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Tuesday, 11 November 2008
Page: 8

Senator McLUCAS (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health and Ageing) (1:25 PM) —In my contribution I want to focus specifically on this amendment. Many other speakers have talked about a range of issues, and I understand the motivation for doing that, but I am going to address the amendment—as amended, in an interesting piece of policy development—which goes to the question of the membership of the board of the authority.

The government does not support the proposal moved by Senator Macdonald to allocate one extra position on the board to a person who has knowledge or experience of the tourism industry associated with the marine park. It is interesting to note that we debated a similar issue when I was sitting over there and Senator Macdonald was sitting over here. It was around the question of whether or not we needed an Indigenous person on the board. It was, I think, at the end of 2006. The argument from the government at the time was that you did not need anybody with specific experience; you needed generalists who were interested in the long-term management of the authority. I differ with that in terms of Indigenous representation because Indigenous people are the only people who can represent Indigenous interests. That is why at the time I advocated that there be a specific position for an Indigenous person on the board. That has occurred, and Senator Macdonald now says that it is with the support of the opposition. It is a slight rewriting of history, I suppose, but that is not the point we are arguing.

At that time, the government—Senator Macdonald’s government—did not try to move that there be on the board a person with tourism or other industry expertise, and one would wonder why. The answer is very straightforward: because the then government did not think it was appropriate. Senator Abetz actually made a very important contribution. He said:

… if we start picking and choosing with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, which has such a large and extensive range of interests associated with it, I daresay we could get a list with over a hundred different categories and classifications on it …

It is not often that I agree so strongly with Senator Abetz, but I suppose in this case he was making a good policy point and I think that policy point stands. He went on to say:

… tourism is clearly vitally important, the various rural sectors on land that might have an impact on the reef, the building sector, a whole range of scientific sectors and climate change experts. Quite frankly, the list could go on. In my own portfolio area of fisheries, undoubtedly there would be recreational fishing interests, commercial fishing interests—the list could go on.

Senator Abetz was absolutely correct then and he is still right now. We appoint people to the board of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority on the basis of the contribution that they can make to the ongoing management of the park. When we were in opposition there were a number of excellent members of the board. I think the two most recent appointments are persons who will continue the tradition of providing good management advice to the authority for its ongoing work. We do not need specific interest groups to be represented, because there are other, very broad-ranging ways in which not only the tourism industry but in fact all industries that are associated with the reef are consulted.

We have four reef advisory committees providing direct engagement of key stakeholders on the issues of tourism and recreation, fishing, water quality and coastal development, and conservation and heritage. So there is a reef advisory committee which goes directly to tourism and recreation. We have 11 local marine advisory committees, LMACs, in regional areas right up and down the coast. We also have regional offices of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority in Cairns, Townsville and Mackay.

The government is also establishing an advisory body, as recommended by the 2006 review. That process will allow engagement with all sorts of industries, including the tourism industry. As I said, we have two excellent appointments, Melissa George from Townsville and Russell Beer from Cairns. As Senator Macdonald quite rightly said, Mr Beer is a solicitor in commercial law who is extremely well regarded in the north, not only in Cairns but also in Townsville, with well known solicitors MacDonnells Law. He is very well regarded and extremely well connected in the business community and a person whose appointment I very much support.

So this amendment is not required. We simply do not need to quarantine one spot on the authority board for one particular industry. Senator Abetz got it right then. It was the right policy then; it remains the right policy. For consistency’s sake, I suggest that the now opposition stick with the policy that they had then because, as I said, Senator Abetz was right.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Senator Humphries)—The question is that the amendment, as amended, be agreed to.

Question agreed to.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Senator Humphries)—We will move to amendments (1) to (3) on sheet 5600.