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The Coalition's commitment to rigorous assessment of Marine Protected Areas



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PRESS RELEASE

THE HON. TONY ABBOTT MHR, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION THE HON. GREG HUNT MHR, SHADOW MINISTER FOR CLIMATE ACTION, ENVIRONMENT & HERITAGE SENATOR THE HON. RICHARD COLBECK, SHADOW PARLIAMETNARY

SECRETARY FOR FISHERIES & FORESTRY

THE COALITION’S COMMITMENT TO RIGOROUS ASSESSMENT OF MARINE PROTECTED AREAS

The Coalition will immediately introduce legislation to ensure that currently proposed and future Marine Protected Areas are subject to scientific and commercial rigour and are conducted in an open and transparent manner.

Australia’s fisheries are amongst the best managed in the world. The Coalition is proud of the rigorous assessments it undertook during the last Coalition government that resulted in the establishment of eleven Marine Protected Areas along Australia’s south-east coast with broad community and industry support.

The Gillard Government’s recent announcements regarding new additional Marine Protected Areas are not the result of rigorous scientific analysis that has been made publicly available or extensive industry and community consultation.

As such, a Coalition Government will take immediate action on the proposed Marine Protected Areas and establish more rigorous assessments for new Marine Protected Areas. This will mean that the proposed new Marine Protected Areas are assessed in accordance with objective scientific, economic and social evidence.

To this end, the Coalition will support a Private Member’s Bill from the Member for Dawson, George Christensen to strengthen the processes around establishing Marine Protected Areas.

The Private Member’s Bill will require the Minister to obtain independent scientific advice.

In addition, the Minister will be required to obtain genuine community and industry input.

Third, the Minister will be required to commission an independent social and economic impact assessment, before any Proclamations are made.

Finally, the Bill will put the Parliament in charge of final decisions by making declarations disallowable by the Parliament.

The ALP should support this Bill. If they dismiss the concerns of coastal communities then we will immediately legislate to this effect in Government. All MPAs announced after 1 January 2012 will be subject to this complete scientific review.

It will require that the government establish an independent scientific reference panel as well as a stakeholder advisory group so that decisions are made with rigour following extensive consultation and analysis of the possible scientific, economic and social impacts.

The research of the scientific research panel will be peer-reviewed as this will contribute to community and industry confidence in future decisions about further Marine Protected Areas.

Unlike Labor and the Greens, the Coalition does not believe the scientific and economic challenges of fishing and marine protection are incompatible. The Australian fishing industry is one of the most environmentally responsible fishing industries in the world. The last thing that the fishing industry wants is to do is to destroy the environment that is providing them with a living.

Labor has used the establishment of Marine Protected Areas as a way of buying further leverage with the Greens. The Coalition believes the establishment of such areas should not be about politics, but about protecting marine biodiversity and minimising social and economic impact on fishers, businesses and their communities.

We will return balance and fairness to marine conservation so that all Australians can have confidence that the best decisions are being made in protecting our marine biodiversity as well as the fishers and communities that feed so many Australians.

24 August 2012