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Thursday, 13 September 2012
Page: 6856

Senator KROGER (VictoriaChief Opposition Whip in the Senate) (11:57): I present the explanatory memorandum for the bill and I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows—


I present the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Making Marine Parks Accountable) Bill 2012.

We face a choice in this country.

We can bumble along. Lurch from policy grab to policy grab. Adjust and realign policy settings as we get jostled by ENGOs and lobby groups.

Or we can put in place strong systems and processes. Proven over the test of time and trusted. Processes which engage the community and are based on methodical, scientific endeavour.

We know this country is bounded by the most magnificent stretches of ocean. I know this well, coming from the island state of Tasmania. It is intrinsically part of who we are.

It is possibly because of this love affair we have as a country with our oceans that Australia has built an international reputation for its management of marine areas which is absolutely second to none.

The Coalition has demonstrable record here. These are not empty words.

It was the Coalition Government in 2006 that began the process of establishing an integrated network of Marine Protected Areas around Australia’s coastline.

It was the Coalition Government that established the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

We are a central part of that proud history of world class environmental management.

We also support a balanced approach.

It’s not just substantial economic activity at stake. Some $2.2 billion a year recreational fishers put into the national economy. There is profound connection between our communities, our coastlines and our oceans.

We don’t believe these things are incompatible. We believe that in the overwhelming majority of cases, those things can exist harmoniously. We certainly don’t believe in locking people out of waters which are essentially theirs’.

This is now at risk though. This proud history is in danger. And that is what this amendment is about today. Restoring some commonsense. Restoring the science. Restoring some say on the part of the community.

Because that’s not where our Government is going.

We know this Government is poised to lock up great swathes of Commonwealth waters.

If left unchecked they will bring in a series of Marine Park Areas which make no real sense at all.

Because they are not based on science. They are not based on community engagement.

Instead they are based on a series of discussions which were selective. Which were secret. Which were not really representative. And were certainly not based on science. More a series of trade-offs between competing interests and brokered by the Environment Minister Tony Burke.

How do I know this? Because in my role as Parliamentary Secretary for Fisheries it’s my job. I’ve been following this black box marine park process with intense interest.

But also though personal experience.

In January this year, with my colleague, the Member for Hinkler Paul Neville, we had the chance to attend one of these sessions. The fishermen were happy for us to be there. But the Government formally refused. An open and transparent process? No. I can tell you from personal experience it has not been.

But that’s what this bill today is about. Bringing the engagement back. Bringing the science back.

To give the community to have faith in the way Marine Park Areas are nominated and managed.

This amendment will make the Government accountable. Make the Minister accountable.

It would make law that the community be consulted appropriately.

And it would establish an expert panel to review the science upon which our recent proud history of marine park management is based.

Not cynical tradeoffs. Not an exercise of political leverage and favour.

But proven experts. Reporting without fear or favour, the results of their work put on display for all to see. That’s something you can have faith in. That’s something you can trust.

So for mine the choice is pretty clear.

Do you want environmental policy which lurches from scenario to scenario.

Or a proud continuance of a recent history which has Australia rightly recognised as leading the world managing its marine areas.

I’d say that choice is pretty clear.

Senator KROGER: I seek leave for Senator Colbeck to continue his remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.