Thursday, 21 June 2007
Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Amendment Bill 2007
I am not saying they will. All I am saying, I guess, is that you can never tell what will happen down the track—you do not know who the minister will be, which party they will be from or what the political circumstances of the time may be. Therefore, you cannot guarantee that there will always be somebody appointed who has knowledge of the land and sea management and cultural practices of Indigenous people and the areas around the marine park. The only way you can guarantee that is to put it in the law, and that is the aim of this amendment. The person would not be there in a representative capacity—although I would argue that the current person there does not function in a representative capacity in the sense of being more concerned with those they represent than the success of the entity they are responsible for governing, as is implied in the Uhrig principles. But, leaving that to one side, the effect of this amendment would be that nobody would be on the authority in a representative capacity—except arguably the Queensland government’s representative, who would still be there—but that one of them will be required to have this form of expertise. As I said, I argue that it is pivotal, essential and fundamental to the effective management of the marine park and therefore to the functions of the particular authority that we are talking about.
I would also say that Indigenous knowledge, connections and engagement with Indigenous peoples, whether in this area or elsewhere, is not a stakeholder thing in the narrow sense of the term. I note the minister’s examples from before about the Grains Council not being on the Wheat Board, or various fishery industry bodies no longer being on fisheries authorities or whatever. I really do not think that is a very good parallel, because Indigenous communities and traditional owner groups are not just an industry sector, or even a community sector in that narrow sense of the term; they do have a unique role. There are, as the environment committee report into this legislation notes, areas of the marine park where native title claims have been recognised. There are certainly other areas where native title claims are still to be determined, and I am sure that at least some of them will be successful. So there is a unique role and a unique position there for Indigenous peoples, traditional owners in particular. Having somebody with expertise and knowledge in those areas—not a representative but somebody with the expertise and qualifications—I think is not only relevant; it is essential.
This amendment takes on board the government’s concerns about the Uhrig principles. Much as I might be a bit sceptical of the need to apply them quite so rigidly, this amendment takes those concerns on board and ensures that people will be appointed on the basis of qualifications and experience. It also ensures that one of those people will have qualifications or experience in this particular area, which I would argue is essential and pivotal. I urge the Senate to give consideration to this amendment. I think it is a good compromise, frankly, between the differing views that are being put forward—one that would increase the chances of the authority being able to do its job effectively, in all the different capacities to its job. It would also ensure that there is less risk of the authority not having somebody there who has those connections and knowledge with regard to this important area.