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Wednesday, 8 December 2004
Page: 68

Senator BOSWELL (Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (2:37 PM) —It is some time since I have asked a question, but I will ask a few more. My question is directed to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell. In view of the coalition's policy on recreational fishing, released on 25 September, which states that the coalition will review the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority Act to improve the performance of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, its office holders and its accountability frameworks, will the minister inform the Senate of government progress on this election commitment? What progress has been made on the structural adjustment package to assist both professional and amateur fishermen?

Senator IAN CAMPBELL (Minister for the Environment and Heritage) —I thank Senator Boswell and other Queensland senators such as Senator Santoro who have taken a close interest in this very important issue not only for North Queensland but for all of Australia.


The PRESIDENT —Order! Senator George Campbell, are you deaf! I said come to order!

Senator IAN CAMPBELL —Unlike Labor senators, who wanted to play politics with the Great Barrier Reef marine protection plans, who were prepared to tear up the most protection the Barrier Reef has historically ever been given for the chance to win some seats in Queensland, the coalition stood behind the historic levels of protection and delivered policies which will ensure that that reef is protected better than any other reef in the world. In fact, an international report has shown that that protection plan, which has created controversy with commercial fishermen, which has created controversy with recreational fishermen, has in fact also delivered significant protection for one of the great environmental assets of this country.

You did not hear the Greens, you did not hear the Australian Conservation Foundation and you did not hear the Wilderness Society attacking the Australian Labor Party when in the election campaign they said that they would tear up that plan, that they would tear up protection for the reef, that they would go into a new planning process and reopen all of the boundaries and that they would renege on their policy to change their previous policy under Mr Crean to extend the park boundaries out to the economic zone. But, quietly, in a press release issued in the dying days of the election campaign, they whittled away and watered down that policy. You did not hear the Greens, you did not hear the Conservation Foundation and you did not hear the Wilderness Society issue one line of attack to the Labor Party for the biggest backflip in Labor Party environmental policy history—tear up the plan and backflip on Mr Crean's policy. And, of course, they got away with it. There was not a line of attack from the Greens or the so-called Greens.

The coalition was committed to that plan. We have committed, furthermore, to improving the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. We will do so through a review of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975, which has not been reviewed for a long time. We want to improve the performance and governance structures. We also want to improve the consultation processes, which I know are very important to the fishermen—the recreational fishermen and the commercial fishermen—ensuring for this multi-use park that we have in fact got sustainable fisheries, that recreational fishermen can get access to the park in a sustainable way without causing damage to the biodiversity and conservation values, that the tourism industry can continue to operate in a sustainable way and that they can interact with this world-leading authority in a way that guarantees protection for the park for its conservation values but also ensuring that other users of the park and stakeholders feel some ownership of the processes and that they are being heard. This can be improved and will be improved, and I will advise Senator Boswell and all other interested senators—in fact the whole Senate—of the details of the review process, which will meet the requirements of the Uhrig review of statutory authorities and office holders.

Senator Boswell also asked about the structural adjustment package. It is on track. We are looking at buying back some fishing licences to reduce effort in the park to ensure that, with the smaller areas available for fishing, those areas do not have too much pressure on them. The announcement of the licence buy-back occurs on 17 December, which Senator Boswell will be pleased to know. I have taken a close working interest in making sure that package meets the needs of commercial fishermen but also businesses that supply the recreational fishing industry. I am confident that package will assist those people. (Time expired)