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Tuesday, 22 May 2012
Page: 5110

Mr PERRETT (Moreton) (22:05): I rise tonight to speak on a topic near and dear to my heart: the preservation of one of the world's great natural jewels, the Coral Sea. The Coral Sea is globally recognised as an extremely important marine region due to its unique biodiversity and World War II history. Recent international studies have highlighted that the Coral Sea is one of the last remaining areas of the world's oceans where large-scale and biologically rich ecosystems remain relatively intact. Its reef systems support tropical ecosystems rich in hard and soft corals, sponges, algae, fish communities and other sea creatures. Many globally threatened corals and other marine animals are known to live there. Many species are known to occur only there and nowhere else in the world. A vast pool of biodiversity is yet to be discovered in the region—and who knows what benefits they will bring to health and other fields of endeavour?

As I am sure many parents in this chamber with children under 10 years of age would be aware, the Coral Sea is also home to a fish named Nemo. In Australian waters the coral reef environment is an unspoiled paradise, and some of the reefs in the French controlled waters of New Caledonia also provide wonderful opportunities. The Coral Sea's historical significance must also be mentioned. It was the site of the Battle of the Coral Sea in May 1942 which turned the tide of World War II in the Pacific. We must never forget the defence personnel who perished in these waters during this significant battle; the first significant battle where the Japanese were defeated.

I have had the honour of representing Prime Ministers Gillard and Rudd at the commemoration of the Battle of the Coral Sea at Newstead House in Brisbane many times since I was elected. To this day our American allies recognise the importance of this area—the Coral Sea—in our nations' histories. Both on land and at sea, the opportunity to protect such noteworthy and pristine environments do not come along in too many lifetimes. Preserving the Coral Sea is a rare opportunity for our generation and for this parliament.

I have been contacted by numerous groups and many of my constituents urging me to support increased protection for the Coral Sea. In fact, just this morning I met yet again with representatives of Global Ocean Legacy Australia about the Protect Our Coral Sea campaign—and certainly many Queenslanders would have seen the full-page ad that they took out in the Courier Mail on the weekend. Protect our Coral Sea is a joint campaign supported by regional, national and international conservation organisations, including the Australian Conservation Foundation, Greenpeace, the Humane Society International, the National Parks Association of Queensland, the Queensland Conservation Council, Wildlife Queensland, deep sea fishers and many others I will not list because of time constraints. It is their goal to establish a large, world-class, highly protected marine park in the Coral Sea that will provide a safe haven for marine life, which is good for deep-sea fishes, and will recognise its historic significance.

The safeguarding of the Coral Sea is a matter of great importance to concerned people, and rightly so. I encourage all people in my electorate to find out about this matter so that we might help protect this international and national treasure. I also encourage all my parliamentary colleagues on both sides of the chamber to work together to protect this precious area and its fragile marine life. Finding Nemo is not enough; now we must protect his home.

I also call on the Queensland Premier, Campbell Newman, and his cabinet to show support for this matter of public importance. As the minister for the environment, Minister Burke, said this afternoon during question time, 'Unfortunately, it only took Premier Newman a fortnight after saying he wanted to enforce national environmental laws to then turn around and say he wanted to tear them down.' Hopefully, this troubling attitude will not continue. I hope that Mr Newman and his government are much more reasonable about the Coral Sea than they appear to be in these early days about the environmental protection of koalas.

The Australian government is committed to improving the protection of our marine environment. I will continue to advocate for the better protection of the Coral Sea not only because of public concern but because it is the right thing to do. This is a legacy moment for our generation and for this parliament. As I said, finding Nemo is not enough; now we must act to protect his home.