House debates

Monday, 15 June 2020


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

3:37 pm

Photo of Kevin AndrewsKevin Andrews (Menzies, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The original question was that this bill be now read a second time. To this the honourable member for Griffith has moved as an amendment that all words after 'that' be omitted with a view to substituting other words. The question for the House now is that the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the question.

Photo of Ken O'DowdKen O'Dowd (Flynn, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise today to support our government's proposed changes to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Amendment (Coronavirus Economic Response Package) Bill 2020. The Reef is not dying but tourism has died in the last four months. Our government wants an additional financial support measure for the Reef tourism industry impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. I personally have lived close to the Reef all my life, taking several trips out there fishing over the many, many years. I still have mates who have fished the Reef all their lives and they tell me that the Reef is as good as ever. Charter boat skipper Kevie Ben, who relates those messages to myself and to the government, comes to mind.

The members for Leichhardt, Herbert, Dawson, Capricornia, Flynn, Hinkler and Wide Bay are all LNP members who live, along with their electorates and the people in their electorates, on the Barrier Reef. All our constituents love the Reef and would do anything to protect it from any elements that you would like to mention.

It is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Tourism operators have to pay other charges as well as the marine park changes, including rates, payroll tax, stamp duty, GST, land tax and workers compensation. The bill waives the environmental management charge for the period of 1 January 2020 to 31 March 2020. The environmental management charge predominantly applies to the tourism activities. Waiving the environmental management charge allows tourism operators and other relevant permit holders to retain the amounts collected for the first quarter of 2020, during a period of time where much of the tourism industry has been stopped dead in its tracks from operating. The four biggest enemies of the reef are cyclones, crown-of-thorns starfish, fresh water from flooding rivers and plastic reaching our shores from ocean currents from all parts of the world. The government values the significant contribution of the tourism industry, which has welcomed so many visitors to our shores and, as other speakers have also related, brought in so many dollars. This has all, sadly, come to an end.

The change will provide much-needed relief for tourism industries, especially in my electorate of Flynn. The government already has measures in place to temporarily waive collection of the environmental management charge for the period from 1 April to 31 December. In effect, this additional charge will mean that there will be no charges made throughout the year 2020. The funds received from the environmental management charge are vitally important to the day-to-day management of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and improving its long-term resilience. The government has ensured that the revenue from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority is maintained to ensure continued delivery of the world-leading management of the Great Barrier Reef.

I commend this bill to the House. It will save our tourism people from starvation and, hopefully, enable them to go back to business as normal once the epidemic ends and our borders are opened up. That's why we encourage the Queensland government to open up our borders as soon as possible. From Lady Musgrave Island to Heron Island off Gladstone, Great Keppel Island off Rockhampton, Magnetic Island off Townsville, and all those beautiful island resorts in the Whitsunday landscape and also right up to Cape York and Thursday Island and onto New Guinea, this is too valuable an asset to leave wasted, and people should be allowed to enjoy it as soon as possible. I urge the state government to open up its borders and get the people back onto the reef which, I know, they will thoroughly enjoy.

3:42 pm

Photo of Anika WellsAnika Wells (Lilley, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I can quickly answer the member for Flynn's question: the date that the Queensland borders open is 10 July. It is long-flagged, clearly sign-posted and available for all, but, for you especially, I can clarify that it is 10 July.

The Great Barrier Reef is not just great by name. It is one of the seven natural wonders of the world, a prized heritage area and the biggest living structure on the planet. By every measure, the Great Barrier Reef is seen as the natural asset contributing the most to Australia's global brand. It is a global tourist attraction, renowned for its turquoise waters, kaleidoscopic corals and abundance of wildlife. The Great Barrier Reef is a network of marine sanctuaries of unparalleled ecological importance: 3,000 individual reef systems, 760 fringe reefs, 600 tropical islands and 300 coral cays. The complex maze of habitats is home to incredible marine life, plants and animals, from sea turtles to reef fish, 134 species of sharks and rays and 400 different types of hard and soft corals. Ten per cent of the world's fish species live in the Great Barrier Reef. The reef sprawls over a mind-boggling 344,400 square kilometres—an area so large it can be seen from space. The continental slopes extend to depths of more than 2,000 metres. Few can dive or snorkel in its waters without being moved by the experience. It is a place where peace transcends chaos and where nature reigns supreme.

The Great Barrier Reef is an integral part of Queensland's identity, internationally and at home. Our First Nations people have a profound spiritual, sea country connection with the Reef that spans over 60,000 years. The natural features of the reef are deeply embedded in Indigenous culture, spirituality and wisdom.

In addition to its cultural value, the Great Barrier Reef adds substantial value to the Queensland economy. Over two million visitors come to the reef every year to witness its natural beauty. A Deloitte Access Economics report estimated the Great Barrier Reef to be worth $56 billion in economic, social and iconic asset value, directly generating approximately $6.4 billion each year for the economy through sustainably managed industries that operate in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. It also supports 64,000 Queensland jobs, mostly through the tourism activities generated by the reef and also through fishing, recreational and scientific activity.

Of course, the Great Barrier Reef's tourism industry has been hit hard by COVID-19. This bill seeks to mediate some of the economic damage done by COVID-19 by lightening the financial load of Great Barrier Reef Marine Park permit holders. This bill retrospectively waives the requirement to remit the environment management charge to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority for the period from 1 January 2020 to 31 March 2020. It supplements the Coronavirus Economic Response Package Omnibus Act 2020, which waives environment management charges payable between 1 April 2020 and 31 December 2020.

The environmental management charge is a tax imposed primarily on visitors to the Great Barrier Reef marine Park. The bulk of the revenue collected through environment management charges is through the standard tourist program charge which is generally paid by holiday-makers who take part in tourism programs, under a chargeable permission. The funds received from the charge are important to fund the day-to-day management of the marine park and improve its long-term resilience. Because of economic pressures faced by permit holders due to the COVID-19 pandemic, permit holders have been unable to remit the environmental charge for the period being waived by the bill. In lieu of the usual revenue remitted to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, which is estimated to be approximately $2.9 million, a total of $2.9 million will be appropriated to the authority as part of the economic and fiscal rescue package agreed to by the Prime Minister in April 2020.

Labor welcomes financial relief from the federal government to help tourism operators who are trying to get back on their feet in the post-COVID-19 world. I hope the measures implemented by this bill will encourage more Queenslanders to holiday near the Great Barrier Reef this year, perhaps on the Ekka show holiday that's been moved to Friday by our excellent Premier, and that the appropriated funds promised by the federal government will go some way to making sure that the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is maintained.

But we cannot pretend that this fee waiver is the lifeline that Queensland's tourism economy has been waiting for from this federal government. COVID-19 has brought the Queensland tourism industry to its knees. One in three jobs in accommodation and food services have been lost. Some decisions, like closing state and international borders and restricting particular businesses from operating, were painful but necessary to stop the spread of COVID-19 and keep Australians safe and healthy. I believe that with the right mix of support from the state and federal governments we can fix the temporary damage that these restrictions have caused. But, on the other hand, other decisions—like the decision by the Morrison government to not support Virgin Australia and to leave our aviation industry at risk of becoming a monopoly—have put Queensland's tourism industry at serious and further risk, particularly for regional areas like North Queensland, where the Great Barrier Reef is located and where flights are at risk of becoming incredibly expensive and out of the reach of ordinary families.

The tourism industry is the lifeblood of Queensland's economy, contributing 230,000 local jobs and $27 billion to our economy every year. The Great Barrier Reef is a job-generating economic and environmental powerhouse for Queenslanders, and we need to leverage our natural asset as a tool for economic growth in the future. But it's time we started treating the Great Barrier Reef and our environment more generally with the respect that it deserves. It is a natural treasure and an asset that needs to be protected and maintained. While it is a huge tourist attraction, we can't go on treating the Great Barrier Reef as though it's a theme park where we can just build another rollercoaster if the old one gets too rusty or decrepit.

It was for this reason that in 1975 the Labor government, under Gough Whitlam, established the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to properly manage the reef and protect its biodiversity for future generations. Unfortunately, this priority seems to have fallen by the wayside over the last seven long years of having a Liberal-National government in control. The Great Barrier Reef outlook report2019 downgraded the reef's condition from 'poor' to 'very poor'.

Who can forget this government's decision to bestow nearly half a billion dollars on the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, an organisation with annual revenue of approximately $10 million and only six full-time staff? It wouldn't be a Liberal-National government grant if it didn't raise red flags about following transparency and value-for-money rules at the Auditor-General's office and if it weren't awarded without a competitive tender process. We are witnessing asset devaluation, poor maintenance, vast sums of money being allocated without proper process and no plan to preserve its value. If the Liberal-National government were a private sector asset manager for a $56 billion asset and they managed it this poorly, they would be sacked in a heartbeat. They would sack themselves in a heartbeat.

I'm here today on behalf of the Great Barrier Reef shareholders, the people of Queensland, to tell the Morrison government it's time to take real action to protect and preserve our priceless national treasure. The measures in this bill will provide some relief to tourism operators. Still, the best way for the federal government to support tourism in Queensland would be to take a comprehensive look at the overall health of the Great Barrier Reef and commit to a serious plan to tackle climate change. The findings of the Great Barrier Reef outlook report and strategic assessment of the Great Barrier Reef region are very clear—impacts on the reef are compounding. Over the past three decades, the Great Barrier Reef lost half its coral cover and global warming has caused horrific coral bleaching. In the last five years, we've had three major bleaching events, draining the colour from our most precious, treasured wonder. If we continue on this trajectory, at 1.5 degrees of global warming reefs are expected to decline by 70 to 90 per cent, while at two degrees of global warming this loss becomes 99 per cent. It is a highly delicate ecosystem and its ability to recover from human disturbance and climate change is diminishing.

Of course, action to protect our environment needs to extend beyond the Great Barrier Reef. Down south in my electorate of Lilley, we have around 28 kilometres of coastline and we are surrounded by waterways, from Kedron Brook to Cabbage Tree Creek, Nudgee Beach and the Sandgate and Brighton foreshore. We want these waterways to be cared for and we want these waterways to be protected. Our glorious Moreton Bay has more coral than the Caribbean and the most southern population of dugongs. Tangalooma is just off the coast of my electorate of Lilley and is the gateway to Moreton Island. Its stunning national park is a quiet and serene relic of what the world was like before humans inhabited the land. It is home to a wild world of native wildlife, including 36 types of reptiles, 14 species of mammals, 11 species of amphibians and 11 native terrestrial mammals. On 16 November last year, a devastating fire rapidly spread through the northern parts of Moreton Island. Parts of this ancient relic have now been lost forever. The fires affected many of the native animals, which had to flee their homes as trees around them burned.

Lilley constituents are aware of the threats to our beautiful corner of the world and they dedicate many, many hours of their time to preserving our local environment. I would like to acknowledge the Keep Sandgate Beautiful Association, the Nudgee Beach Environmental Education Centre, the Boondall Wetlands Environment Centre, the Northern Catchments Network and the Cabbage Tree Creek catchment coordinating network for their hours and hours of dedicated efforts to keeping our beautiful corner of the earth as clean and protected as they can.

The world is facing an extinction crisis, but the Morrison government is asleep at the wheel. The Liberal-National government has slashed environmental funding since coming to government in 2013, reports suggest by around 40 per cent. We are on a path to a million extinctions, and Australia remains the extinction capital of the world. It is imperative that Australia has a coordinated framework through which to protect its environment and the species within it, but instead we have a government that is fundamentally anti science, disregards departmental advice and is engulfed by scandal.

The Liberal-National government has been in power for seven years now and the policy-bereft Morrison government has failed to offer real solutions that would protect our environment. I call on the Morrison government to meet Labor's commitment to net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and to work with us to take meaningful action now to work towards this goal. Acting on climate change and preserving our environment isn't just an economic imperative; it is a moral one. We cannot go on as we have before, and that is why I am here.

When I first came to parliament, I spoke about being a good ancestor and leaving the world a better place for our future generations. I spoke about how the North Pole will cease to be covered with ice, becoming a dark ocean absorbing heat instead of a vast sea of white ice reflecting it. It is irreconcilable that our grandchildren or even our children will only be able to learn about the beauty of the Great Barrier Reef through the records and not for themselves. The cost of not acting to protect our people, flora and fauna from our harshening climate is a cost that we should not and cannot bear any longer.

3:55 pm

Photo of Warren EntschWarren Entsch (Leichhardt, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise this afternoon in full support of the measures contained in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Amendment (Coronavirus Economic Response Package) Bill 2020. Tourism is the No. 1 economic driver in my electorate, which goes from the Papua New Guinea border right through to Cairns. Our region was one of the first to feel the crippling effects of the worldwide pandemic when our international borders with China were closed in February. Of all those speaking here, I'm probably one of the few who has spent any time on the reef and therefore has very much a currency on it, so I am very aware of the facts relating to the condition of the reef, unlike those who are reading from speaking notes and playing the politics of it.

Historically, February is the busiest time for Chinese visitors to my region, due to the large Chinese New Year celebrations. Our tourism sector took a massive hit and it wasn't long before the industry fell off a cliff; this happened overnight, when the true extent of the pandemic became evident. One measure contained in the bill that has my full support is the waiving of the environmental management charge for marine operators. Tourism operators came to me early and said, 'We really need some relief here, and this is something that will really make a difference for us because it is a significant amount,' even though at this point they were looking at not a lot of people going out—in fact, many of them were shutting down their businesses for a period of time. But they said it would be something that would give them immediate relief because it was money that had to be paid for visitors prior to the date of the closures and it would give them immediate relief. The benefactors for this initiative are not the sort of people or organisations that generally come running to government with their hands out. I knew that when the Morrison government had to act immediately and swiftly to ensure the survival of the industry.

This initiative was designed to provide immediate financial support measures for the reef tourism industry impacted by the very early stages of coronavirus. However, it was safe to say that no-one knew what the road ahead would be like at that early stage. To a lesser extent, we still don't know what the long-term effects will be. Waiving the EMC did have the desired immediate effect that it was designed to achieve. Extending the initiative to the end of the year, in my view, is simply a no-brainer, especially given the uncertainty that remains. Industry-wide, more than 7,000 businesses directly benefited from this initiative. For example, this initiative will save an operator such as Quiksilver up to $2.8 million in fees alone this year. More importantly, it will continue to provide much-needed financial relief to family owned operators like Alan Wallish from Passions of Paradise, Peppy Ivanella from Down Under Dive and John Harvell from the Reef Encounter, to name a few.

This initiative combined with others, such as JobKeeper, ensured the tourism business and operators have been able to retain staff until things are able to return to normal. This initiative will save jobs, and it will also give financial relief to people who've spent a lifetime establishing world-class tourism operations in our region and across the whole of the Great Barrier Reef. The one thing I've learnt is our region and its people will band together, and we will recover. Far North Queenslanders are always out there for Far North Queenslanders; however, the road to recovery has certainly been hampered by mixed messages and poor decisions by the Queensland Labor government.

I want to thank the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, for his leadership last week in giving Queensland tourism operators and small businesses some clarity in relation to when the state is going to reopen its borders. At this stage, the borders will reopen on 10 July. Quite frankly, it is the opening of these borders that is going to really give the tourism operators in my region their first opportunity to start to see a very tangible recovery. But, once again, very shadily, the Queensland Premier is providing extreme uncertainty by saying that they will only reopen pending a review by the end of the month. So there's no certainty there.

Every day the Queensland Premier fails to make a decision and provide clarity and certainty is another day that bookings are lost, business continues to suffer and more jobs are placed in jeopardy. Through these actions, businesses are missing out on what we're now seeing is a very lucrative southern tourism market and the annual migration over the winter period to Far North Queensland. The uncertainty is certainly affecting the bookings in the upcoming school holiday period, with many people simply choosing to go elsewhere. This is a major concern, because this is the time when we do expect to see a lot of these operators working to capacity. The fact that we're going to lose that is going to be a major impediment for them, and it's going to make it harder and take longer for them to recover. To put it into perspective, our region is losing around about $10 million a week because of these decisions. It's just simply not good enough. But the beauty about living in a democracy in Queensland is the opportunity to be able to judge these actions, which will happen on 31 October.

There's been a lot of criticism, and it's interesting to listen to those on the other side continue to want to talk down the reef. They're always wanting to talk it down. I didn't hear any acknowledgement whatsoever from the other side that the management of the Great Barrier Reef are recognised by the world as being the world's best managers. Anybody with any interest in reef management anywhere in the world will come to Australia to seek advice and to see how to manage reefs. We are not 'one' of the best managers; we are by far 'the' best manager in the world. That doesn't mean to say that we don't have challenges here. We've got serious challenges, and some of these challenges are certainly outside of our control. But they are important, and we do acknowledge them.

Climate change is certainly the biggest single challenge. The hot channels in the water that come in actually come across from South America and the Pacific. Where they hit has a serious impact in relation to bleaching. There's no question about that. But, of course, this is something that—while we can talk about it, we can argue about it and we can do things here—unless we see the major polluters like those in the US, in China, in India and in other places actually making serious efforts themselves, we are going to continue to be challenged by. We are doing a lot of work there to do the best we can to put resilience back into the reef to make sure that we are able to do everything we can to manage it, and, over time, hopefully see those changes happening on a more global scale.

There's no doubt about it: we've already seen a rise in ocean temperatures, which, with the right conditions, does cause some serious bleaching events. We have had, unfortunately, several of those events in recent years. We've got to do as much as we can to protect the reef and to help to support it by providing resilience so that it can cope with these events.

Now, anybody that had seen the first two events in 2016-17 was saying it was the end of the world, that the reef was dead. The reality is that there were some areas that were seriously impacted—there's no question about that—but there were a lot of other areas that weren't, and those areas that were seriously impacted certainly recovered to a greater extent and some of it has actually fully recovered. The more recent event was sporadic. It was across the reef in different areas. Some areas were impacted more; some areas were not impacted at all. That was more to do with the fact that we had consecutive high temperatures over an extended period of time. But even now, after that event, we started to get some rain and we got turbulence in the water, which is one of the great protectors because it doesn't allow the sunshine to penetrate as deep, and we're seeing amazing recovery in those areas. They are coming back very quickly. But there's a range of other challenges there.

I heard mention of the Great Barrier Reef Foundation. What they don't say is where that money is actually going. Recently there was again an allocation. One of the biggest biological challenges, of course, is crown-of-thorns starfish, but there's no acknowledgement of the fantastic work that's being done by reef operators or Sheridan Morris and the Reef and Rainforest Research Centre, who have actually spearheaded initiatives to deal with this particular challenge. And they are doing a fantastic job in that area there, working with the traditional owners, with the rangers there. They have done an amazing job in clearing this up.

There's work being done looking at other, biological solutions to this as well, because the work that they're doing by going in and actually injecting the crown-of-thorns starfish is very time consuming and fairly restrictive. They're looking at a number of different things, including a sea shell and a number of different predator fish species. They're looking at putting them in so that they will eat these crown-of-thorns starfish because they have such huge numbers when they spawn. It's amazing to see that technology starting to be considered.

There's also some work that is being funded through the foundation in relation to temperature-tolerant corals. There's a lot of work going into that at the moment, which is quite amazing. There's also other technology that they're working on there, effectively looking at putting shade over areas where there is a likelihood of bleaching. Understand that the bleaching is not across the whole Barrier Reef; it comes in sections, and so this technology, this science is something that is being worked on at the moment. So I congratulate them for that. I congratulate all of those proponents that have been actively involved in this sort of work. It does make a difference. And so, while we're waiting, hoping and encouraging changes globally, we're not sitting here just saying all is lost. We're actually doing things. We're making things happen to make sure that the longevity of this beautiful icon is there for us and for future generations.

It would be useful for those who are prepared to stand up in this place and effectively say the reef is dead or almost dead to remember that there are literally thousands and thousands of jobs associated with this. There are thousands of people out on the reef on an almost daily basis, committing themselves to doing some fantastic work out there, and talking it down doesn't really achieve anything and certainly doesn't contribute anything positive to what is one of the most iconic works of nature that we're ever likely to see. And it will be there, I have every confidence, well into the future. And so I would encourage them, if they're going to be making negative comments, to take the time to come up, talk to some of the operators who are actually doing something there and put their head under the water rather than reading a political brief or something by some activist group that is more about spreading negativity. They could have a look for themselves and form their own opinion, because they may well be pleasantly surprised at what they're able to find in doing so. I tell you: from our perspective, I think that's the best way to do it. I mean AIMS, GBRMPA and all these other world-class organisations are working with our local people and doing a fantastic job and, rather than all the negativity, they should be acknowledged for it.

Finally, I want to take this opportunity to thank my colleagues Sussan Ley, Simon Birmingham and the Prime Minister for listening to me and my operators and acting and delivering for the thousands of tourism operators across Queensland who have benefited significantly from the EMC initiative. From all of those, I'd just like to say thank you.

4:10 pm

Photo of Peta MurphyPeta Murphy (Dunkley, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

There's no doubt that the Great Barrier Reef is an iconic symbol of Australia. It's an iconic symbol around the world of the extraordinary beauty of nature, and all of us in Australia, whether we've been to the Great Barrier Reef or not, are immensely proud that it is our iconic symbol, but we have to do more to protect it. I take the point by the speaker before me: there is a lot of work being done to protect the Great Barrier Reef. There's no doubt about it. And we have scientists who are leading in reef management around the world here in Australia. But we shouldn't just be looking at resilience and recovery from bleaching events for our Great Barrier Reef. We also need to be doing the work to stop bleaching events happening in the future. Our Great Barrier Reef has suffered its third major bleaching event in five years, and we can't afford another blow. It is an iconic environmental wonder of the world, but it is also a powerhouse of job creation and economic development. If we lose the Great Barrier Reef—just as if we were to lose a lot of our great environmental wonders in Australia—then we lose something that can't be replaced. In the short term, we lose jobs and we lose the opportunity to build our economy.

The government needs to do more for its management of the reef, and one of the things that it needs to do is take a proper response to climate change and the mitigation of climate change. Yes, there is a lot to do up at the reef, and, like all of my colleagues on this side of the chamber—and I think on the other side of the chamber—I encourage Australians to travel to the Great Barrier Reef when they can and to support that local industry. But, unfortunately, it's not going to be enough simply to support the tourism industry. We have to do more.

Just this morning the Prime Minister apparently said that one of the ways to recovery is a modernisation of how Australia approaches the economy. If it were just that phrase and not what he said after, I couldn't agree more. But, as I understand it, what the Prime Minister said today is that his idea of a modern approach for how Australia should approach the economy is deregulation. This is almost a once-in-a-lifetime chance, as we come out of the public health crisis and deal with the recession that we are now in, to actually ask ourselves what sort of country we want to be, what sort of community we want to be and what sort of economy we want to have in Australia. This is almost a once-in-a-lifetime chance, particularly for those of us who are in this chamber. Instead of looking at snapping back to 2019, instead of resorting to old ideologies about the evils of regulations, this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to look forward to the future and, to use a phrase that the government likes to use in response to the bushfires—although I've seen little to no evidence of it actually coming true—to build a better future, to build back better. This is an opportunity, for example, to go back to quite an old economic approach and look at something like triple bottom line accounting, to actually say to ourselves everything that a government does should have an economic, an environment and climate and a social benefit, to evaluate all policies and all actions based on whether they build an economy and an environmental and climate and social benefit.

Such an approach isn't just a way of getting through the short term; it's a way of building for the long term. All one has to do is look at the CSIRO Australian national outlook 2019 report. What's the best future that we can look at for the economy, for productivity and for our export markets? A decarbonised future. How can we scale up existing low-carbon activities? That's what this government should be looking at. This government should be spending on renewable energy and energy efficiency. A McKinsey research article entitled 'How a post-pandemic stimulus can both create jobs and help the climate' estimates that for every $10 million spent on renewable technology there will be 75 jobs created; on energy efficiency, 77 jobs; and on fossil fuels, 27 jobs—economically beneficial, environmentally beneficial and good for social capital. That's an agenda for a future economy—not simply talking about deregulation.

So this bill is welcome and supported, because it is appropriate to take short-term measures to support small businesses like tourism on the reef, but there will be no healthy reef for tourists to visit in the medium to long term without environmental laws that provide a framework for ecologically sustainable development and build an ecosystem which is healthy and resilient for all Australians. Do you know who's saying things like this? It is scientists and experts. It is the people the Morrison government turned to, rightly, to get through the health crisis of this pandemic: scientists and experts relying on data. That's what we need in order to build a future where our environment is protected and we deal with climate change. An article in today's Sydney Morning Herald refers to comments by Alana Grech:

Assistant director of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies Alana Grech said climate change is the 'leading cause of decline' for the Great Barrier Reef and the legislation should be changed to mitigate its impacts.

The same article also states:

A CSIRO study, Quantifying extinction risk, estimated that climate change would increase the rate of losses about fivefold—

in terms of our threatened species and ecosystems—

with 10 birds and seven mammals becoming extinct in the next 20 years 'without purposeful intervention'.

Our environmental laws are being reviewed. They currently fail to protect wildlife and ecosystems from climate change. This is an opportunity for this government, which I hope it would take, to look at drafting laws that do just that. Instead of referring to environmental laws as 'green tape' and saying that they get in the way of progress, we should see well-drafted and proper environmental protection laws as a blueprint for a better future.

There are a number of problems with the EPBC Act and a number of opportunities. There are opportunities to better address climate change and the way we do land clearing. There are opportunities to protect the long-term future of the Great Barrier Reef. The Prime Minister likes to talk about deregulation and getting rid of regulations because apparently they are blockers to projects going ahead. But, if we actually look at the delays in project approvals under the Morrison government, they've exploded. Cuts to the environment department have caused these delays in projects and jobs. Since their election in 2013, delays in project environmental approvals have absolutely blown out. Late project decisions increased by 40 per cent on the Liberal government's watch, up from about 15 per cent when the Labor government was in power—that's an increase from 15 per cent to 40 per cent—and the total number of decisions went backwards. At the same time, since 2013, environment department funding has been cut by almost 40 per cent. So devastating cuts and mismanagement in the environment department have delayed jobs and investment and have brought about major project delays. It is just disingenuous for the government to point to delays in the approval of projects and say that that's a reason to get rid of environmental laws. They actually have to look at the cause of the delays and cuts, and at the government that hasn't pushed the approvals through.

We've seen the devastating bushfires. We know that climate change is the leading cause of damage to our Great Barrier Reef. We know that too many endangered species are now facing not just endangerment but extinction. We know that in the past 20 years the number of threatened species in marine ecosystems has grown by more than one-third, and mammal losses continue at the same rate of between one and two species a decade. Since 1788, 100 species have become extinct in Australia. We can't be proud of that history. We have a moment in time now, perhaps like no other that we've had before, to actually do something about it.

The review of the EPBC Act should not be used as a fig leaf for a conservative agenda of reducing protections. It's not just politicians saying it; we're saying it because the experts have said it: 240 conservation scientists have published an open letter telling told Scott Morrison that Australia is amid an extinction crisis and calling on the government to fix our laws in order to protect and restore nature across Australia. I stand here today to add my voice to the voices of those scientists and to speak as the voice of the Dunkley constituents who have emailed me over the last few months, worried about the deregulation agenda as it applies to environmental laws. They have asked me to stand up for the role of science—to put science at the heart of environmental protection and climate change policies, to protect critical habitats for threatened species, to have stricter controls on the wildlife trade, and to have more funding for the protection and recovery of our environment. I stand here as their voice and add my voice. Decisions should be made on science, not politics. There should be federal leadership, and I urge the government to take this opportunity to show it.

Photo of Kevin AndrewsKevin Andrews (Menzies, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The question is that the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the question. I call the honourable member for Warringah.

4:22 pm

Photo of Zali SteggallZali Steggall (Warringah, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise in support of this bill. This is retrospective legislation. It will amend the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975 to waive the requirement that Great Barrier Reef Marine Park permit holders remit the environmental management charge to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority from 1 January 2020 to 31 March 2020. This is very much taking into account the situation that the tourism industry and businesses around the Great Barrier Reef have suffered during this period. The waiving of this charge will relieve pressure on the tourism industry at a very challenging time. It's essential that, when we reopen our borders, we have a vibrant tourism industry to greet international travellers. The industry is essential to the communities in proximity but, of course, is also a major drawcard for our national tourism. Last year there were over 2.1 million visitor days to the marine park, providing extensive economic benefits, to local economies and more broadly. According to Deloitte Access Economics, the Reef supports approximately 64,000 jobs and contributes $6.4 billion to the Australian economy annually.

The Great Barrier Reef is an extraordinary marvel of nature, unrivalled in its marine biodiversity and extensive geography. It extends over 14 degrees of latitude, or over 348,000 square kilometres, making it the largest living structure on earth. It is home to over 9,000 species of flora and fauna—between a quarter and one-third of all marine species rely on coral reefs at some point in their lives. Just last week we saw incredible drone footage of the 64,000 endangered green turtles swimming off Cape York Peninsula. It's no wonder that tourists come from all over the world to visit.

So whilst the pandemic is an immediate threat to the tourism industry in the GBRMP, especially around the Great Barrier Reef, as our borders are shut, the largest threat to tourism is not from this pandemic but from the longer term heating of the planet. In last year's Great Barrier Reef Marine Park outlook report, the authorities stated:

Gradual sea temperature increase and extremes, such as marine heat waves, are the most immediate threats to the Reef as a whole and pose the highest risk.

We have had successive marine heatwave bleachings in significant areas over the last several years and one only a few weeks ago. Terry Hughes, the director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University, stated on the most recent bleaching: 'We saw record-breaking temperatures all along the length of the Great Barrier Reef. There wasn’t a cool portion in the north, or a cool portion in the south this time around. The whole Barrier Reef was hot, so the bleaching we have seen this year is the most extensive so far.'

This was at just one degree of warming. At 1.5 degrees of warming the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that we will lose 80 per cent of our coral reefs, and that at two degrees we will lose 99 per cent. Deloitte Access Economics projected that this would be equivalent to losing at least $56 billion in environmental and heritage value. According to the marine park outlook, surveys indicate that people in the tourism industry are very concerned about the impacts of climate change on their businesses and livelihoods—and I would say that's rightly so.

The reef is the canary in the coalmine for the state of the oceans in general. Oceans cover 70 per cent of the surface of the earth and are essential in regulating the climate. Oceanographer Lisa Beal of the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science states:

The ocean is the flywheel of the climate. It sets the timing of climate change. It can do things like store heat in one place and release it somewhere else 1,000 years later.

The effect of ocean warming won't just result in the loss of coral reefs; it will affect many systems across the planet. For example, scientists have found that the melting of the Greenland ice sheet is resulting in a slowing of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation current by making water less saline, which makes it harder to sink and drive the journey of the current southward from Greenland. Now, you might ask, 'What does that do?' This will affect weather patterns in all countries bordering the Atlantic Ocean, and even change rainfall patterns at the equator. For example, this will mean colder winters and hotter summers, greater flooding and extreme weather in Europe.

In our own hemisphere, a study released in the Journal of Climate found that increasing ocean temperatures are influencing how impactful and frequent positive Indian Ocean Dipole events are. According to the Bureau of Meteorology, Indian Ocean Dipole events are one of the key drivers of Australia's climate. The dipole has three phases: neutral, positive and negative. Positive Indian Ocean Dipole phases are linked to less rainfall and higher-than-normal temperatures across Australia during winter and spring. Climate models suggest that the ocean-warming trend will lead to more frequent Indian Ocean Dipole events, and the associated dry conditions will be more intense compared to the present-day climate. The results of the increase can already be seen in the extreme weather events in south-eastern Australia, like the 'black summer' we've just experienced.

Whilst I support the measures of this bill, we must act collectively on climate change and balance our carbon budget. We cannot allow temperatures to just keep going up. Unfortunately, this government has still not made a commitment to carbon neutrality by 2050, despite the overwhelming consensus of the business sector and society in general. So I urge the government to do so before the next conference of the parties in Glasgow next year. There is undoubtedly an opportunity for a reset—to put stimulus, energy and the focus of the government towards a smart and clean future. If we don't get there—if we fail to flatten the curve on our emissions and we leave it until too late—we will lose much more than the reef and the tourism industry.

4:29 pm

Photo of Helen HainesHelen Haines (Indi, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Amendment (Coronavirus Economic Response Package) Bill 2020 waives the charges for tourism operators in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. For an industry that's taken a battering in recent months, this is a good and sensible move. It shows a willingness from the government to provide retrospective support to tourism businesses that have been impacted by the coronavirus shutdown. But to me it raises a question: why is it that the government has acted so quickly to provide specific support for tourism in Queensland, impacted by COVID-19, but has been so slow in providing support to tourism businesses affected by the bushfires several months before the pandemic hit?

It was back on 19 January that the government announced a $76 million package to support tourism in bushfire affected areas. That'll be six months ago next week, and so far, beyond that announcement, very little seems to have actually happened. On the National Bushfire Recovery Agency website right now it says that just seven per cent of this money has been spent. That's $5.3 million. When I spoke in parliament last week about this issue I noted that back then, just a couple of days ago, the NBRA website referred to a domestic tourism campaign called Live From Aus. This is a campaign totally unrelated to bushfires. The Live From Aus campaign features, for instance, ads about brekkie bowls from a chef on Bondi Beach, golf courses in the bayside Melbourne suburbs and underwater Great Barrier Reef tours. Now, as far as I know, neither Bondi Beach nor Melbourne's bayside suburbs were hit in the bushfires. And whilst we all know that the reef is boiling, I truly doubt that it was ever on fire.

These are all worthy causes, and obviously coronavirus has hit tourism in all these places, and we should be investing in tourism in all parts of Australia—undeniably. I checked again this morning, and it appears that the NBRA has now scrubbed all reference to the Live From Aus campaign. When I asked the NBRA, they assured me that none of the bushfire funding is going to Live From Aus. I have a really good working relationship with the NBRA and its commissioner, Andrew Colvin, who I believe is committed to a speedy and robust recovery. I really value working with Mr Colvin and his team, and I'm really pleased that the reference to Live From Aus has now been removed.

The NBRA has advised me that most of the $5.3 million already spent was for a domestic campaign that ran in early 2020 promoting domestic tourism for bushfire affected areas before COVID-19 restrictions and for the regional tourism grants program. But no details have been made publicly available, or privately available, about what that domestic campaign was or where these grants have actually gone. And now here we are, six months down the track from the bushfires—six months after the Prime Minister announced a tourism package—and not only has barely anything been done but there is no clarity on how the remaining 93 per cent of the money will be spent, and the NBRA website itself has been sending confusing messages about what the money is for.

It's all well and good that the government is writing bills to support tourism in Queensland, but for me it raises some really obvious questions. How about following through on the promise to bushfire affected tourism, too? Why was the NBRA connecting the $76 million allocated for bushfires with a domestic tourism campaign unrelated to bushfires? Of the $5.3 million that has been spent on a now redundant campaign and a small grants program, where exactly has this money gone? Most importantly, when will struggling tourism businesses actually receive the investment the government promised?

It might be helpful to put some facts around why we need to support the tourism sector in bushfire affected regions. Tourism North East just produced the results of some research they did into the impact of the double whammy of bushfires and COVID-19 on the tourism industry in north-east Victoria. Over the past six months we lost up to 1.6 million visitor nights. We lost up to $640 million in tourism expenditure. As a result, up to 6,400 jobs were disrupted or lost. Over 80 per cent of businesses have lost three quarters of their revenue. This is a sector which provides 20 per cent of our regional GDP in the north-east and 21 per cent of our jobs. One fifth of our economy has been entirely smashed. Over half a billion dollars has been lost from small businesses just in our part of regional Victoria alone. The same will be true for Gippsland, the Sapphire Coast, the Central Coast, the Southern Highlands and Kangaroo Island, but throughout it all just $5.3 million of the $76 million promised to these regions has been spent.

The research from Tourism North East showed that overwhelmingly the thing that tourism operators want to get back on their feet is support to encourage people back. That means a marketing campaign focused squarely on bushfire affected areas. That means grants for individual businesses to develop their own online presence. It means funding for regional tourism bodies to develop the digital infrastructure to connect them to potential visitor markets. It means taking the $76 million that was promised and actually doing something with it—not announcements but actions. When he launched the Bushfire tourism conservation scheme, the Prime Minister said it would:

… tap into the Australian desire to contribute to the recovery effort by encouraging Aussies to holiday in Australia and provide support to affected communities and regions.

This is the Prime Minister who was the CEO of Tourism Australia. This is the man who invented the 'Where the bloody hell are you?' Well, I'm asking: where the bloody hell is the money? If there's one thing he should understand, it's tourism marketing.

The NBRA should be developing and promoting a domestic tourism campaign focused on bushfire affected communities—that is, places like Beechworth and Mansfield, not Bondi and Melbourne. With the 93 per cent of funding sitting there, we need a tourism campaign focused on Bega, Eden, Batemans Bay and Mallacoota and of course the many beautiful towns and regions in my electorate of Indi. Of this funding, part should be going to local tourism bodies to ensure that local ideas tourism gets a guernsey.

Tourism North East has developed a pitch for a $750,000 digital commerce platform that would build resilience of local tourism businesses across Indi by helping them connect with customers. This is exactly the kind of long-term investment we should be using this money for.

This weekend the major parties were tousling over Eden-Monaro. It shouldn't take a by-election to sharpen anybody's focus on the bushfires we experienced this summer and it should not take a by-election to focus the attention on bushfire recovery, but perhaps the by-election could sharpen the government's focus on this particular issue and prompt them to announce their plans for the spending of the $76 million for bushfire tourism. There should be specific marketing for specific bushfire regions. There should be—

Photo of Nicolle FlintNicolle Flint (Boothby, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for Indi will resume her seat. Minister, on a point of order?

Photo of Mark CoultonMark Coulton (Parkes, Deputy-Speaker, Minister for Regional Health, Regional Communications and Local Government) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm reluctant to speak up, but this is a speech on a topic; it's not a free ranging speech. I'm not exactly sure that I've heard the member speak about the topic at hand. I think in deference to—

Photo of Nicolle FlintNicolle Flint (Boothby, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The minister will resume his seat. I think the point's been made. I would ask the member for Indi to return to the substance of the legislation.

Photo of Helen HainesHelen Haines (Indi, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

The point I'm making is that today we are discussing a bill that is restoring, retrospectively, tourism money to the Great Barrier Reef—and I support it—but if we are directing tourism money then we need to direct it right across the board and we must not forget our bushfire affected regions across this nation.

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)

Photo of Lucy WicksLucy Wicks (Robertson, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Before I call the next speaker, I remind the member for Kennedy, even during very animated debate, to avoid using unparliamentary language.

4:54 pm

Photo of Sussan LeySussan Ley (Farrer, Liberal Party, Minister for the Environment) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm delighted to sum up on this very important bill, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Amendment (Coronavirus Economic Response Package) Bill 2020. It's important for the Morrison government and important for tourism internationally and nationally. It's of vital significance to my colleagues the members who live along the reef catchment and it's a significant part of our response to COVID, which has been prompt, which has been meaningful and which has been welcomed.

Listening to the member for Dawson, it does seem a long time ago I was with him in the Whitsundays, hearing directly from tourism operators about the effect of no tourists visiting the reef and very dim prospects for the rest of the year and being able to let them know that the government was working on a package which would effectively waive the environmental management charge for tourists visiting the reef. This bill makes amendments that waive the environmental management charge for the period 1 January to 31 March this year. And with the appropriations bill that previously passed the parliament last month the rest of the year is waived. So effectively this gives tourism operators one year of relief from the environmental management charge on the reef. It's very important and, as I said, it's been welcomed.

I was surprised to see the member for Griffith saying she wants to end the 'politicising of the reef'. I'm not sure what she means. But, having said that she wanted to do that and having moved an amendment, she did then say—

Ms Burney interjecting

Photo of Lucy WicksLucy Wicks (Robertson, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The minister will resume her seat for a moment. The member for Barton made a reflection on the minister. I would ask the member for Barton to withdraw, please.

Photo of Linda BurneyLinda Burney (Barton, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Families and Social Services) Share this | | Hansard source

I withdraw.

Photo of Sussan LeySussan Ley (Farrer, Liberal Party, Minister for the Environment) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for Griffith, having said she wanted to see an end to politicising the reef, proceeded to do just that—by cynically denigrating our world-leading management of the reef and our investment in it. So the member for Griffith criticises the government's funding of the Great Barrier Reef foundation—she made that very clear in her remarks—and other members of the opposition followed the same talking points. The Great Barrier Reef Foundation is a charity that has, for 20 years, worked tirelessly to deliver reef protection projects. It has made significant progress since 2018, despite constant criticism from the opposition. There are 60 different reef protection projects happening on the ground in regional Queensland today. The foundation has brought together the very best in our science and conservation community to respond to the key threats of this environmental icon and economic driver. Maybe that would explain why the member for Fremantle, who followed the member for Griffith, actually praised the efforts of reef scientists and their globally leading work to help reefs adapt to the effects of climate change. Guess what? That program, that work that was lauded by the member for Fremantle, is actually funded by none other than the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, which, again, Labor seeks to denigrate. I remember sitting on the front bench here and listening to this ongoing criticism of the $443 million investment in the Great Barrier Reef and not really understanding, but Labor, having had a bit of time to reflect, still seems to be of that view and it is completely senseless.

I want to challenge those who would support that view to visit any of our great reef-facing communities today—Cairns, Townsville, Mackay, the Whitsundays, Rockhampton and others—and ask the local community about the work on the ground right now that is making a difference courtesy of the foundation's work and the Morrison government's investment in the reef, thanks to the strong advocacy of members of this side of the House. I challenge them to visit one of the 72 Indigenous communities that hold aspirations for the reef, their sea country. They will tell you the reef trust partnership is working, that it is making a difference and that they're proud to be part of it.

In the last week alone, the foundation announced the establishment of a reef restoration hub in Cairns to help the tourism sector and the use of breakthrough science that links the positive impact of probiotics and coral health, and they demonstrated how technology can help protect endangered turtles—all things where I wouldn't have thought there would be any disagreement about their importance, significance and need for funding.

The member for Griffith then went on to claim that it was Labor that was solely responsible for the creation of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park in 1975. The full story would remind Australians that it was bipartisan support which resulted in the enactment of a Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act in 1975. And it was the Fraser Liberal government which in 1975 banned oil and gas operations on the Great Barrier Reef and deemed the reef to be of World Heritage standard. The first stage of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park was declared by the Fraser Liberal government in 1979. In 1981, it was under the stewardship of a Liberal government that the Great Barrier Reef won World Heritage status. You won't hear this from Labor, just like you won't hear that it was the Howard government that expanded protected no-take zones from five percent to 33 per cent of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Instead, Labor seeks to carp and criticise, but they didn't create the world's largest representative network of protected marine parks. They tried, but they failed. It was the Liberal National Party that succeeded. Labour haven't committed $1.9 billion of world-leading investment in the reef. The coalition has. The Liberal Party and the National Party have a proud legacy of protecting and investing in not only the Great Barrier Reef but all of our marine ecosystems. This shines as a beacon of gold-standard management for our country and for the world.

Once again, can I thank my colleagues. Can I thank the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority for the work that they do now during this difficult time of COVID, for their support for tourism, for recreational commercial fishing and for the scientists and other visitors who come to our reef and always come away amazed and filled with wonder.

Again, this bill will provide financial relief to the Great Barrier Reef tourism industry and other relevant permission holders impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. The government will ensure that there's no reduction in the revenue that goes to the management of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Once again, I commend the bill to the House.

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The original question was that this bill be now read a second time. To this, the honourable member for Griffith has moved as an amendment that all words after 'That' be omitted with a view to substituting other words. So the immediate question is that the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the question.