its final report through written submissions, private briefings and public hearings. Since the inquiry began in June last year, the committee has received 87 submissions, 13 supplementary submissions, 60 exhibits and numerous additional documents. We have also held 13 public hearings, covering each Australian state and territory.

Before making specific comments about the report I record my thanks to members of the committee—particularly the deputy chair, the member for Moore—for their bipartisan cooperation and for the significant commitments they have made in relation to the site inspection program.

I also take this opportunity to once again thank each of the organisations and individuals who facilitated the committee's visits and who took the time to meet with the committee. To the many community representatives, scientists, natural resource managers, officials, and local experts we have heard from, I thank you for assisting the committee with this important inquiry. I particular thank the committee secretariat, who have worked diligently in assisting the committee with its inquiry.

I expect that the member for Moore may speak about the committee's work as well, and he might refer to the Northern Territory and Queensland visits, so I will confine my brief remarks to the matters relating to the Victorian and South Australian inspections.

In Victoria the committee visited the Melbourne Museum and heard about the invaluable work of the museum in species identification using gene technology, in digital record keeping and international exchange of information and the role of the museum in carrying out research related to biodiversity changes. The committee also visited Hastings in Western Port and met with BirdLife Australia to hear about the threats to bird life arising from climate change and sea level rises. In South Australia the committee inspected the Coorong, Lower Lakes and Murray mouth areas and the Greenfields wetlands in the city of Salisbury. In both areas the committee was briefed about threats and local initiatives being used to preserve the natural environment. Colin Pitman, from the city of Salisbury, provided the committee with a comprehensive overview of the environmental, economic and social benefits of Salisbury's extensive wetlands and water reuse scheme.

The committee will present its final report with recommendations next year. What is evident to date from the work is that: firstly, there are real threats to Australia's biodiversity; secondly, each region faces its own unique risks; thirdly, already serious losses of species have occurred throughout Australia; and fourthly, climate change adds to the risks and threats being faced.

On a positive perspective, it is most encouraging to see local communities around the country initiating projects to minimise any of those risks. It is also reassuring to see how much invaluable research work is being carried out by scientists around the country. Their work is vital in our understanding of what is happening and what action can be taken to protect our natural environment.

I understand that other members of the committee may wish to speak to the second interim report. Of course, a much more extensive discussion about the committee's work will occur when the final report is presented next year. With those brief comments, I present the report to the House.