Senate debates

Thursday, 14 February 2019


Environment Legislation Amendment (Protecting Dugongs and Turtles) Bill 2019; Second Reading

12:16 pm

Photo of Derryn HinchDerryn Hinch (Victoria, Derryn Hinch's Justice Party) Share this | Hansard source

I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to table an explanatory memorandum relating to the bill.

Leave granted.

I table an explanatory memorandum and seek leave to the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows—

The Environment Legislation Amendment (Protecting Dugongs and Turtles) Bill 2019 makes amendments to several key Acts that protect dugong and turtle populations throughout Australian waters.

Dugongs and sea turtles play an extremely important role in the ecological balance of Australia's marine life and, in particular, in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. However, their populations have declined significantly over the last 15 years. This decline is due to an array of environmental pressures like pollution and habitat destruction, but also human impacts that include indigenous hunting and illegal poaching. While environmental impacts have been measured and certainly need to be addressed, there is little information regarding the number of dugongs and sea turtles killed or injured by human harvesting, which is carried out with a cruel disregard for animal welfare.

Positive steps have been made to deter offenders from illegally poaching, injuring and killing dugongs and sea turtles, such as the tripling of financial penalties for poaching, illegal commercial trade and illegal transportation of listed threatened species in 2015. Despite these changes however, local communities in Queensland and the Northern Territory continue to raise credible allegations of animal cruelty committed by those hunting dugongs and turtles. Such allegations include the use of high-power motorboats, machetes and other cruel methods which maim animals and leave them suffering for hours before dying. It is clear that offenders have not been deterred by the threat of mere financial penalties. This Bill builds upon the measures introduced in 2015 and creates further transparency and accountability for the agencies that seek to conserve these precious animals.

Schedule 1 amends the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975 to require that agreements between the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and community groups include consideration of the protection and conservation of turtles and dugong species. These amendments will ensure that any agreement or arrangement made between the Authority and community groups directly considers the impact such an agreement or arrangement may have on dugong and turtle populations.

The Bill also amends the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Regulations 1983 to make key changes to the rules governing the accreditation and funding process for traditional use of marine resource agreement or TUMRAs. TUMRAs are formal agreements developed by Traditional Owner groups and accredited by the Authority. These agreements describe how Traditional Owner groups intend to manage their take

Schedule 1 to the Bill amends the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Regulations to of natural resources and their role in monitoring the condition of species that live in the Marine Park. Many Traditional Owner groups choose to incorporate limitations on the hunting of turtles and dugong into TUMRAs. TUMRAs are an important and effective way to enable traditional owner groups to assist in conservation efforts while exercising their right to harvest culturally significant species under the Native Title Act.

require Traditional Owners to describe the method or methods by which the harvesting of protected species is proposed to be undertaken, as well how such information will be monitored and reported under the TUMRA. Additionally, the Authority would be required to consider whether the methods by which a protected species will be harvested proposed by a Traditional Owner group are humane. In accrediting and/or funding a TUMRA, the Authority must be satisfied that the relevant population of each protected species will be able to sustain any proposed harvesting, and that the proposed harvesting of each protected species will be undertaken in a humane manner.

The amendments in Schedule 2 to the Bill increase the custodial penalties for aggravated offences in the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act that relate to the protection of listed marine species (including dugong and turtles) to five years' imprisonment. These amendments will build upon the previous increased penalties introduced in 2015 and will deter people from committing offences by imposing increased custodial sentences in respect of the illegal killing, injuring, taking, trading, keeping or moving of listed marine species.

Schedule 3 amends various Acts to require the Australian Border Force, Australian Federal Police, Department of Environment and Energy and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority—all of which are responsible for investigating and enforcing existing offence provisions within the EPBC Act and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act—to report annually on the actions they have taken in respect of those provisions that relate to dugongs and turtles. These amendments will assist conservation efforts for dugong and turtle populations by providing additional accountability for responsible agencies to actively enforce existing offence provisions, and will provide consistent data on how such offences are threatening dugong and turtle populations, as well as any relevant factors that may be impacting on the enforcement of these provisions.

Australia is renowned globally for its unique and vibrant marine life. However, continued human disregard for the environments of these species, and in the case of dugongs and sea turtles, wilful destruction of their populations, will see this reputation disappear. It is clear that more needs to be done now to measure the impact human harvesting is having on dugongs and sea turtles, and more needs to be done deter those who would seek to illegally harm or kill crucial species such as these.

I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.


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