House debates

Monday, 15 June 2020


Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Amendment (Coronavirus Economic Response Package) Bill 2020; Second Reading

4:39 pm

Photo of Bob KatterBob Katter (Kennedy, Katter's Australian Party) Share this | Hansard source

We have heard the Barrier Reef bad-mouthed continuously for the last 15 years, and it's done its work. Our tourism, before COVID-19, was down 30 per cent. China, for example, advocates going to the Pacific Islands for the wonderful reefs that they have there. If people mentioned the Barrier Reef, they'd say: 'No. That's shot to pieces. You don't go there anymore.' I speak with authority, as our candidate in the last federal election up there was a reef operator—a charter boat operator—and the father of two of my staff is a charter boat operator.

My chief of staff used to swim out to the Barrier Reef—from Mission Beach out to Dunk Island, some seven kilometres out and seven kilometres back. He's a world champion distance swimmer. Being a North Queenslander, I've done a lot of scuba diving; that's just part of being a North Queenslander. Also, if you scratch a North Queenslander, you'll find his grand-daddy cut cane somewhere along the way. If the cane fields were ruining the Barrier Reef, it would be long since gone, because they've been growing cane in North Queensland for 140 years now—it would have been gone long ago.

We in the KAP, the political party I belong to, have never taken a cavalier attitude towards this. We have continually advocated that there be monitoring at the mouth of every river and stream that flows out to the Barrier Reef. I would have thought that's just an elementary thing to do. If there are possible problems that occur with run-off, then we should be monitoring. If you find an anomaly, then you go up the river to the first tributary and you monitor there, and if there's no anomaly in that tributary you then go to another one, and, eventually, you'll track down where the anomaly, or the contamination, is coming from. The great advocate of this was Peter Ridd. And the irony of it all is that I was a developer, a 'go, go'—you know, I'm from a government, the Bjelke-Peterson government, where we'd mine telephone poles!—but, and it's a big 'but', I had many fights with Ridd. I was often the speaker on one side, and he was the speaker on the other side. He has long been an advocate of protecting the Reef. He has, in fact, fathered a device which is probably the best monitoring device in the world for monitoring what's called turbidity levels and for isolating off contaminants. And he made a very big name for himself internationally with his inventions, or initiatives—whatever you want to call them.

But all this bad-mouthing of the Reef has had its effect. How would you explain that our tourism is down by 30 per cent? That is uniform. We've got white-water rafting closing down completely, and we've got two crocodile farms closing down completely. Barnacle Bill's, the oldest restaurant in North Queensland, and the biggest and most prominent, has closed down. The owner said the custom had fallen to a point where he just couldn't keep it open. Have we wrecked the Barrier Reef? Well, here's the leading world authority, David Attenborough—everyone watches his programs, including me from time to time—and David Attenborough says it is 'the most magical place on earth'. So is it wrecked? Well, no—here's the greatest greenie on earth, David Attenborough, on the front of the Courier-Mail newspaper describing it as 'still the most magical place on earth'. So I would really appreciate it if you would stop bad-mouthing Queensland's Great Barrier Reef. On behalf of we people who live there, on there and in there: would you just stop? You don't know anything about it. You've never been in a scuba suit in your bloody life, you've never been out on a charter boat in your life, you've never been fishing in your life, and you've never swum on the Barrier Reef islands in your life. So don't come in here telling us what should and shouldn't be done with it.

I do not lie awake at night in terror because the world's coming to an end—when, over 100 years, world temperature has risen by 1.1 degrees Celsius. Today in Canberra, it will change by 14 degrees. So, I mean, where's the climate change? One degree in 100 years? Oh, mortal terror! The world is coming to an end. Am I a climate change denier? No, I've never been. In fact, I won, arguably, the leading science prize in Australia for putting the first standalone solar system, which is very suitable, in the Torres Strait islands. It is extremely ridiculous in a city. Only a moron would be advocating a system that has to be taken off the roof within 20 years. How much energy is expended in producing pure silicone? I'm a mining man and I can I tell you how much energy is burnt up in producing. What are you going to do with 200 square kilometres of doped glass, so it can't be recycled, over the next 12 or 15 years? I'd be rather interested to find out. It would rather fascinate me. Are we doing something about it? Yes, we are. We've advocated for Hells Gates Dam morning, noon and night. Hells Gates Dam has produced all of North Queensland's electricity for forever. The Burdekin would run and spread the water out. The sugar cane will grow. We will burn the sugar cane fibre to make electricity.

This is the good part for people who are concerned, because a problem does arise in the oceans. Whilst I'm not into climate change, I don't conceivably think how you could make a case out when there is a temperature rise of one degree over 100 years. But there's a problem that arises in the ocean. Increasing carbon dioxide means increasing carbon dioxide in the ocean. It would increase it by 10 per cent up there; it would increase 10 per cent in the oceans.

I was very surprised to hear this, but most shellfish need a magnifying glass to be seen. Most shellfish are minute, which came as a surprise to me. They are the bottom of the food chain in the ocean. The shellfish shell is calcium carbonate, which is a base. The opposite is alkaline. It's the opposite of an acid. The more carbon dioxide you pump in the atmosphere the more acidic the ocean becomes and the more difficult it becomes for shellfish. Katharina Fabricius is arguably the leading reef scientist on earth. She's at the Institute of Marine Science. She's devoted her whole life to research. I said, 'Well, that's scientific knowledge. What about empirical knowledge?' She said, 'I was waiting for you to ask that.' She said there had been 23 studies done. In two cases there was an increase in shellfish and in the other 21 cases there was a complete collapse in shellfish.

But what are we doing about it? We're producing all of North Queensland's electricity. Carbon dioxide is not an emission. It's not a by-product. It is a product. We will attempt to produce as much carbon dioxide as is humanly possible to produce. We take it and we feed it to algae in ponds. You can't do this everywhere, but at Hells Gate, if it's done properly—and I have to savagely attack TEL. I'm just warming up on TEL. They gave the contract to an outfit called SMEC. SMEC has completely blown the Bradfield Scheme to pieces. It fascinates me to hear the LNP getting up and running around with the Bradfield scheme, because I'm going to ask them shortly: what rumours are diverted and where they're diverted to? I'll bet London to a brick on them none of them know. But they managed to bugger it up completely by giving it to SMEC, right?

This will stop nutrition excess from run-off on to the reef, because it's an in area called the uplands desert where there's no run-off of water. I won't go into the full details of this. Mike Kelly from Eden-Monaro has just left us. Mike came back from Israel. He got me aside and said, 'Mate, you got to see what they're doing with CO2.' I said, 'They're feeding it to algae?' He said, 'Yes.' BHP, CSIRO and Ergon did the trials at James Cook University. They can absorb all of the CO2 and feed it to algae. The algae then become stock feed or biodiesel. If we're using it as stock feed it can be fed to chooks, pigs, fish farms, cattle—whatever. It's a very high-quality stock feed with very high protein content.

We can produce all of our electricity in North Queensland with zero emissions, and we can repeat this over and over again, as long as SMEC and TEL are not left in charge. If they're left in charge, this country gets 50,000 hectares of irrigation outside a huge city like Townsville, which will do absolutely nothing for the economy of Townsville. But, of course, if it's done properly, it will result in $3,000 million a year of production in ethanol and clean fuel, and it will clean up the CO2 problem. It will produce feed that can be used as cattle feed or stockfeed. It will produce 1½ per cent of Australia's entire electricity requirements and all of North Queensland's requirements, and it will be stage 1 of the Bradfield scheme. But, if the government stands aside and allows TEL to continue with their wreckage and allows SMEC to continue with the most extraordinary stupidity and irresponsibility, then you can forget about the Bradfield scheme. I'll ask any LNP members here to please tell their party that they are destroying the Bradfield scheme. It can never, ever happen if you continue down this pathway.

Let me return to the Barrier Reef. There is a warming of the oceans that is taking place in the south-western Pacific. We don't know why. It might be associated with climate change. We don't know. All we know is that there is an increase in temperature, and that creates a problem for coral. Leading scientists in the world at the Australian Institute of Marine Science tell us that we should have nurseries growing reef that is more heat tolerant. Not only should we grow reef that is more heat tolerant, but we can also enhance our reef with more exotic and beautiful corals. All of us have a backyard, and we grow flowers that have been imported at some stage in our history from overseas. Many of us have mostly Australian flowers, as we do at our place, but it's nice to have a little bit of colour from overseas. Apparently there are no problems with introducing coral under very stringent and tight conditions. So our party is very strongly advocating reef nurseries so that we can grow more exotic corals, enrich our Barrier Reef and make our Barrier Reef much more heat tolerant.

You don't stand still. Anyone who has worked on the land knows that. I'm a mining man. I've worked ore bodies on and off for half my life, and I've had cattle for all of my life. When you know the land and you work intimately with it, you get a feel for what needs to be done to make it better. The green movement in Australia has been disgraceful because not once in 47 years in parliament have I ever heard them propose something that enhances the beauty of Australia. In Charters Towers there was not a single tree left standing in 72 kilometres. I would estimate that Charters Towers has about 20 million trees now, and a good half of them would be Australian native trees. So you can enhance it; you can make it better. We can make our reef so much more exciting and so much better, but you have got to work on it. Whilst we spend our time with all the city geniuses from Victoria, New South Wales and Brisbane telling us about our Barrier Reef—people who have never seen the Barrier Reef and have never been underwater in their lives, except in a bathtub—we will continue to have the destruction that is taking place— (Time expired)


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