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Tuesday, 15 September 2015
Page: 6880

Senator SIEWERT (Western AustraliaAustralian Greens Whip) (19:29): I rise tonight to talk about the marine environment. Not long after the Abbott government came to power, they got rid of Australia's world-leading marine reserves and sanctuaries by getting rid of the management plans for those reserves, which effectively meant they were just lines on the map. They have subsequently been carrying out a review so they can make a decision supposedly by the end of this year about the future of what was clearly a world-leading system of marine protected areas—marine reserves and sanctuaries—around this country. In doing that, they were listening to the big end of town and some people in the recreational fishing sector and in the recreational fishing industry. What they did not do was listen to other stakeholders when they made that decision to get rid of our marine reserves.

So it is with pleasure tonight that I seek leave to table a statement on sanctuaries from the Australian dive industry. I understand that I have the agreement of the parties in the chamber to table that statement.

Senator Colbeck: I haven't seen it.

Senator SIEWERT: This statement outlines some very significant—

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Lines ): Senator Siewert, just a moment. The government is saying they have not seen the statement.

Senator SIEWERT: Yes, they have. Senator Bushby has seen it. I gave it to him at lunchtime. He has actually just been in the whips meeting.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Perhaps you can check with your whips, Minister. Please continue, Senator Siewert.

Senator Colbeck: I don't know anything about it, and it's my portfolio.

Senator SIEWERT: Senator Colbeck, I assure you I have undertaken the process correctly.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Thank you. Please continue.

Senator SIEWERT: This statement from the Australian dive industry says—and I will not quote it all but I will quote a little bit of it:

As owners and operators of dive and snorkel businesses across Australia, we have significant concerns about any loss of protection for unique underwater environments through the Abbott Government’s current review of Australia’s network of marine parks and sanctuaries.

It goes on at some length detailing their concerns. At the end it says:

We call on all Members of Federal Parliament to support the health and growth potential of the Australian dive and snorkel industry by retaining and improving Australia’s world-leading network of marine sanctuaries where the industry and science suggests and commencing their operation as soon as possible.

The government have trashed our marine protected areas for the time being; but you would think that, even if they were not interested in protecting marine biodiversity, they would champion a more fiscally responsible approach. But the government have neglected to look at the significant impact that the dive and snorkel industry brings to the Australian economy in the form of tourism. That industry relies on a good system of marine sanctuaries. Protecting marine biodiversity is what this industry depends on.

The Centre for Conservation Geography has estimated that the industry—an industry that is directly threatened if our marine biodiversity is threatened—could be worth as much as $4.2 billion. Bear in mind that Australia has unique marine biodiversity. If you are not interested in protecting the marine environment, how about looking at what that marine environment does for our economy? The government clearly has not looked at that. They clearly did not engage the dive industry in their process of decision making when they got rid of the marine protected areas, reserves and sanctuaries by getting rid of the marine plans.

I share the concerns of the dive industry. I commend this statement to the chamber and I urge the Turnbull government to get a move on with the review and put our world-leading series of marine sanctuaries back in place so that we can be assured that our unique marine biodiversity is protected in perpetuity and that industries that rely on marine protection, like the Australian dive industry, actually have a chance. Not only do we want our marine species and unique environments to continue to exist, we also want these sorts of industries that rely on them to continue to exist.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Is leave granted to table the document?

Senator Colbeck: No.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: We will check back on that, Senator Siewert.

Senator SIEWERT: Can I just say that I am very disappointed. I specifically spoke twice to the coalition whip. It means that that system is worth nothing if now I can be denied leave to table this statement.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Thank you, Senator Siewert; we are not getting into a debating point. My advice is that we are checking. I have heard 'no' from the government side so the best we can do is check.