Senate debates

Tuesday, 25 March 2014


Environment and Communications References Committee; Reference

3:51 pm

Photo of Larissa WatersLarissa Waters (Queensland, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That the following matter be referred to the Environment and Communications References Committee for inquiry and report by 25 June 2014:

The adequacy of the Australian and Queensland Governments' efforts to stop the rapid decline of the Great Barrier Reef, including but not limited to:

(a) management of the impacts of industrialisation of the reef coastline, including dredging, offshore dumping, and industrial shipping, in particular, but not limited to, current and proposed development in the following regions or locations:

(i) Gladstone Harbour and Curtis Island,

(ii) Abbot Point,

(iii) Fitzroy Delta, and

(iv) Cape Melville and Bathurst Bay;

(b) management of the impacts of agricultural runoff;

(c) management of non-agricultural activities within reef catchments impacting on the reef, including legacy mines, current mining activities and practices, residential and tourism developments, and industrial operations including Yabulu;

(d) ensuring the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has the independence, resourcing and capacity to act in the best interest of the long term health of the reef;

(e) the adequacy, timeliness and transparency of independent scientific work undertaken to support government decisions impacting the reef;

(f) whether government decision processes impacting the reef are consistent with the precautionary principle;

(g) whether the strategic assessments currently underway are likely to protect the reef from further decline;

(h) the identification and protection of off-limits areas on the reef coastline to help protect the health of the reef;

(i) consistency of efforts with the World Heritage Committee's recommendations on what is required to protect the reef;

(j) the extent to which government decisions impacting the reef, including development of the strategic assessments and Reef 2050 Plan, involve genuine, open and transparent consultation with the Australian community, affected industries and relevant scientific experts, and genuine consideration of the broader community's views in final decisions; and

(k) any other related matters.

Photo of Mitch FifieldMitch Fifield (Victoria, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister for Social Services) Share this | | Hansard source

I seek leave to make a short statement.

Photo of Alan FergusonAlan Ferguson (SA, Deputy-President) Share this | | Hansard source

Leave is granted for one minute.

Photo of Mitch FifieldMitch Fifield (Victoria, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister for Social Services) Share this | | Hansard source

The government does not support an inquiry into these matters. It is unwarranted and unnecessary. We all care for the reef and are custodians of it. Significant work has already been undertaken to protect and support the reef. That is why we have the Reef 2050 Plan, with the Reef Trust to provide $40 million for specific work to improve water quality along the reef. An inquiry at this time would only delay, confuse and potentially pre-empt the findings of the comprehensive strategic assessment of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage area and adjacent coastal zone that is currently being undertaken by the Australian and Queensland governments. An inquiry of this type would also involve matters relating to the Abbot Point dredging and dredge spoil disposal project, which are the subject of judicial review proceedings in the Federal Court and before the AAT. Minister Hunt will make a well-informed consideration of the issues related to this proposed development with the full assessment information. The previous government repeatedly put off making important environmental decisions. (Time expired)

Question agreed to.