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Monday, 9 November 2015
Page: 7988

Senator SIEWERT (Western AustraliaAustralian Greens Whip) (17:02): I would like to take note of the response by the Minister for the Environment, Mr Hunt, to a resolution of the Senate on 12 October concerning marine protection. I move:

That the Senate take note of the document.

Unfortunately, the government have responded in the same manner in which they have responded to other motions that I have put to this chamber and that have, in fact, been supported by this chamber. I was hoping for a different response by the government on this occasion to that last motion. In fact, just another one was passed today, calling on the government to withdraw from the nonsense process of review of our world-leading marine protection reserves and to reinstate the existing management plans and reinstate those marine protected areas.

In the time since the original motion was moved, we have seen a number of other reports on the health of our oceans. Unfortunately, they bring us very sad news. They reinforce the imperative for protecting our oceans, our significant marine resources and our marine biodiversity. We have species in our oceans here that are found nowhere else on the planet. They are at risk and need urgent protection. The government keep mouthing off. Whenever I come in here and I put a motion around the need for marine protection to reinstate what was our world-leading system of marine reserves, they keep saying that when 'the other side'—meaning the ALP—put in, with our support, a system of marine-protected areas, they did not consult. Absolute nonsense! I have been campaigning on this issue for getting on for 30 years. For a significant period of time, there has been ongoing consultation over the concept of bioregional marine planning. But, specifically, there was extensive consultation undertaken. But the government have perpetuated this fable that there was no consultation. What do they call at least a decade-long consultation process? From when the process was very first started, there was consultation. They went around, specifically, to each of the states and to the regions, incorporating all stakeholders. But vested interests did not like the outcome. They did not want to have a world-leading system of marine protected areas around our country, so they fabricated this nonsense that there was no consultation. There absolutely was. And that system went in place, and the management plans were put in place.

Within, I think, six weeks of when the Abbott government came in—because they had perpetuated the nonsense that was going around about consultation—they needed something to latch on to to do away with our system of marine reserves. What did they do? They said: 'No consultation. We'll scrap the management plans.' They effectively made those marine management areas and those marine parks a system of lines on the map where there is no management. But, unfortunately, the government cannot deny—although they try, they really cannot—the fact that our oceans are facing a significant threat from climate change, from fishing and from overexploitation. A study of 632 published experiments of the world's oceans from tropical to Arctic waters, spanning coral reefs and open seas, found that climate change is whittling away the diversity and the abundance of our marine species. Six hundred and thirty-two published experiments quite clearly outline that. That report was released a couple of weeks ago. Then, of course, we got the news that the world's oceans are facing the biggest coral die-off in history. The third bleaching event in our coral reefs is presently underway. It will reach its peak at the beginning of next year. It will affect 30 per cent of the globe's coral reefs, of which five to 10 per cent will permanently die. We already know that we have lost around 70 per cent of our coral reefs around the planet. That is permanent.

You do not need to be Einstein to work out that, if these global-warming events and ocean-warming events keep happening, we will eventually lose our coral reefs. It is particularly important that we do everything that we can to protect our beautiful marine areas, our oceans, our marine biodiversity and our marine resources. Not only does it make sense for the planet; it actually makes financial sense when you look at the economic studies of the value of that marine protected system.