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Thursday, 24 May 2001
Page: 24312

Senator HILL (Minister for the Environment and Heritage) (12:39 PM) —The first point that I should make is that we have actually been expanding the park within the existing region. I am pleased that those expansions have taken place in the last 12 months. That has not been an easy negotiation with the Queensland government; nevertheless, it has been achieved. Senator Brown, however, is suggesting that the region be greatly expanded to presumably facilitate a further expansion, in due course, of the park within the region. The figures I have been given show that it would be an expansion of the region from some 345,000 square kilometres—so it is obviously a big region now—to 1,328,000 square kilometres. It would be over 3.5 times the size of the existing reef.

Not surprisingly, we think that that proposal for enormous expansion requires a little more consideration than has been given to it as an additional issue to this particular debate, which is principally about improving the management effectiveness of the existing park and improving the tools with which it can be effectively managed. I could talk about it for some time but, in terms of getting a better outcome for the park, I would prefer the bill to be carried and to get the new penalties into effect.

I am not saying that there should not be a debate for the future as to whether we have the boundaries right, but I am saying that I do not think now is the time for it and would respectfully suggest that there might be other avenues open to Senator Brown to cause that other debate to take place in a considered and scientific way and to see whether such a huge expansion is actually justified. On that basis, I cannot accept the amendment from Senator Brown, whilst I acknowledge his obvious good intentions in relation to it, and I trust that the Senate will nevertheless support the bill in order that the new penalties can be implemented as quickly as possible.