House debates

Tuesday, 17 October 2023


Great Barrier Reef

4:16 pm

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

It's very much related because we're talking about land ownership. There's no value in land ownership if you take away our rights to use the land. Now, they've already been taken away from the First Australians. They're about to be taken away from everyone on the east coast of Queensland, so it's very much to the heart of what we are talking about.

Those of you who read history books—and I hope that we all do—will know that the American War of Independence was precipitated by James II declaring that he owned the land in the United States. The people of America said: 'Hey, wait a minute. I own my farm, not you, Mr King of England. You don't own my farm.' Of course, the ultimate result of that was half a million people dying in the American War of Independence—and, of course, Britain losing the colony which would become the great country which is the United States today.

At very few times in history have people sat down and written a document of such great consequence as the Magna Carta. Still, joyfully I can say that in our Queensland the Magna Carta is taught to every single schoolchild, as should be the case. The Magna Carta lays down clearly that my land is my land, not the government's. The government has no right to set foot on my land. The great Chief Justice Coke, in his famous statement, said, 'Even though the wind may blow through the broken windows and the door flap in the breeze, even though the rain may torrentially poor into the house, even the King of England himself cannot set foot on its portals without the permission of the law.'

Now, here we have our land ownership being degraded to nothing. Some lady here in this parliament thinks she owns my land—'my' being the million people that live along the North Queensland coastline from Bundaberg north. In this area is seven per cent of Australia's fruit and vegetable manufacturing. We already import 12 per cent from overseas, so now we're going to import one-fifth of our fruit and vegetables from overseas, are we? Is this a good outcome for Australia?

Let us turn to the Barrier Reef. Unlike people in this House—I doubt there are too many who have scuba dived on the Barrier Reef—most of my family have scuba dived there, some of them regularly. Most North Queenslanders scuba dive. We know the reef. We live by the reef. We love the reef, or we wouldn't be living there. So who knows all about the reef? Who loves the reef? Who protects the reef? It is the people that live there, of course. I'm pleased that the minister is here to hear what I'm saying. If you say that there is a problem with the runoff, unlike other people in this place, I asked around and found a person who was described to me as the best reef scientist in the world. We share different views politically—we share most certainly different views on the environment! She would be regarded as a very, very strong environment. Two years ago, at our last long meeting, I said, 'Are you reasonably comfortable with everything as it is now?' and she said, 'I would have to say yes, and I would say I'd like nitrogen to be a little bit less, but I wouldn't like to have to defend that in the public arena.'

The minister is proposing—well, I don't know if she is. A letter has been given to us. This is about what I moved in this resolution. Did it come from the minister? Is it a concocted letter? Did it have the authority of cabinet? Did it have the approval of cabinet or the party room when the letter was sent? These are questions that must be answered by the minister in this place.

I want to zero in on nitrogen. This scientist said: 'The levels are acceptable, but I'd be a bit more comfortable if they were a little tiny bit less, but I couldn't argue that point. If you're asking me if I'm comfortable—yes, I'm comfortable with the current regime.'

What people in this place don't understand, and what you must understand, is how nature works. You've got to be very careful here. If you stop the nitrogen run-off from going out onto the barrier reef and its environs, there is a result. It's been going out for 200 years now, and if you stop it from going out then there are ramifications. Suddenly you've changed what's going on with the barrier reef and its environments.

Let me be very specific. They did research on whether dugong numbers were going up or down, and the environmental movement came out and said, 'There you go. The dugong numbers have dropped clean in half. Everything in North Queensland and everything in Central Queensland has got to be stopped because the dugong are dying.' Well, no-one read the report. I'm one of these foolish people who read reports. I read the report and, of course, the environmental movement had, once again, flagrantly lied, as they lie again and again and again and again.

What had happened was that they quoted the dugong numbers in the southern half of the reef but not those in the northern half of the reef. In the southern half of the reef the dugong numbers had dropped in half and in the northern part of the reef the dugong numbers had doubled. Why did it occur? Because there'd been a huge drought in Central Queensland, there was no nitrogen run-off and the seagrass wasn't being replenished by nitrogen, so the dugong had a choice of staying there and dying or moving north to where they could get a good feed. If you take the nitrogen away, it'll be goodbye dugong, and it'll be goodbye to a hell of a lot of other things as well, because, whether you like it or not, for 200 years that has been the way that nature has worked.

We are very, very disappointed. I've had very great respect for the minister, and I've said this on many occasions in this place. I greatly admire her very, very great depth of knowledge and understanding, but if that letter is authentic then this is very, very bad indeed not only for this place but for Australia. (Time expired)


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