Wednesday, 16 August 2017
Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Amendment Bill 2017; Second Reading
That this bill be now read a second time.
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The speech read as follows—
This Bill makes minor technical amendments to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975 to rectify an unintended consequence of the sunsetting regime established under the Legislation Act 2003.
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act provides for the protection and conservation of the environment, biodiversity and heritage values through zoning, issuing of permissions and implementation of plans of management in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The amendments made by the Bill will prevent plans of management that have been made under the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act from being inadvertently revoked if regulations giving effect to these plans are repealed and remade to address sunsetting. Plans of management are an important environmental management tool to ensure that activities within areas of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park are managed on the basis of ecologically sustainable use. The Bill will allow the protective measures in the plans to continue to apply.
This morning, I am pleased to speak on the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Amendment Bill 2017 and to highlight the attributes of our Great Barrier Reef. It's an iconic and beautiful reef and, as we know, it's the world's largest. As custodians of it, as it is here on our doorstep, we must take extra special care of this wonderful asset. It's more than 2,300 kilometres long and has more than 2,900 individual reefs. It's critical that the government protect this pristine World Heritage listed area. We need it to be protected because its rich environment is home to so many ecosystems. Not only is it critical to the tourism industry in Queensland; it also underpins the choices that tourists make to visit the whole of our continent. It also underpins employment not only in Queensland but right around the country.
The bill before us, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Amendment Bill, proposes a number of technical amendments to rectify an unintended consequence of the sunsetting regime within the substantive legislation. We support these amendments, and they're certainly necessary for the protection and ongoing management of our reef. The sunsetting regime was established in the Legislation Act 2003 and provided for the automatic repeal of some legislative instruments. As has been identified, steps must be taken to preserve some of these instruments. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Regulations (Amendment) 1993 sunset every 10 years and are due to sunset in April next year.
Under current legislative arrangements, when regulations are sunset and remade, plans of management within the reef are revoked. That means there are no substantive management arrangements in place in a really important area such as Cairns and the Whitsunday islands. As a tourist to Cairns, I know it's really important that tourism is controlled, monitored and managed so that any damage to the reef does not occur. So, if the management plans were to be revoked as a result of sunsetting, it would require the Senate and the House of Representative to go right through the legislative process again to remake those plans, taking up time and resources for something that's already working very well. This was not the intention of the sunsetting provisions, and these unintended consequences need to be resolved.
The amendments provided for this bill prevent plans of management of the Great Barrier Reef being automatically revoked if regulations giving effect to these plans are repealed. We can see how plans of management can be switched off so they have no effect, rather than being formally revoked. This will allow time for regulations to be updated without the management of the reef being impacted. We know that these plans support tourism industries in the area and are vital to operations. The plans of management assist with the implementation of effective environmental management and ecologically sustainable practices. They complement marine park zoning in that they specifically address issues that pertain to specific areas. This is critically important for at-risk or vulnerable species or ecosystems in need of protection in our reef. The Great Barrier Reef management plans operate in Cairns, Hinchinbrook Island, Shoalwater Bay and the Whitsundays. As I highlighted earlier, they are key tourist areas that need these tools to protect and support the reef.
This will ensure the ongoing effective management of the reef and surrounding areas. As we know, the Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest coral reef ecosystem, and Labor has a proud and strong record of defending and protecting the reef. Indeed, it was the Whitlam government that implemented Australia's first-ever marine reserve over the reef. I am proud that the last Labor government established Australia's marine reserve network, the largest network of marine protected areas in the world. These sorts of legacies are becoming even more important as the world's oceans are subject to increasing environmental degradation and decline.
We know our own reef is facing significant threats from climate change—threats that must be taken seriously by our government, but, apparently, you do not. We must do all we can to protect the health of our reef, and the plans of management are critically important to this work and are a very practical tool. So, while Labor support this bill which enables the legacy of the management plans to stay in place, we believe we can go further in protecting our reef and our environment. We can't simply act on these management plans, which deal with very specific acreage on the reef. There's a lot more that needs to be done.
We must have a government that is prepared to do more than this to protect our reef—and protect it from all sides—and this includes protecting the Coral Sea, which has such a rich biodiversity on the eastern side of the reef. That biodiversity corridor is incredibly important. However, the government is not protecting the Coral Sea. They're looking to wind back ocean protections in the Coral Sea, proposing to gut half of the area that was put into marine national parks by the Labor government. This is a terrible, terrible thing to do. It's a terrible shame. It takes the largest step backwards that this nation has ever seen when it comes to conservation in the Coral Sea.
We should also be protecting the Great Barrier Reef from the other side. I'm pleased to see that that's what the Queensland Labor government is doing by putting land clearing rules in place to ensure that run-off from land clearing doesn't negatively impact on the Great Barrier Reef. But the federal Liberal government have been supporting the Liberal-National Party in Queensland to not support these protections for our reef, which are aimed at halting the broadscale clearing of the trees and remnant vegetation that are incredibly important for controlling run-off.
Most importantly we need to protect our Great Barrier Reef from climate change. We can see that the government is completely missing in action when it comes to acting on climate change, and it is not doing anything real to tackle the causes of it. Indeed, some of those opposite don't even believe it's real. You are not fit guardians for our Great Barrier Reef. The Liberal government can't be trusted to protect Australia's unique environment, and it can't be trusted with the protection of our Great Barrier Reef.
I take this opportunity in the Senate today to urge the government to do better and to do more to protect one of Australia's most prized environmental assets. I urge the government to stop fighting against responsible land-clearing protections. I urge the government not to undo protections in the Coral Sea and I urge them to act on climate change and to stop the causes of decline in our reef in order to keep it healthy.
Labor can and will do these things. Our environmental commitments go much further in their protective efforts than these amendments before us in the parliament today. Labor has a Great Barrier Reef plan that involves a more coordinated and efficient long-term management of the reef, which is, importantly, properly funded and resourced. What we've put forward includes an investment of up to $100 million to review and improve current management practices in the reef and to consult with relevant stakeholders. This is further supported by Labor's comprehensive climate change action plan that delivers real action on climate change and, in doing so, contributes to global efforts to reduce the harmful effects of climate change on our reef, including the impact of coral bleaching.
As I conclude my remarks, I want to reflect on the fitness of the government to legislate on these important matters. There was an incident in the House of Representatives yesterday that made it clear that they could not manage their own legislative agenda on these matters. Last night the government lost a vote in the House on this very issue. One of Labor's amendments to this bill was carried by a majority of members, 69 to 61, and the government then sought to gag debate to hide their own incompetence in managing these issues in the House. It was only the second time in history that a government has lost a vote on a second reading amendment against itself.
We know it's not the first of the failures of the Turnbull government. We've seen many times in the House that they have come so close, and that they hold power in the House of Representatives, at times, by only one vote. Let's not forget that in the House of Representatives a bill to protect penalty rates was lost by only one vote, which meant that up to 700,000 Australians would have been better off had it not been for this government. Let's think about which vote it is that made the difference to votes like that in the House of Representatives. One Mr Barnaby Joyce, our Deputy Prime Minister, perhaps should not have even been voting. He is a dual citizen, as is patently clear, and he is not eligible to sit in the House of Representatives.
It's a disgrace to see from those opposite what double standards they have. We can see that Senator Canavan has done the right thing by stepping down from the ministry and agreeing not to vote until the matter of his citizenship is resolved, so why won't this government do the same and hold the Deputy Prime Minister to account?
What we have seen over the past few days or, in fact, over the entire term of government, is a government in absolute chaos. When we have such tight votes in the House of Representatives, how can any question before the parliament, including legislation such as this that we are debating now, be resolved with any legitimacy at all?
I rise today to speak on the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Amendment Bill 2017. We support the bill before the chamber as it makes minor amendments to the act to deal with the sunsetting of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Regulations 1983. Under the current legislative arrangements, plans of management made under the act will be automatically revoked when the regulation sunsets. This would mean that there would be no management arrangements that would exist for high-volume tourist areas, such as Cairns and the Whitsunday islands. Given the importance of management plans—management plans doing things like setting limits for anchoring, for cruise ship operation and for wildlife protection—the creation of each plan is a really important deliberative process.
The Greens believe that the chaos and uncertainty that would ensue if these plans were revoked, obviously, is not in the interests of the reef or, indeed, the tourist operators along the Queensland coast who absolutely rely upon the health of the reef for their business. But let's be serious: there is nothing in this bill that will go to the long-term sustainability and preservation of the reef. The government likes to make a show of the Reef 2050 Plan: that they've reduced dredging or that they've reduced agricultural run-off. Senators Macdonald and O'Sullivan tried to pass a motion last week to tell us that the World Heritage Committee did not downgrade the reef to 'endangered' status. But there is a gaping hole at the centre of this government's reef strategy, which is the total absence of a plan for dealing with the No. 1 threat to the Great Barrier Reef—and that, of course, is global warming.
While we are playing around the edges—yes, we've got to make sure the management plans are in place—they are not going to protect the reef. It's not just the Greens who are saying this. The Australian Academy of Science, the highest science-based body in the country, said:
At a high level, the fundamental driver of reef degradation now and increasingly in the future is climate change. The impacts of climate change on the reef are already being felt, and action cannot be postponed.
Here's what the World Heritage Committee and advisory bodies said:
Climate change remains the most significant overall threat to the future of the property.
And the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, in its 2014 outlook, stated:
Climate change remains the most serious threat to the Great Barrier Reef. It is already affecting the Reef and is likely to have far-reaching consequences in the decades to come.
What we are seeing is devastation. We are seeing sea temperatures rising due to a warming earth brought on by the greenhouse effect. We are seeing increased risk and the increased frequency of mass coral bleaching and thermal stress. Over the 2016-17 summer, two-thirds of the Great Barrier Reef was affected by coral bleaching. It made our scientists who were observing this bleaching say that all they could do was weep. That two-thirds of the Great Barrier Reef which was affected by coral bleaching was back-to-back with the coral bleaching that occurred in 2016, and it was the fourth bleaching event in 19 years: in 1998, 2002 and then in 2016 and 2017. What is remarkable is that prior to 1998 there had not been an observed coral-bleaching event in the Great Barrier Reef before. So it began in 1998, and now we are seeing it ramp up.
We know that with a bleaching event coral reefs need at least a decade between events if they are going to have a chance of recovery, and so we saw the recovery between 2002 and 2016. But when you have back-to-back bleaching events—when you have 2016 followed by 2017, and who knows how quickly the next bleaching event is going to occur—that means the death of the Great Barrier Reef. Just consider what that means—what that means to the precious ecosystems of the reef; what that means to all the animal species that depend upon the reef; what that means to the Queensland economy and to the tourism economy; and what that means to infrastructure along the coast if we lose that reef which provides such an important barrier along the Queensland coast.
So this is the threat to the Great Barrier Reef. And as these threats continue, we know what's causing the coral bleaching; we know what's causing the death of the reef. It's our increasing pollution—the pollution from the burning of coal, gas and oil. So, given the scale of the threat to the reef and given the magnitude of the effect from climate change that's been so clearly identified, you would expect that rather than just fiddling around the edges and making sure that the management plans are going to be back in place, that the government should be putting together a plan that reflects the need to tackle climate change head-on.
But where is this plan? All that the government's climate change mitigation strategy from the Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan says is that it is the government's Direct Action Plan. That's it—that's the government's plan for climate change mitigation. This is literally the only substantive emissions reduction mechanism that the government has put forward as part of the reef plan. Direct action is a policy that has wasted billions of dollars—billions of our dollars—in planting mulga, or encouraging that mulga in north-west New South Wales doesn't get cleared. Look, it's very good that the mulga in New South Wales doesn't get cleared or that some of it is replanted, but we are paying billions of dollars for that to occur while at the same time our emissions from the burning of coal, gas and oil continue to skyrocket. At the same time as well, while we are spending all that money protecting mulga in north-west New South Wales we have ongoing land clearing in Queensland in the catchment of the Great Barrier Reef. That far outweighs the soaking up of carbon that the mulga in New South Wales is doing.
The increased land clearing in Queensland is one of the most extraordinary things that has not been stopped by this government, and it has not been stopped by the Queensland Labor government either. Land clearing in those areas of Queensland has actually increased from 300,000 hectares a year to 400,000 hectares a year in recent years. And it's not just in Queensland: we've got ongoing land clearing in other parts of New South Wales and we've got the ongoing logging of our native forests. Again, if you put together all of these impacts from the removal of vegetation—which is there as a really important carbon store in our environment—that is wiping out any impact of the government's Direct Action Plan. And that's it: that's all the government is saying we need to be doing to tackle climate change. It is a complete fig leaf and it is going to do absolutely zip to protect the Great Barrier Reef.
So that's what's happening on the land-clearing side. That's what's happening on the government's direct action side. That's all that the Reef 2050 plan says that we need to be doing about tackling climate change.
On the other side is the government's agenda to absolutely ramp up the use of coal, which is talked about over and over again in this place. We've got a government that is hell-bent on coal, a government that can't imagine a world without coal, a government that is obsessed with digging up every last bit of coal and burning it and, in the process, cooking the climate and destroying the Great Barrier Reef. This is a Liberal government where the backbench insists that if the private sector doesn't actually want to build a new coal-fired power plant, then the government should pick up the tab and build it instead. This is a government that wants to include coal in its definition of clean energy. This is a government that's never seen a coalmine, a coal seam gas field or a piece of coal export infrastructure that it doesn't want to approve.
This is a government that wants to give away a billion dollars of our money to a multinational coal company to build a rail link to the Galilee Basin. No example stands out more than this. At the same time as we're talking about a few minor issues, minor legislative changes and governance changes to management plans of the Great Barrier Reef, we have a government that, hand-in-hand with the Queensland Labor government, is willing to facilitate the approval, subsidisation and construction of the Adani Carmichael coalmine. Any government that had the slightest bit of interest in trying to do something about stopping dangerous climate change would have ruled out this mine from day one. It's a mine that's being fought and opposed by citizens right around the country. Millions and millions of committed citizens are saying as one, 'We need to stop this madness.' It is heading in the wrong direction compared with what we need to be doing. We need to be protecting our climate and protecting wonderful natural assets like the Great Barrier Reef. This will be the mine that opens up the Galilee Basin to exploitation. The Galilee Basin is estimated to have 250,000 square kilometres of thermal coal sitting beneath it. It's a ticking time bomb. That coal has to stay in the ground if we are going to have a future for humanity on this planet. It has to stay buried underground if we have any hope as an international community of meeting our Paris target of staying under two degrees.
The bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef is occurring with only one degree of warming. That's what one degree of warming has caused to the Great Barrier Reef. Even if we keep that warming to under two degrees the Great Barrier Reef is gone. That's something that I, as a senator in this place, am not willing to accept. That's why we will continue to fight for serious action to protect the Great Barrier Reef. That means being serious about climate change, and that means being serious about planning for the end of coal. The choice is stark: it's coal or the reef. It's a choice between throwing a lifeline to the polluting industries of the past or protecting the future—our future, the future of the reef, the future of our planet—a healthy future for generations to come. And it's well past time for other members of this place to choose a side.
The Greens have been very clear. Our colleagues here, around the country and around the world have been clear that we are at a crossroads. We need to be keeping fossil fuels in the ground. We need to be shifting our energy sources to renewable energy. This is the direction in which we need to head. We could be stopping the Adani Carmichael mine today. We could be stopping it if those on the Labor benches would only stand up and say that they do not support the approval and the construction of the Adani Carmichael mine and that if they were to win government they would rule it out. If they would stand up and say that today, we know the Adani coalmine would be finished. We need the Queensland Labor government to rule it out. For all its talk about wanting to stop climate change, the Queensland Labor government is hell-bent on ensuring that the Adani Carmichael mine goes ahead. We want the Labor Party to join with the Greens today and rule it out. If we have Labor and the Greens together, we can make sure that the troglodytes of that side, the troglodytes of this government, who are hell-bent on coal, who think that coal is the future, can be wiped out along with the Carmichael mine. The Greens will be moving an amendment to this legislation, similar to the one moved in the House by my colleague Adam Bandt yesterday. The amendment has been circulated in the chamber on sheet 8212.
I really welcome the chance to contribute to this debate today, because any issue to do with the future of the Great Barrier Reef is important in itself. We know how precious and important and valuable the reef is, and this really underlines, because of the threats to the reef, why we need to be spending so much energy and time and effort to make sure that the issue of the biggest threat to humanity on this planet, the issue of the biggest threat to those natural assets like the Great Barrier Reef, gets the time that it deserves in this place. We really have to build the case that we, the parliament, have got the power here to make changes. We've got the power here to move legislation that will accelerate that shift to clean, renewable energy and to make sure that we get out of the dirty fossil fuel energy industry that our country has relied upon.
I welcome the chance to contribute to this debate, and I'd also like to acknowledge all the work that my former colleague Senator Waters has done, both in relation to the fight for a safe climate and in protecting the Great Barrier Reef. I hope to see former Senator Waters back here in due course to continue that important work.
In conclusion, the Greens will be supporting this bill, but we must make it known that without a plan for a safe climate this bill is not worth the paper that it's written on. I move:
At the end of the motion, add:
", but the Senate notes that global warming is the greatest threat to the Great Barrier Reef and calls on the government to immediately take all available steps to stop the Adani Carmichael coal mine."
The disarray that accompanied this bill's passage through the other place last night was by no means the most embarrassing thing that happened to the dysfunctional Turnbull government yesterday, but it was perhaps the clearest example—and there were so many examples—of this government's utter inability to govern itself, the parliament or the country in any manner that doesn't immediately descend into utter chaos.
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Amendment Bill 2017 is a fairly simple bill. It corrects a technical issue with existing legislation, and Labor does support the bill. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, the world's largest coral reef ecosystem, currently has four plans of management in place. They operate in Cairns, Hinchinbrook Island, Shoalwater Bay and the Whitsundays. This bill addresses those issues associated with the sunset clause in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975, and that has the effect of revoking plans of management where those regulations which give those plans effect are repealed. The changes proposed by this bill are designed to protect this automatic revocation, and the amendments do not have any further consequences for either policy or budgeting.
Labor are happy to support this bill; however, what we are unhappy about is how this little procedural bill is basically the only substantive interest in protecting the Great Barrier Reef that this government has shown since 2013. That is why the shadow minister, Tony Burke, moved a second reading amendment to this bill in the other place, so that the parliament could make clear its belief that the Turnbull government has completely failed to protect the Great Barrier Reef. That second reading amendment read:
(1) the Government is failing to protect Australia's iconic Great Barrier Reef by:
(a) failing to act on climate change;
(b) supporting the Liberal National Party in Queensland in blocking reef protections aimed at halting the broad
scale clearing of trees and remnant vegetation; and
(c) winding back ocean protection, put in place by Labor, around Australia and specifically in the Coral Sea; and
(2) this Government cannot be trusted to protect the Great Barrier Reef and fight for Australia’s unique environment".
The government voted against this amendment, as you would expect. But what happened? They lost in the other place by 69 votes to 61. This government lost a vote on the floor of the other place—again. A government lost a second reading amendment on the floor of the other place for the second time since Federation—indeed, for the second time in the term of this government. The Leader of the House didn't just drop the ball on this vote, he couldn't even catch it in the first place. The government didn't lose the vote on this bill by just one vote, either; it wasn't a close-run thing. They lost by eight votes, by over five per cent of all the votes available to the government. Where was Mr Abbott for that vote? Where were Mr Falinski, Mr Entsch and Mr Ted O'Brien? Where were Minister Bishop and Mr Tehan? Where were Minister Chester and Minister Fletcher? Where was Minister Hunt, the former environment minister? Where were Minister Ciobo, Minister Keenan and Minister Dutton? Where were they for this vote? Where was Minister Wyatt? Where was the Prime Minister? Where was the constitutionally illegitimate, as he himself admitted yesterday, Minister Joyce? Where were they? Perhaps they agreed with the amendment—they should have. It was a comprehensive, humiliating defeat again for this government in the other place. It would have been bad enough if the government had happened to do this in isolation, but it happened so soon after question time. The mortification! I can just imagine it. Only one government has suffered such a defeat, and it is this government under this Prime Minister—twice.
But, to this bill: it's the only example of the government's legitimate attempts to protect the Great Barrier Reef, and it is a very, very pathetic and meagre attempt. Let me note for the Senate that the international community came together between 5 and 9 June this year, in New York, to recognise the importance of our oceans. When the Turnbull government appeared at that conservation conference it went about talking about the achievements of Australia and making its case as to why Australia should be recognised as a good citizen for protecting our oceans. What were the examples that the Turnbull government used to make the case of how good it is at protecting our oceans? They were the protections put in place by the previous, Labor, government, when Tony Burke was the environment minister. They are protections that this government is now trying to remove. At the conference, the government didn't mention that it is actively in the process of removing oceans' protections. You only have to look at what is happening to coral reefs throughout the world to recognise that the health of these areas is of extraordinary importance at this time of global warming. At a time when our oceans are under much more pressure than ever before and at a time when plastics, pollution, acidification and overfishing are all creating challenges in our ocean beyond what we have ever experienced before, what does this government decide to do? It decides to engage in the largest removal of protected areas in the history of any government on this planet. Of all the conservation decisions that have ever been made by any government in history, this government right now is engaging in the largest removal of areas from conservation ever. Look to the Coral Sea, the Osprey Reef, the Shark Reef, Bougainville, Marion Reef or Vema Reef. There are almost none that escape the cuts that this government is making. Half the areas that Labor established as marine national park, this government wants to remove.
The minister has said, completely disingenuously, 'Look, it's not a problem because the boundaries are being kept the same; we're just changing the rules on what you can do inside them.' Imagine if the Labor government took half the national parks established under Malcolm Fraser on land and said, 'Look, it's fine, the boundaries are still the same; you are just allowed to go in now and shoot all the bandicoots.' This is just bizarre and offensive in the extreme, and it's exactly what this government is proposing to do with the national parks that have been established in our oceans.
When an area is first protected, there is often the political argument about the boundaries and the level of protection, like when Joh Bjelke-Petersen wanted to drill in the Great Barrier Reef or like when Bob Hawke was determined to make sure that we save the Franklin, the Daintree and Kakadu. Once these have been protected, there have been no backward steps. Even though the Fraser government might not have liked some of the decisions the Whitlam government made, once they were made they respected them and there were no backward steps in environmental protection. At the time some World Heritage listings were made, even though the Howard government opposed some of the protections that had been put in place by the Hawke and Keating governments, once Howard came into office they had a decision of no backward steps.
National parks in the ocean make a real difference and we've got proof that they make a real difference. The proof comes from when the Howard government did the right thing on this. The Howard government established the zoning in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The Howard government—quite bravely at that time, and against the views of some of its own membership—put in some areas where no fishing would be allowed at all and other areas where sustainable fishing would be allowed. And now the science is in on what the Howard government did. Coral trout inside protected areas of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park have 80 per cent additional biomass above the coral trout in the non-protected areas. It has been established and proven by the Howard government itself that protected areas make a substantial difference in the health of the environment, but this government has decided to break that accord that Australia has observed ever since environmental protection first began.
The 44 large-scale marine reserves that Labor established are the areas that science says we should and ought to protect. The Marine Bioregionalisation of Australia—out of which most of the existing marine reserves are based, including those in the south-east of the country, like around Tasmania—is drawn from integrating multidisciplinary data into a picture of how biodiversity is structured across Australia's oceans. The understanding allows us to know what we need to protect and where the areas most at risk are if we don't act soon. These reserves remain an incredible opportunity to turn the tide on the protection of oceans. These marine reserves are the most comprehensive network of marine protected areas in the world and represent the largest addition to the conservation estate in Australia's history. If left alone, this new network of marine reserves would help ensure that Australia's diverse marine environment and the life it supports remain healthy, productive and resilient not just for this generation but, of course, for future generations.
But that hope, I fear, is swiftly dwindling. The Abbott and Turnbull governments are the first governments we have had in this country which have been willing to remove areas of protection. We saw it with the World Heritage areas in my home state of Tasmania, where this government sought to get the World Heritage Committee to take areas out of protection. The World Heritage Committee dealt with that application in just three minutes. Portugal—where the meeting was held—described this government's application as 'feeble', and the committee threw it out unanimously. But this government has kept on keeping on, doing this now to the oceans.
In fact, the Turnbull government is worse on this than the Abbott government. The Abbott government commissioned a review into Labor's marine national parks, and, after all the claims that those opposite made that this wasn't science based, the Abbott government review then came back and said, yes, it was. And then the government decided to gut the protections anyway. This government's own review said the principles upon which these plans were put in place were science based, and yet this government is now looking at making the decision to remove the largest areas of conservation that have ever been undertaken by any country in the world.
Labor has a proud history of protecting and defending the Great Barrier Reef. This includes the Whitlam government's implementation of Australia's first marine reserves over the reef. Labor also more recently established Australia's marine reserve network, the largest network of marine protected areas anywhere in the world. In the light of the extensive loss of coral and significant threats to the reef's health posed by climate change, it is ever more pressing that this legacy be upheld today.
One important practical tool to protect and support the Great Barrier Reef is its plans of management. Plans of management assist with the implementation of ecologically sustainable practices and effective environmental management, especially for at-risk or vulnerable species or ecosystems in desperate need of protection.
Labor's environmental policy commitments go much further in their protective efforts. Specifically, Labor's Great Barrier Reef marine plan involves more-coordinated and efficient long-term management of the reef that is appropriately funded and resourced. This includes investing up to $100 million to review and improve current management practices in the reef, in consultation with relevant stakeholders, and this is further supported by Labor's comprehensive Climate Change Action Plan, which will deliver real action on climate change and, in so doing, preclude its harmful effect on the reef, including coral bleaching.
This government has a job to do and should get on and do it, instead of navel-gazing at its dysfunction constantly. It should get back to the consensus that existed throughout the Howard government and throughout the Fraser government. Our Great Barrier Reef has been here for generations. Once an area is protected, there can be no backward steps. A process of protection that began under Keating, continued under Howard and was concluded in the last Labor government is now potentially being gutted by this dysfunctional, out-of-touch Turnbull government. Is that to be Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's legacy—to turn the Great Barrier Reef into just a barrier? Well, Labor won't allow that to happen. We will always stand to protect the Great Barrier Reef, and we have a plan to do so.
I think I can safely that none of us are going to get to go up into space, look back on this beautiful planet and see what is one of the marvels of this world: the Great Barrier Reef, the single biggest living marine organism on this planet. It is nearly 3,000 reefs, nearly 10 per cent of the world's reef systems. And how amazing would this look from space? How beautiful does it look when we go diving or snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef or take our children, like I have? But it is actually what it looks like under the water that is truly amazing. The Great Barrier Reef is a sanctuary, a nursery to thousands of different corals, bony fish, algae, marine plants, rays, sharks, turtles and whales.
It is an absolutely amazing place to visit, and yet we know it is under unprecedented stress and cumulative pressures from overfishing, from land based pollution and run-off, from invasive species like starfish, from lack of protection and from plastics floating in the ocean. Of course, lastly but most importantly, the reef is dying because of warming waters, and warming waters are correlated to global emissions, to our changing climates and man's—I should say humanity's—stupidity.
If we want to talk today here in the Senate about a management plan for the Great Barrier Reef and we want to look at this legislation then, yes, there are lots of good things we can see in this management plan across these cumulative stressors on the reef. But we are kidding ourselves if we think we can save the reef by just focusing on things like land based pollutions, collecting starfish or contributing money to groups that clean up the plastics on the beaches of the thousands of islands across the Great Barrier Reef. If we don't take action on climate then we know from unprecedented back-to-back bleachings on the Great Barrier Reef that we will lose the reef and it will happen in our lifetime, on our watch. That's a concept that horrifies me. We may actually lose one of the great wonders of the world because of our own short-sightedness and our own stupidity. But I will get back to that later.
I want to talk about a couple things in the management plan that are near and dear to my heart. I want to start with talking about plastic pollution in the ocean. I want to acknowledge today the good folks from Sea Shepherd and Boomerang Alliance who were in the House last night along with a whole group of stakeholders who want to help clean up our oceans. Last night we also had the Humane Society International, Surfrider Foundation, Birdlife Australia and a whole bunch more people, including scientists, who had come together at parliament to meet with decision-makers and impress upon them the fact that we are slowly choking our oceans with the millions of tonnes of plastic that go into our oceans every year. It's not just what is going into the ocean off the coast of the Great Barrier Reef; this is washing up from all around the world.
I know Senator Williams recently went to visit the Solomon Islands, Kiribati and Tuvalu, and they have exactly the same problem. These places are being choked. We are turning the ocean into a plastic soup by our own short-sightedness and our own stupidity.
I know Tangaroa Blue is receiving funds under this management plan to get beach clean-ups in place on the many islands of the Great Barrier Reef. They are contributing that to a national database. But we're not doing anywhere near enough. With these islands what is most troubling and concerning is not what we see on the coastline when we walk on the beaches but what's going on under the water. We only see a fraction of the plastics. More than 60 per cent of the plastic in the ocean sinks to the bottom. The stuff we can see is nowhere near the volume of the plastics that are broken up into microplastics—particles that we know are consumed by the diverse and abundant marine life on the Great Barrier Reef. And those particles have toxins attached to them. These are scientific facts. We have even found plastic in plankton in the Antarctic; the basis of our food chain is consuming plastic.
This is one of the many threats that the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority manages in conjunction with the Queensland government. But we are not doing enough. Looking at the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority plan, all we can do is clean it up. But we're kidding ourselves if we think that's going to help. Unless in this country and internationally we look at our use of plastics—redesign, refuse and recycle, new schemes that we know will help reduce plastic going into the ocean—then we will never solve that problem.
There is another issue that's near and dear to my heart. Sadly, the Queensland Labor government recently gave permission to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority for a 10-year program to set baited drum lines to kill sharks in the Great Barrier Reef—a 20th century technology that's not necessary. Sharks are absolutely critical to healthy oceans. This is just a crass plan based on a political decision to continue to kill sharks indiscriminately. That includes sharks that should be protected, such as hammerhead sharks, which we know are endangered but haven't even made their way onto our endangered list yet. Why does the Queensland government use this technology when we could use smart drum lines and other technologies that can help mitigate the risk of shark attacks? I'm very disappointed, considering how important sharks are to the health of the reef. We know from studies about trophic cascades that if we remove our apex predators on these reefs it leads to all sorts of negative consequences for biodiversity. I'm disappointed that recently the drum line program has been given another 10 years of life just when we're getting close to looking at how we can better manage our marine resources and balance off the protection of human life.
I want to talk a little bit about marine protected areas. As much as I have always supported marine protected areas, I am very concerned about this government's short-sightedness, on the back of a few stakeholders, in removing the protections that were in place under current plans for marine protection areas, especially in the Coral Sea and around the Great Barrier Reef. We should be doing everything we possibly can to increase our protection of the ocean at a time when we know oceans are under unprecedented stress and threats. It boggles my mind, it is not fathomable, that any government would be reducing protections in this day and age. We should be doing everything we can to protect our ocean for future generations. And yet we have before us—it's now in a consultation phase—a plan to reduce protections for marine protected areas. I think most would Australians agree that we need to do everything we can if we are to save the Great Barrier Reef. Let me also be very clear: marine protected areas aren't going to stop coral bleaching. They may help reduce the stressors in these hotspots of biodiversity—and they do; it's scientifically proven—but the reef will die unless we cut our emissions and act on climate change.
Building one of the world's biggest coalmines not that far from the Great Barrier Reef—even putting aside the impact of more ports and turning the Great Barrier Reef into a coal, oil and gas superhighway by running thousands of tankers through these delicate and pristine areas every year, putting them at risk of oil spills, as we know from around the world—will be absolutely devastating to the Great Barrier Reef. And this government is actively courting giving taxpayer funds to a project that will become the biggest coalmine in the world. There should be no new coalmines if we are to be serious about tackling the dangerous emissions that lead to global warming. It is a black-and-white thing.
Why is this government so intent on rolling back renewable energy? Why is this government so intent on sticking its head in the sand on climate change? I know why the Labor Party support coal mines. That's black and white. They don't have any negotiating power on this with their unions, with the CFMEU and others that want coalmines. I understand what their position is; I don't agree with it. We have to be very clear: if we want to protect the Great Barrier Reef, which is what we are debating here today, we need courage, we need some political spine and conviction to move our generation of energy to being 100 per cent renewable in this country. We need to leave coal in the ground. Coal not only kills people but, we know, is killing the Great Barrier Reef.
It is not about me going diving on the Great Barrier Reef and enjoying that experience with my kids; it is the biodiversity and the abundance of marine life. This is the nursery of the ocean. If we want to have fishing, be it commercial or recreational, then we need to understand that marine protected areas are insurance policies on a healthy ocean for the next generation. We are taking out insurance policies. And to Senator Williams, through you, Chair: of course there may be costs associated with this kind of mitigation and adaption. If you take out an insurance policy, you have to pay a premium, but it is worth it when the risks are catastrophic. If we don't take action to protect the Great Barrier Reef through marine protected areas and through action on climate, we will lose this natural asset, this wonder of the world that you can see from space. It's been there for tens of thousands of years, yet we will lose it in our lifetime.
I am chairing a committee that is shortly going to the Great Barrier Reef, and all senators are invited to join me if they wish to participate. We'll be hearing from scientists, we'll be hearing from the tourism industry and we'll be hearing from the fishing industry—people with different views on this. We collect the evidence and data we need to make an informed report in this Senate. That's what we do. I can tell you from what we've heard already, from some of the world's best scientists in their areas who are looking at warming waters off the Great Barrier Reef, that 25 years ago, when they started measuring water temperatures in the Great Barrier Reef, they could never have predicted not only that we would have the major coral bleaching episode a few years ago but that we would then have back-to-back coral bleaching episodes. That was unthinkable 25 years ago. What is going on with our climate now that we are seeing huge parts of the Great Barrier Reef bleaching and dying? Then there are extreme weather events—another stressor on the Great Barrier Reef. Last year's cyclone—the physical, mechanical activity of the wind and the swell—caused immense damage to the reef that is already, in parts, on its last knees. I should have said that differently, shouldn't I? It is already on its knees. This is the point: these are cumulative stressors. We acknowledge, and that's why we'll be supporting the legislation, that the stressors on the reef are many and they're cumulative.
But now is not the time to be reducing protections. Now is not the time to be in the pocket of the commercial fishing industry, like this government is. Now is the time to be getting the balance right and actually protecting the reef. If we want fishing for future generations and we want to keep alive the biodiversity that is so essential to our healthy oceans, we need to tackle these big issues and we need to make some hard decisions. That is what the data tells us now. That is what the evidence is telling us.
If we have more coral bleaching events in the next five years then, the experts tell us, the reef will die. If you were a betting person and I asked you to put money on it, Acting Deputy President, which way would you bet, based on what the data's telling you? You'd be a fool not to bet that we're going to have more bleaching events.
During the double dissolution last year, I went down to the measuring station at Cape Grim and did a social media video in 120-kilometre-an-hour winds, and I saw that we'd just passed 400 parts per million, Senator Chisholm, through you, Chair—400 parts per million. We are now on track, based on the last year, to be at 420 parts per million within the next 10 years, or possibly even 450. That is what scientists tell us is runaway global warming. We are that close. And it will happen in our lifetime, based on current emission projections. The signs are there. The siren is sounding. Why are we ignoring it? Why have we got our head in the sand? Why have we got our hands over our ears? They're the questions I think Australians are asking. Well, from what I've seen in here, it's vested interests that run the big parties; it's special interests. It's not for the public good that we're delivering a lack of action on things like climate change or marine plastic. We need to step up.
My party is a party that will stand in here, time and time again, and take the strongest line. To quote an ex-MP, Mr Peter Garrett, who I think I might have quoted twice this week, 'Sometimes you've got to take the hardest line.' When we are facing these kinds of risks and what the evidence tells us, we have to take the hardest line if that's the choice we make—that we want to save the Great Barrier Reef. If we don't, I'd be devastated, and I think most Australians would. So let's at least be honest about it. If, in balancing the risks, we choose more coalmines, and the biggest coalmines in the world, which will have a material impact on global warming, then we've made a simple choice. And it is a binary choice in my opinion. It is black and white: it's the reef or it's more coal. You can't have both; you can have one or the other.
With each year that goes by, new events tell us that the ocean is in trouble. We have ocean acidification—another thing that, unfortunately, this management plan can't do anything about. If the ocean continues to acidify—because carbon dioxide, from emissions of carbon, is absorbed by the ocean—at the rates that science is suggesting to us, then our corals will also die. I mean, these are black and white.
This is why I wonder that this government tried to essentially get rid of CSIRO's Oceans and Atmosphere and climate change divisions. I am proud to say that Senator Rice and I—and, I will acknowledge, Labor's Senator Carr, Senator Singh and others—fought really hard to stop that happening. We not only managed to get most of those scientists' job losses reversed but actually got new funding for the climate change research centre in Hobart in my home state of Tasmania.
But it is nowhere near enough. These scientists are telling us: we need to act. This plan in front of us today helps us manage some of the stressors that we know the reef is under, but—let's not kid ourselves in here today—it's not enough. If we truly want to do something for the Great Barrier Reef, whether we want to fish there, dive there or take our kids there, or whether we just care about having a healthy ocean and about biodiversity and marine life, for the sake of nature and the things that we put value on, then we need to take strong action.
While we'll be supporting this legislation, I suggest to Senator Macdonald, who is in the chamber—he'll be coming up to the Great Barrier Reef with me in a few weeks' time and others are welcome to join us; Senator Chisholm, you're welcome to join us—that we get the evidence in front of us to make better decisions.
Before I call Senator Chisholm, I would just remind honourable senators in the debate—and I recognise that there was absolutely nothing inappropriate in how it was directed—not to refer to the chair or any other honourable senators as potentially being a fool or anything else. Notwithstanding personal thoughts, there should not be direct references to the chair in that respect.
I understand that in the context of Senator Whish-Wilson's speech there was no negativity attached to it, that it was just the phraseology chosen in the context of saying, 'You would be a fool to bet against it.' It was personalised, and I just think, if we can refrain from that, it would be advantageous for all of us.
Following on from Senator Whish-Wilson on the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Amendment Bill 2017, I do look forward to joining him in North Queensland in the week after next. As a Queensland senator—and I identified this in my first speech—the Great Barrier Reef is something that I dedicate a lot of my time to, to ensure that the party has a very strong policy framework when it comes to dealing with the reef. I certainly would echo his criticisms of the LNP federally—this government—and also at the state level, where they have been responsible for degrading the reef on a regular basis.
I just wanted to pick up on something that Senator Rice mentioned in regard to the tree-clearing laws, where she implied some criticism of the state Labor government. I would point out that they did propose to take strong action on tree-clearing laws. Unfortunately, they are in a minority government and couldn't get the numbers to pass that. But I am very confident that they will take strong tree-clearing laws to the next election and, hopefully, they can win a majority government and implement those laws. If we look at the history, particularly with regard to tree clearing, it has been Labor governments at the state level that have taken action—first under Peter Beattie and then supported by Anna Bligh as Premier. When they implemented those laws, they basically drove the federal government's commitment to meet its Kyoto protocols. Nothing is more important in terms of our emissions than those tree-clearing laws that were passed in Queensland.
Then what happened? We lost in 2012. We all know that Campbell Newman won. What came back? They got rid of the tree-clearing laws, the bulldozers started up and the tree clearing has been happening at an alarming rate. I certainly think that in regard to the EPBC Act the federal government needs to take stronger action by using these laws to crack down on those people who are tree clearing. I think there have been something like only four prosecutions of those who are doing the wrong thing and that, obviously, there is a lot more that the federal department and the federal government could be doing to put pressure on those people, to stop those people from that unabated tree clearing that is going on and the associated damage that does to the reef.
I think the other things that are really important are the reef run-off and the ability to actually capture the damage that it is doing to the reef as well. I think that's something we will look at whilst we are in Cairns. Also, I think that we need to look at that throughout the coastline, because there are parts of the reef catchment which are heavily farmed districts and that do not have appropriate levels of checking what damage that is doing to the reef. Particularly, there is the importance of tourism in areas where we've seen the impact of Tropical Cyclone Debbie as well and the ability of those tourism operators to get back on their feet.
The other significant aspect of this bill—and Senator Singh touched on this as well—is the chaos and dysfunction that we saw in the House of Representatives when this was voted on yesterday. Whilst there has been significant chaos and dysfunction this week from the government, it really did bring itself to bear in the House of Representatives yesterday when they lost the vote for the second time. That is absolutely unique. What did they lose on this motion? This is something that is really important: the government failed to defend themselves. The amendment put forward by Labor went to the fact:
(1) the Government is failing to protect Australia's iconic Great Barrier Reef by:
(a) failing to act on climate change;
(b) supporting the Liberal National Party in Queensland in blocking reef protections aimed at halting the broad scale clearing of trees and remnant vegetation; and
(c) winding back ocean protection, put in place by Labor, around Australia and specifically in the Coral Sea; and
(2) this Government cannot be trusted to protect the Great Barrier Reef and fight for Australia's unique environment.
This is what was passed yesterday in the House of Representatives. The government can't even muster the numbers to defend its own inaction on the Great Barrier Reef, which is such an important piece of Australia.
Is it any wonder, when you see outcomes like that in the House of Representatives, that when we turned up this morning we saw stunts like the attempted suspension of standing orders, which they failed to get the numbers for in this place. When you look at the dysfunction of this government and the impact that is having on the community, it is their failure to actually operate as a government on the important issues that this country is facing. Instead of seeing the government operating yesterday, what we actually saw was a Prime Minister claiming a foreign interference. We saw a Foreign Minister willing to debase her position and put an important, longstanding relationship with New Zealand at risk. We saw a government lose a vote in the House. We saw an incompetent Leader of the House in the other place—he claims to be an election-winning machine, but he was not much good at that in the House of Representatives yesterday. That explains why we see these failed stunts today that really do this government no justice. For those people crying out for a federal government that is operating in the interests of Australians, we have seen none of that from the government this week or, indeed, in recent months.
So let's actually look at what happened yesterday. This is a government that was willing to put our relationship with New Zealand at risk. This is a government that was willing to put the important trade relationship with New Zealand at risk. And they are so desperate, flailing around, that they are willing to come into this chamber and pull stunts like they did this morning—and fail at that as well. It shows you they are out of control. It shows you they are not operating in the interests of Australians. This government is a failure at every level, and Australians are increasingly waking up to the dysfunction and chaos of those opposite.
I would ask that, when it comes to the reef, they would take their obligations seriously, that they would look at their current EPBC Act and take action on important issues such as tree clearing, which is doing so much ongoing damage to the reef at the moment. They really do have such a poor record, and the fact that they failed to defend themselves in the House of Representatives yesterday speaks volumes to their inactions on the reef.
I despair that in this chamber, and in parliament, there are so many ill-informed politicians taking part in debates such as this and passing off to unsuspecting members of the public who might be listening to this debate their ideological campaigns and portraying them as facts.
I am now the longest-serving parliamentarian in this parliament. I have seen the standard of debate deteriorate over the 27 years that I have been here. When you have speakers like the first two speakers in this debate, who mouthed the words, who told deliberate mistruths—I suspect they don't know they're deliberate mistruths, because they're just reading some information that some staffer down the back corridor has said, 'This will sound good on the radio'. They simply have no idea—
That's why I have sat him down. Senator Macdonald, I remind you of the standing orders. It is my responsibility to make sure debate occurs in a respectful manner and within the confines of the standing orders. You were directly addressing Senator Rice. I was very clear when I directed you to make your comments to me. Any views that you have about how I chair the Senate, please keep to yourself. Senator Williams.
I rise on a point of order. I agree with what you just said. Could you please bring to the attention of Senator Rice standing order 197 because of her continuing interjections to Senator Macdonald?
Senator Ian Macdonald interjecting—
Senator Macdonald, please sit down. I intend to address the points made by Senator Williams. As you know, Senator Williams, I have just taken over the chair; I've been in a meeting. I will closely watch all senators, but thank you. Senator Macdonald.
My speech has only gone a little way so far, but what happens with the Labor Party and the Greens is they try to drown me out every time. Senator Rice has continually interjected. Can I seek your protection from me so that I will not be tempted to directly respond?
Thank you, Madam Deputy President. As I always say in these debates, you know you're hitting the truth when the Greens and the Labor Party continue to make points of order—baseless points of order, I might say—simply to make sure that I am not heard exposing the ideological claptrap that particularly the first two speakers today demonstrated in this debate.
On a point of order: Senator Macdonald clearly reflected on you. That was my point of order, which you have now addressed. He has just done it again by saying that my point of order was baseless. That is the second time he has reflected on your decisions on a point of order.
Again, I point out to those who might be listening that the Greens and the Labor Party particularly will try to prevent anyone from exposing their ideological claptrap that they pass off as facts in debates such as this. This ideological claptrap is propagated by similarly left-wing ideological groups like GetUp!, who now are an arm of the Greens political party. To their eternal shame, the Labor Party leader, Mr Shorten, improperly gave $100,000 of union workers' money to set up that group. He gave it—it appears, because he hasn't been able to respond—illegally under the standing orders of the Australian Workers' Union. We await Mr Shorten to answer that. But I do despair—and I've seen this over the 27 years I have been here—that now senators get up and say any lie and portray it as facts. People listening to this debate might be confused into believing these lies. I have to say, at least in relation to the last two speakers, there was some direction to this debate and some factual information, not that I agree with it, but there was some attempt to deal with this matter.
This bill is another coalition government action on the Great Barrier Reef. I refer to the first speaker who wrongly claimed that the Labor Party have been the saviour of the Great Barrier Reef. This document that I'm reading from was produced not by friends of ours but by an alliance of leading marine conservation organisations. They published a book called A big blue legacy: The Liberal National tradition of marine conservation. This booklet clearly demonstrates that every single positive action on the Great Barrier Reef, from the setting up of the World Heritage listing to the setting up GBRMPA back in 1981, has been by governments of this political persuasion.
As I say, the people who produced this book that I'm reading from aren't particular friends of ours, but they have to acknowledge the truth of the matter, which is that any serious single advance on protecting our marine environment in Australia has come from Liberal-National Party governments. In fact, it was a Liberal government under then Senator Robert Hill who set up the world's first oceans policy. That's the fact. But, if you listened to the first two speakers, you'd believe that Mr Hawke or some other Labor luminary did these things. They are simply not factual, and that's the point I make.
I'm pleased that Senator Chisholm entered this debate, because at least we have one Queenslander who lives, in his case, close to—in my case, adjacent to—the Great Barrier Reef. I might just pause there to note that every single federal electorate in Queensland that adjoins the Great Barrier Reef is held by someone from the Liberal National Party. That has been the case for most of the time that I have been here, and why? It is because we who live there understand the Barrier Reef. We don't get tied up, we don't get confused, by the lies that are propagated by those who would destroy the reef and everything that is supported by it.
I was in Tonga recently, and the Deputy Prime Minister said to me: 'Oh, you're from Townsville. Isn't it a shame the Barrier Reef is dead?' That sort of view comes from intelligent people around the world. Why? Because the Greens particularly, and their cronies, go around telling the world the Great Barrier Reef is dead. As we all know, the Great Barrier Reef is alive and well and absolutely magnificent. That's, I guess, why Senator Whish-Wilson wanted to do a scuba-diving trip on the Great Barrier Reef, because it is a wonderful experience; it is magnificent. There are parts of the Great Barrier Reef that are under some stress, but that has been the case for all of its existence.
I want to give credit to those at the Australian Institute of Marine Science, with whom I regularly meet, and those at the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority—both are based in Townsville, where I'm based—who I regularly communicate with. Some of those at James Cook University I totally disagree with and think are ideologically directed, but there are others there who do wonderful work on the Great Barrier Reef. They are also based in Townsville and Cairns. I want to congratulate them on the work they do. They would be the first to tell you that there are parts of the Barrier Reef under challenge, but there are, equally, greater parts of the Great Barrier Reef that are magnificent. But the Greens will go around the world trying to destroy the Queensland tourism industry by saying it is dead.
And that's why, as I say, I'm pleased that at least Senator Chisholm was in this debate. The other speakers in this debate come from as far away from the Great Barrier Reef as you can be in Australia, one from Western Australia and two from the great south island of Tasmania.
The first two speakers in this debate, the first one in particular, kept saying what the Labor Party were going to do. Well, the Labor Party were in power for six years and did absolutely nothing. They did absolutely nothing. They talked about some marine reserve. They talked about what should happen to protect various parts of the marine environment of Australia but did nothing. It was left to an incoming coalition government, again, to actually do something about the Great Barrier Reef.
We're told—we were told by the first two speakers particularly—about how climate change is ruining the reef. I'm a believer in climate change. I know the climate changes; it always has. We once used to be covered in ice, so clearly the climate is changing. I don't enter into the debate, because I simply don't know—I'm not a scientist—but there are equal numbers of recognised competent scientists who take different views on the matters of carbon emissions and climate change. I don't get into that debate, because I don't know.
What I do know is that Australia emits less than 1.3 per cent of the world's carbon emissions. As Dr Finkel told me at estimates, if we shut Australia down completely—not if we cut our emissions by 10 per cent, 20 per cent or 50 per cent, but if we cut our emissions by 100 per cent and stopped every motor vehicle, factory and electric light in Australia—it would make not one iota of difference to the changing climate of the world. Yet the first two speakers would blame this government for somehow emitting all this carbon that somehow destroys the Barrier Reef.
A few facts always help in these debates. There are, as we speak, 621 new units of coal-fired generation under construction around the world. Can I repeat that figure: there are 621 new units. Of these, 299 are in China, adding to their 2,100 units of coal-fired generation. The extra 299 units will produce some 670 million tons of carbon dioxide a year—more than the total emitted from Australia. This is just the new ones. There are 120 new units of coal-fired power under construction in India and 34 in Vietnam. Would you realise, Madam Deputy President, that Australia has a total of 73 units of coal-fired generation in the country, and none of them under construction now? We have 73, compared with 621 new ones being built as we speak. These new units in China and Vietnam will use clean Australian coal. If they didn't use clean Australian coal they would be buying their coal from other places around the world which have what we all know as dirty coal.
Now I will simply address some of the mistruths or the misinformation provided by other speakers. Senator Rice said the federal government is about to give away a billion dollars of money to a multinational coal company. I think she's talking about the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility and I think she's talking about Adani. If she is, this demonstrates the point I made right at the beginning of my speech. Those out there might think the federal government is about to give Adani a billion dollars. That is simply—can I say it's a lie? That is simply a lie. If that is what she is talking about, she should know—she has been here long enough to know—that the government is not giving away anything or doing anything. An independent statutory authority called the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility is looking at loaning money. I don't know whether they're talking with Adani—nobody knows, might I say—but they are thinking about loaning money. They don't have power to give anything to anyone. They can loan money. Now, there's a deliberate fact. Listeners might think, 'Oh, isn't that bad?' But it's just untruthful, and I despair that senators get up in this chamber and tell mistruths and portray them as facts.
Senator Rice also said that there were millions of citizens out there opposing Adani. This's simply not true. We opened the Adani headquarters in Townsville—the Queensland Labor Premier, the Townsville Labor mayor, Senator Canavan and I. There were five protesters as we went in, and when we came out an hour later that had swelled to eight—which proves to me that 199,992 of Townsville's population of 200,000 people support Adani. I know they do. It means jobs and it means a lifeline to many of the struggling small businesses in Townsville. Again, Senator Rice's claim is completely untrue. We're told Indigenous people are against it, yet we've had evidence at a Senate inquiry from the major Indigenous group in the area and they totally support it. Why? Because it means jobs and a real life for their people. This sort of disruption and the portrayal of wrong facts as facts is a despair on this parliament.
Senator Rice also said it was 'coal or the reef'. Well, the reef has been there for centuries and coalmining has been there centuries, and they can exist easily together. We were told that the Labor government in Queensland was hell-bent on Adani going ahead. That's one of the things Senator Rice has said that is probably half true. The Palaszczuk faction of the Queensland Labor government, headed by Ms Palaszczuk, understands the importance of jobs for Queensland and the need for the royalties to try and balance the Queensland budget. As Senator Rice said, that faction of the Queensland Labor Party are hell-bent on Adani going ahead—and I support them and congratulate them for it. Unfortunately, the other element of the Queensland Labor Party, which seems to be taking control, is totally against it. They don't care about jobs for the workers and they don't care about the Queensland economy.
Senator Singh spoke about the bill, which she's clearly never read. She said very little about the bill but, as she is a Tasmanian, I can understand that. Her speech was spent gloating about something that happened in the other chamber by accident last night. It might all be very interesting for the Labor Party, and it might give them a flush of excitement, but it had nothing to do with this bill. Senator Singh attacked the Australian government at the United Nations. She forgot to mention that the Queensland Labor government was there at the UN, shoulder to shoulder with the Australian government as it should have been—again, congratulations where it's due—trying to save the barrier reef.
We are addressing the health of the reef. As I've mentioned, parts of it are good and parts of it are bad. But the scientists are looking into it. Senator Singh also talked about the largest removal of conservation areas that Labor established. Again, anyone hearing this might think it is a fact. It is simply not true. Labor established nothing in their six years of government. It was left to the Liberal government, following Labor, to take some real action, and today's bill is a little bit a part of that. Senator Singh, again portraying the myth—if you say it long enough, perhaps people might start to believe you—also said that Joh Bjelke-Petersen wanted to drill on the reef and was stopped by Labor. Sorry, Senator Singh, but you need to look up the history. It was actually stopped by the Fraser Liberal government, not by the Labor government. Senator Singh talked about the biomass of coral trout—and she's right there; that's one bit that's right. But do you know what she was talking about? She was talking about the green zones that had been set up not by Labor, not by the Greens, not by the Queensland government but by a Commonwealth Liberal-National Party government—and it is those green zones which this bill deals with today.
Senator Whish-Wilson, regrettably, but continuing the Greens approach, is telling everyone we are going to lose the Barrier Reef in our lifetime. The Barrier Reef is resilient. It will be there long after Senator Whish-Wilson and I are dead. We have to do what we can to help the reef along, and we are doing that. Thanks to the coalition government, and thanks to those agencies that I have mentioned, there continues to be a lot of work being done there. There are a lot of people of good will who understand that most of the Barrier Reef is great. There are elements of the Great Barrier Reef that are increasing in coral cover. But the Greens will always pick that smaller portion which is currently in some trouble. This bill furthers the coalition's advances on the Great Barrier Reef and deserves the Senate's support.
As a servant to the people of Queensland and Australia, I want to speak because, although the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Amendment Bill 2017 is a simple bill, I must address, as Senator Macdonald has, some of the lies and falsities peddled before. It seems that whenever we hear the three words 'Great Barrier Reef', the Greens and now increasingly the Labor Party fall into madness. We wonder now about the rainbow coloured, solar powered unicorns that are going to die. Everywhere there is madness when we hear three words 'Great Barrier Reef'. I want to address that because Senator Pratt started this absolute nonsense, Senator Rice continued it and then Senator Whish-Wilson continued it. I want to congratulate Senator Macdonald for speaking up and telling the truth.
This bill, at its core, is simple. This is a mechanical bill that fixes an unintended consequence of existing law. It is not about saving the planet. Particular regulations governing the Great Barrier Reef have sunset clauses which automatically expire at a certain date and need to be renewed if they are to be retained. This is a measure to prevent regulations from continuing once they have become outdated and unnecessary. This is not about the collapse of the Great Barrier Reef. In this particular case, the government does not want to let these regulations expire yet and would like to renew them by repealing and then reinstating those regulations with a new sunset date. There is nothing to see here. However, as the law is written, doing this would require the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to remake its existing plans of management. This is a pretty bureaucratic process, to say the least—and I'm sure Senator Leyonhjelm would agree with me—that needs to comply with part VB of the act and involves consultation periods et cetera—in other words, it is a hassle for no change, no benefit. This bill will simply allow the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to retain its existing plans of management when the regulations are reset. Our party has discussed this bill and decided to support it.
I must address Senator Pratt's comments because in her early comments she stated, 'We in federal parliament are the reef's custodians.' That, sadly, is the state in which we find ourselves now in the state of Queensland and the country of Australia. The real custodian under the Constitution is the state government of Queensland on behalf of the people of Queensland yet what we see now are federal environmental ministers reporting to UN bodies on the state of Queensland's Great Barrier Reef and we see misrepresentations from the United Nations. We see the reef being trashed in reputation only, not in physical existence. We see the reef being trashed in misleading and false statements, starting in this chamber, from the Greens and the Labor Party. We heard Senator Whish-Wilson talk about the reef being tens of thousands of years old. It's only 6,000 years old in the Whitsunday areas and in the north it's only 8,000 years old. Senator Macdonald is correct; the Greens peddle fantasies. We need to end the misrepresentations that are hurting jobs, because the Great Barrier Reef is alive and well and thriving.
Senator Pratt raised the clearing of trees. There is no problem with that whatsoever when it's done by farmers on their own land. Because who are the best custodians for the land? The people who own the land and, in that case, it is the farmers. Farmers don't want to see wasted chemicals going on their land. They don't want to see excess pesticides, fertilisers going on their lands. That costs them money for nothing. Farmers don't want to see topsoil being washed off the land, because they value the topsoil. Farmers are the best custodians because, when they come to sell, when they come to pass on to their kids, they want to maximise the value of their land. That's why farmers are the only ones with skin in the game, and farmers alone are the best to make the decision on whether or not to clear trees.
As I said, the three words 'Great Barrier Reef' put the Greens into pseudo-alarm: 'The sky is falling, we'll all be killed, we need action on climate, it's a wonder of the world, you can see it from space.' How many times have we heard this? 'It has been there for tens of thousands of years,' says Senator Whish-Wilson. Actually, no, it hasn't, as I've just explained. The Great Barrier Reef seems to now be collecting another milestone. It has died more times than John Farnham has retired, and we still see the endless claims.
Let's get on to Senator Rice's topic: climate change. But, before doing so, let's remind everyone of Senator Macdonald's wonderful question during Senate estimates to the chief scientist, Dr Alan Finkel. Senator Macdonald asked him one simple question: if all carbon dioxide output from humans in Australia stopped, what would be the impact on climate globally? And the chief scientist's response after beating around the bush was two words: 'virtually nothing'. In fact, it would be nothing.
We not only don't believe, as Senator Pratt says, in climate change being caused by carbon dioxide from humans; we know it is not being caused by humans. In fact, we know there is nothing unusual or unprecedented occurring in climate, and I will soon be discussing the results from my challenges of the CSIRO. Consider these hard facts, physical observations, hard data, measurements. For the last 22 years there has been no trend other than flat in global atmospheric temperatures—22 years with no warming, 22 years with ever-increasing and record carbon dioxide output from China, India and the Western developed world. There has been no warming despite record amounts of carbon dioxide from human activity.
The longest temperature trend in the last 160 years was 40 years of trend from 1936 to 1976—40 years when human production of carbon dioxide increased dramatically due to the Second World War and the postwar economic boom. And what was that trend? It was a falling temperature trend. There were rising carbon dioxide levels from humans, and the temperature fell for 40 years, the longest trend in the last 160 years. And then we look at the Bureau of Meteorology's own records and we find that temperatures in the 1880s and 1890s were warmer than today. And the CSIRO doesn't dispute that. In fact, I will issue a challenge again to anyone in the Labor Senate benches and anyone in the Greens Senate benches: find me someone who will debate the empirical evidence and the corruption of science, and I will gladly meet that challenge.
People don't seem to understand that some of the same coral species that we have on the Great Barrier Reef exist off the coast of Thailand, where the temperature is two degrees warmer. People don't seem to understand that, on any given day in Queensland, the temperature at the northern part of the reef will be four or possibly five degrees centigrade warmer than the southern part. People don't seem to recognise that in 2008 we had record cold temperatures in South-East Queensland and the southern portion of the Great Barrier Reef bleached entirely naturally.
There is no evidence of humans affecting global climate and there is no evidence that humans through impact on climate are affecting the Great Barrier Reef. There is a gaping hole in Senator Rice's plan. Pictures of cute animals, colourful exotic fish and wild alarmist statements are not evidence of anything happening. They are not evidence; we need to go to the empirical evidence, as I have just presented.
Sadly, Senator Macdonald raised the name of Senator Robert Hill. He was no saviour of the Barrier Reef. He was a foot soldier, I believe, of the United Nations—certainly misguided, possibly a useful idiot. But let's get back to the facts: based on those facts, the Greens are anti-science. They undermine science, they misrepresent science and they falsify science. As a result—because, in protecting the environment, the first step is to care enough to get the facts—because they distort the truth they cannot be pro-environment, because they are hurting the environment. By shutting down our production of carbon dioxide here and sending it to Third World countries with outdated power stations that do not have pollution-scrubbing equipment, the Greens are actually increasing total pollution globally. The Greens are increasing pollution globally—real pollutants: sulphur dioxide and nitrous oxide particulates. The Greens are hurting the environment.
The Greens are anti-industry. They are killing jobs in this country: farming jobs, mining jobs, manufacturing jobs, service industry jobs and tourism jobs in Queensland. They are anti-worker, for the obvious reasons: they're killing jobs. They're antidevelopment. They're killing progress. Fundamentally, for human progress we need decreasing energy prices. The Greens' stated outcome, their stated desire, and their outcome already being achieved, is to increase energy prices. That is the exact reverse—the reverse!—of what is needed for human progress.
So that makes the Greens anti-civilisation: anti-industry and anti-progress. They are anti-Australia because they are undermining Australian sovereignty by pushing the UN agenda. They are anti-female, pushing the Islamisation of this country. They are anti-homosexual because they're pushing Islamisation of this country. In short, they are anti-human: anti-people, anti-civilisation and anti-progress.
Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party will delight in continuing to support the reef and the people of Queensland and Australia. We support farmers and we support the environment. We must do whatever we can to focus on cutting real pollutants—sulphur dioxide and nitrous oxide particulates. We must protect the water, we must protect the soil and we must do that based on facts, and that starts with care to unearth the facts.
Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party supports the truth. We want to pass this bill and we want to do it by ensuring that we present the facts, expose the Greens and protect Queensland jobs. We join with the government in recommending passage of this bill. Thank you.
I rise to oppose the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Amendment Bill 2017. The bill attempts to preserve Commonwealth's Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority by fixing a drafting error that would see the bureaucracy's management plan lapse in 2018. But we should allow such an accident to happen so that we can do away with this Commonwealth bureaucracy.
That government is best which governs least.
By extension, I can only assume that Thoreau would have thought the government is worst when governing most. I would agree with this. On that basis, this government is very bad. The government is an addict to regulation and an addict to bureaucracy. I am intent on helping the government to put itself in rehab to reduce this addiction, one piece of regulation at a time.
A valuable step in this rehabilitation process relates to the Great Barrier Reef. There is more government regulation around the Great Barrier Reef than any other natural feature in Australia. We all know that the Great Barrier Reef is beautiful. It's known around the world for its biodiversity. It's a tourism mecca and we all value it highly. The Queensland National Trust has named it 'a state Icon of Queensland'. But none of this justifies the Commonwealth government meddling in state business. In case you haven't noticed, the Great Barrier Reef is entirely in Queensland, and yet the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority is a Commonwealth body. This is not a discussion about climate change, but a question of overregulation, unnecessary and avoidable regulation.
I have a better idea—dissolve the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. Give responsibility of the reef to the state in which it is located and reduce the regulation oversight burdens of the federal system. If nothing else, this would help discourage the perception that the Commonwealth government will come stomping in with its giant jackboots at every opportunity. Thoreau would not be impressed with the Australian Commonwealth government's approach to the Great Barrier Reef. Let Queensland do its job. Abolish the Commonwealth Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.
I rise to speak briefly to the second reading amendment moved by the Greens. I have already spoken in the second reading debate. I note in those remarks earlier, I recognised the impact of climate change on the reef and the strong record of action on climate change that the Labor Party has. However, we don't support this second reading amendment. We don't support the singling out of any specific project, because we note that effective action on global climate change will require a strong global architecture, regulating and limiting emissions, not only in Australia but also globally. Therefore, we shouldn't be singling out any specific project—Chinese industry, American industry, global transport, agricultural emissions, land clearing or proposed projects like the Browse Basin, Adani coalmines or future developments in the North West Shelf. We need a global architecture limiting such emissions.
I thank senators who've contributed to this debate, although I do note that this is essentially a very non-controversial bill. The requirement to have had some eight or nine senators speak in a debate that has gone on for a couple of hours was probably quite unnecessary. I appreciate that people like, sometimes, to seize the opportunity to wax lyrical about matters relating to climate change policy or mining approvals or the like. Ultimately, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Amendment Bill 2017 is very precise, very short and very specific in terms of what it seeks to do.
This bill makes minor technical amendments to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975 to rectify an unintended consequence of the sunsetting regime that was established under the Legislation Act 2003. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act provides for the protection and conservation of the environment, biodiversity and heritage values through zoning issues of permissions and implementation plans of management in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The amendments made under this bill will simply prevent plans of management made under this act from being revoked if regulations giving effect to these plans are repealed and remade to address sunsetting.
Plans of management are an important environmental management tool for managing activities within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park on the basis of ecologically sustainable use. This will simply allow the protective measures in those plans, currently in place, to continue uninterrupted into the future. Plans of management are prepared specifically for intensively used or particularly vulnerable groups of islands and reefs and for the protection of vulnerable species or ecological communities. There are currently four plans of management in place, mainly around Cairns, Hinchinbrook Island, Shoalwater Bay and the Whitsundays.
The Australian and Queensland governments have been working together for the long-term management of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park for over 40 years. We note and respect Senator Leyonhjelm's passionate views in relation to federalism and the responsibilities of the states and territories. We also note that the Great Barrier Reef is, of course, a World Heritage item. It is one in which the cooperation of Commonwealth and state governments has been long-established. And we are proud of the type of effective regime that has been put in place for the protection and management of that World Heritage area.
We are also very proud, as a government, of the significant investment that we have made in relation to the establishment of the Reef Trust and cooperative arrangements with the Queensland government that have seen record sums invested in the ongoing protection of the Great Barrier Reef into the future. As all members of the Senate and Australians appreciate, it is one of the world's largest coral reef systems and includes 2,900 coral reefs, 600 continental islands, 300 coral cays and about 150 inshore mangrove islands. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the Queensland Department of National Parks, Sport and Racing, through the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, operate a joint field management program for the marine and island national parks, ensuring efficient, coordinated, cooperative management and oversight. Among other management tools, the field management plan uses the management plans that this bill seeks to ensure continue into the future to deliver practical on-ground actions to support and maintain well-functioning marine and island ecosystems that support economic, traditional and recreational uses of the Great Barrier Reef.
I commend this bill to the Senate. The government will not be supporting the second reading amendment moved by Senator Rice. As I said at the outset, this bill is very precise in its intent. This bill deals particularly with ensuring the continuity of management plans. It does not need to be sidelined or used as a mechanism for other issues to be debated. There have been plenty of debates in this place already in relation to the Adani mine. I'm sure there will be others in future. However, the government stands by the very strong environmental safeguards that are in place in relation to the approvals around that mine and is absolutely confident that its operation would provide jobs and economic activity in regional Queensland and would not have any negative consequences for the Great Barrier Reef.