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Wednesday, 8 December 1993
Page: 4183

Senator IAN MACDONALD (5.20 p.m.) —I move:

  That the Senate take note of the document.

I am pleased to see the annual report from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, an authority that does a lot of good work in relation to the barrier reef and an authority that is principally based in the area of Queensland from which I come. In the short time available to me, I wish to mention a couple of the matters mentioned in the report. The first one is the environmental management charge, which I refer to as the reef tax. There have been some difficulties with the implementation of the tax since it was introduced earlier this year. The amount set by the government by way of regulation is said in the report to translate to about $1 per passenger per day. As I understand it, it is really about $1 per passenger per day per operator. If a person is using more than one operator on the reef, or if that person goes out on a catamaran and then a different operator operates the barge, the pontoon to which the person is going or the kayaks, that person pays an extra fee and it becomes a very complicated fee.

  I was a bit disappointed that the government went ahead with this fee. It is yet another tax on tourism. The government seems to think that tourism is a milch cow to be flogged at any time it is short of money. Admittedly, the money raised goes towards research on the barrier reef, but one has to raise the question of whether this should not come from the general revenue, bearing in mind the enormous contribution that tourism already makes to the general revenue. I have received some answers from the department to questions I raised at the estimates committee about the complaints and difficulties experienced by operators in facilitating this tax. There are quite a number of them, which I will make further comment on at some other time.

  I am also pleased to see the report mention the very important issue of oil spill prevention, and I am pleased to see that there is a review under way to see whether ships should come inside or outside the barrier reef. It will be very interesting to see what conclusion that report comes to. I am pleased, as I of course would have expected, that the authority is very involved in that.

  I also noted in my brief look through the report a section dealing with tourism research and traditional hunting permits. A matter of some concern is that a tourist operator in the Cairns region has been prevented from proceeding with a tourism activity around—not on—Fitzroy Island off Cairns, one of the islands that has been claimed by Aboriginals pursuant to Mabo. Due to a mix-up between the two operators, a permit was not obtained a few months ago when the venture was originally put into operation. When they found this out they applied to the Queensland government for a permit and the Queensland government said to them, `We will be issuing no more permits in relation to any tourist facility, island, beach or foreshore on which any Aboriginal claim has been made because we don't want to get ourselves into a situation where we may have to pay big compensation for the extinguishment of native title'. This means that a viable tourist activity in the Cairns region can now not proceed, despite permits from various government departments, because of these Aboriginal claims. That is of concern to me.

  Finally, because I have only five minutes, I want to briefly mention the Magnetic Keys review. The authority issued permits for the development of Magnetic Keys. It was opposed by some radical and fairly irresponsible Greens and conservation people. They kicked up such a stink that the government spent a lot of money to put in a review to see whether the authority had properly conducted itself. The review showed that the authority had done the right thing. It is pleasing to see that reported on in the report and that the independent review that was conducted at some considerable expense came to the conclusion that the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority acted properly in giving permits for Magnetic Keys.