Senate debates

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Regulations and Determinations

Marine Parks Network Management Plans; Disallowance

9:45 am

Photo of Louise PrattLouise Pratt (WA, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Environment and Water (Senate)) Share this | | Hansard source

I, and also on behalf of Senator Whish-Wilson, move:

That the South-west Marine Parks Network Management Plan 2018, made under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, be disallowed [F2018L00326].

That the North Marine Parks Network Management Plan 2018, made under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, be disallowed [F2018L00324].

That the North-west Marine Parks Network Management Plan 2018, made under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, be disallowed [F2018L00322].

That the Temperate East Marine Parks Network Management Plan 2018, made under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, be disallowed [F2018L00321].

That the Coral Sea Marine Park Management Plan 2018, made under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, be disallowed [F2018L00327].

What we have in this debate is the Turnbull government now trying to lock in the largest removal of area in our nation's conservation history. There is not a government anywhere in the world that has ever removed this much area, land or sea, from conservation. There will be many losers as a result of a decision in this chamber not to disallow the redrawing of these boundaries at a time when ocean health is at critical levels right around the world. The people of the world are very, very sensitive to this issue.

We have an opportunity to create resilience in large protected areas, and this is being seriously damaged by a decision of this government to remove all of these protection areas. Recreational fishers have now lost the largest recreation-only fishing area in the world, and large-scale industrial fishing and supertrawlers have now received a standing invitation from this government to exploit Australia's marine life. It is now clear that the only way to protect our oceans is to change the government.

Malcolm Turnbull and Josh Frydenberg will now forever be saddled with the global reputation of having removed more area from conservation than anyone else ever. Our Prime Minister likes to fancy himself as something of an environmentalist, but he is clearly not. At a time when other countries are putting more into their marine parks, the Australian government wants to take them away. That is despite the fact that we have some of the world's most wonderful marine assets that can and should be protected.

So let's take a look at some of the areas that this government is taking out of marine protection. Let's take a look at what Minister Frydenberg's own hand-picked panel on marine protection said. They said the expert scientific panel:

… is satisfied that the marine bioregional planning programme … was a sound basis and drew upon the best available information for designing the CMR

Commonwealth marine park—


In consultation, the government's expert panel said that some of the stakeholders felt 'conservation fatigue'. Listen to this. How thoroughly did the last government do its job? How thoroughly did the Labor government do its job? Over years of consultation done by Labor, six rounds of consultation were held, 245 public and stakeholder meetings were attended by over 2,000 people, there were 210 days of public comment and around three-quarters of a million public submissions were considered.

In not supporting this disallowance motion, which would change the borders on these marine parks, the government is essentially taking us back to square one. The community is going to have to engage all over again to get this job done. And I tell you: we will. These plans revoke about 40 million hectares of high-level national marine parks, almost twice the area of Victoria. This is equivalent to revoking half of Australia's national parks on land. Think about that. These are areas that deserve national-park-type protection. Just because they're underwater does not mean that they don't deserve the same level of attention and that they are not as environmentally important.

Let's look at some examples. In the Coral Sea, Labor's network has 50.78 per cent marine national park protection—half a million square kilometres. The expert panel that considered the boundaries for this didn't do quite as well as Labor. They had 400,000 square kilometres. That's what the experts said should be there. But we now know that this government, in its changing of protection for the Coral Sea, has 24 per cent protection. This is a figure that the Turnbull government tries to go out and proudly promote as strong marine protection. It means, I'm sad to say, 50 per cent of the marine national park zoning is stripped away. It means Australia's largest recreational fishing zone is erased. It's erased in deference to large-scale industrial fishers, and midwater trawling and tuna long-lining are allowed in these areas that should be protected and should be available for recreational fishing. Our network had 18.4 per cent of the Coral Sea reserve set aside for recreational fishing, and the coalition have removed it entirely and replaced it with areas where commercial fishing is allowed in everything other than bottom trawling. I can tell you: I think the government are a bunch of bottom trawlers. It's true to say that recreational fishers can go there, but indeed so can commercial fishers.

We've seen unique reefs like Marion and Kenn stripped back to only partial protection. We've seen big problems too in the temperate eastern waters. The headline here is that one of Australia's longest-standing marine national park zones, Middleton Reef—part of the wonderful Lord Howe Island Marine Park—has been cut back. It was declared right back in 1987, by the Hawke government, and is incredibly important to the network, particularly as long-time marine national parks zones are rare and valuable. And yet you're cutting that back, an area that has been pristine and protected. You are stripping it right back. In the Commonwealth waters around my home state of Western Australia, the Diamantina Fracture Zone, in one of Australia's largest marine national parks, has been reduced to what is now the lowest possible zoning, where again everything is allowed except bottom trawling. Funnily enough, ruling out bottom trawling is not such a big deal, given that it's an area that's between five and seven kilometres deep. There is no fishing or mining out there. Why do you need to take this marine protection off the books?

Geographe Bay, a really precious area in Western Australia, deserves more protection, but this government has removed two of the very modest marine national parks in this important area. In the north-west, we've had large marine national parks that help sustain the marine life of the Kimberley and the Ningaloo being stripped of much of their protection. In the north, the large marine park on the Gulf of Carpentaria has been stripped away off the Wessel Islands, off Karumba and in the Torres Strait, leaving those important areas also open to bottom trawling and mining.

We have before the chamber today a choice: do we stand up and protect our marine assets or does this chamber lock in the largest removal of area in conservation history? Do we stand up for marine protection in our nation and for our role in protecting the world's oceans? We have some of the best and diverse marine assets in the world. This is a shameful decision coming from this government. Nowhere in the world has anyone ever removed this much from a conservation estate. I call on senators in this chamber to reconsider their position. I agree with the calls of Senator Whish-Wilson that those on the crossbench who have declared their support in opposing this disallowance should come to this chamber and explain themselves.

I can tell every senator in this place that this issue does not die with a decision on this disallowance today. There are hundreds of thousands of people who support strong marine park protection in our nation. They're very engaged citizens. I know you have email inboxes full of communications from these people. They will be ready and charged in the lead-up to the next election to make sure that we deliver a government that's prepared to stand up for strong marine protection for our nation's oceans.

9:58 am

Photo of Peter Whish-WilsonPeter Whish-Wilson (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

In my six years in the Senate, this vote before the Senate today is one of the most important moments for me. I was involved in the marine protected areas campaign. I did some work for the Wilderness Society in South Australia over 10 years ago. Like my colleague Senator Siewert and hundreds of thousands of Australians, I've been campaigning to get better marine protections put in place for over a decade now. In fact, the campaign to get proper marine protections in Australia started well over two decades ago. What we have in the Senate today is the culmination or end point of a two-decade-long campaign for marine protections. However, it is a shameful version or blueprint of what campaigners in this country have been working on for decades now.

The decision is very clear for senators here today: we can reject or reward this government and their systematic attempt since they were elected in 2013, in the last five years, to completely gut plans that were put in place by the community, by the fishing industry, by campaigners right around this country; plans that were put in place by the Labor-Greens government in 2012; and plans that were put in place based on the best available science. In fact, the science has shifted since that time, as you would expect it would over a period of six years. The science shows we need increased protections in our marine environment, not reduced protections.

The government were elected in 2013 on the back of a promise that they would rip up marine protections, and that is exactly what they have done. This disallowance today does not give them the satisfaction of ripping up decades of hard work by campaigners around this country for marine protection. This disallowance today means we go back to the drawing board. It means we have momentum and a campaign to continue what we started decades ago to get proper marine protections in place in Australia.

I ask senators to reflect on the fact that the campaigners, the environmentalists, the stakeholders in the rec fishing industry, some in the commercial fishing industry and so many in the science industry are telling you to support the Greens-Labor disallowance today and not reward the government for what they have done to marine protections. Today is the culmination of their campaign to undermine marine protections in this country at a time when they are so desperately needed.

I myself have seen things change, with my own eyes, since I have been a senator. I was campaigning for marine conservation—as my colleague Senator Siewert was—well over 10 years ago. But I have seen changes in the marine environment where I live in Tasmania. I have seen them on the Great Barrier Reef. I have seen what is happening to our oceans. We talk a lot about the Great Barrier Reef, and so we should. But the south-west waters off Tasmania are known to be a global hotspot for climate change, for a changing ocean environment. And it is not just a greenie conservation thing. Our aquaculture and fishing industries in Tasmania are suffering because of what is going on in our oceans. We have seen our salmon industry have mass mortalities. Over a million fish died in Macquarie Harbour this summer because of warming waters and dissolved oxygen problems. Our abalone industry off the east coast of Tasmania, for the first time, voluntarily decided not to fish their quota because the industry is under so much pressure because of changes in the marine environment. We have seen the same thing in our rock lobster industry. We have seen our oyster industry decimated by viruses from our changing marine environment, from warming waters and from the pressure our marine environments are under.

And we know beyond any reasonable doubt that the only way, the best way, to put in place an insurance policy for these oceans and for future generations is to have proper protections in the ocean through marine parks. We know that is the case. I was interested to see the release of a marine report by scientists at IMAS in Tasmania. Professor Graham Edgar, rather than taking a fisheries management approach to estimating populations of fish, wrote a scientific report, published in peer-reviewed journals, that showed that, contrary to what the Australian Fisheries Management Authority and fisheries stakeholders are saying, we have seen a decline of more than a third in our large biomass fish. That is based on thousands of observations by divers and statistically fed into models. A third of our large biomass fish in our fisheries have disappeared in the last 10 years—a third. Interestingly, that corresponds with a 32 per cent decline in our official catch in these fisheries in the last 10 years. What that study also showed—because there is variability in different areas around those declines—was that, when marine protected areas were in place, they had much less drastic declines in fish biomass. And that just backs up what we have known for years. I won't go into detail today, but I do want senators, and anyone listening to this debate who wants to understand the pressure our oceans are under and just how dire the situation is, to read an article in The Monthly this month that talks about the pressure that our oceans are under. It's called 'The end of the oceans' by James Bradley. It says how the world's oceans and all marine life are on the brink of total collapse.

Senator Ian Macdonald interjecting

I have never been an alarmist; I have always been evidence based and rational in my deliberations. You may laugh, Senator Macdonald, but I have chaired a number of inquiries in this Senate, initiated a number of inquiries and participated in a number of inquiries around what's going on in our oceans, from our Southern Ocean through to the Great Barrier Reef: warming waters; pollution from the salmon industry; opposing supertrawlers; looking at the impacts on our oceans from shark nets—a whole range of things. And I have to come to the same conclusion: things are dire in our oceans.

Senators, and those following this debate, this plan today is the culmination of six years of a systemic campaign by this government to undermine marine protections. This plan, that you can either reject or accept, has been brought to you by the same people who brought supertrawlers to the country. Senator Colbeck, when he was shadow fisheries minister, and Senator Ruston—both champing at the bit—are the champions of bringing supertrawlers and industrialised vessels to our fisheries. This is the same government that has ignored the recommendations of its own scientific panel. When it set out with its plan to reduce marine protections, it put in place an independent panel, and even its own independent panel recommended much stronger protections than we have in place here. In fact, we have had no explanation from this government as to why it has ignored the advice of its own scientific panel, and ignored the advice of the 1,400 scientists who signed a petition saying, 'Do not reduce marine protections'. And that's why we must have a proper debate today. All we know from Senator Ruston's comments is that she wants to bring more balance to the debate and that means: to give the stakeholders being represented here, the big end of the fishing industry and oil and gas, what they want. That's what that is code for. It is the same fishing industry that made big donations to the Liberal Party around the 2013 election—record donations to the South Australian Liberal Party and the federal Liberal Party from the fishing industry. We all know how they're in the pocket of big oil and gas.

The decimation of the protected green zones in the Coral Sea are a classic example of representing the big end of town—a few vested interests. But it shouldn't be a surprise considering what is happening with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and what has happened with the Great Barrier Reef Foundation. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park sits hand in glove with a future marine protected area for the Coral Sea. Combined, they will make one of the biggest marine protected areas in the world. And look at what this government is doing, giving a $444 million grant—seemingly, a captain's call by the Prime Minister—to a relatively unknown private charity with no track record in managing those kinds of funds or dealing with large, complex, scientific projects, supposedly to save the reef, as Senator Birmingham said in here yesterday. Well, we know what will save the reef, and it is not any of the projects that the Great Barrier Reef Foundation will look at. They have been labelled by scientists, including some of the best marine scientists in the world, as bandaid solutions. The Australian Academy of Science has put a submission into the inquiry, Senator Macdonald, which I am chairing, that call them bandaid solutions. They will not save the reef. Acting on climate, emissions and land clearing will save the reef. That's what will save the reef.

The corporatisation—the attempt to give companies the ability to greenwash the sad death of the Great Barrier Reef—is very similar to what we are seeing with a shameful six-year attempt to decimate marine protections in this country. Senators have a choice whether they support that today or they take a stand for our oceans and reject it. The choice is simple: oceans or Mr Abbott, the wrecking ball of Australian politics who started this in the first place—just like he did with climate action in this country, which still hasn't been solved to this day. This is a continuation of that legacy, and I urge senators to reject it.

I'm a politician. I wanted to read the words today of someone who I deeply, deeply respect. Unfortunately, I missed the chance to talk to him when he came to Launceston recently to launch his latest book. However, I was fortunate to receive a card from him. His name is Mr Tim Winton. He is, in my opinion, along with my brother, David Whish-Wilson, one of the best writers in this country. I love what he writes about and how he writes about the oceans. It reflects so much of my own childhood and my own experiences. I know he's a friend of Senator Siewert. Tim, like Senator Siewert and many others, has campaigned for years to get these marine protected areas in place. I'll read you what he said to me:

Dear Peter, I'm sorry we didn't get a chance to talk when I was in Launceston; it would have been a great pleasure. I saw your comments in Hansard last week and was grateful for your attempt to bring some sanity and perspective to this debate. Like Rachel, I've been working for more than 20 years towards these marine protected areas, so it will be a bitter defeat if they get legislated. My advice to the movement was to reject this plan outright. There's no honour or integrity in it. What we got under Tony Burke was a massive and painful compromise. To be fobbed off with a filleted version of that is unconscionable. Maybe we should talk about this further.

That's coming from a man who has, like so many people, hundreds of thousands—

Photo of Ian MacdonaldIan Macdonald (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Never heard of him.

Photo of Peter Whish-WilsonPeter Whish-Wilson (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Macdonald hasn't heard of Tim Winton—interesting

Photo of Ian MacdonaldIan Macdonald (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Most people haven't.

Photo of Peter Whish-WilsonPeter Whish-Wilson (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

Hundreds of thousands of Tasmanians and Australians have emailed senators this week urging them to support this disallowance. I would just ask you all to reflect on those people who have spent two decades campaigning for marine protections, including the many scientists who aren't members of the Greens, Senator Macdonald—the 1,400 scientists who have signed the petition calling on senators to support the disallowance and reject this plan. Why would these people be asking you to support the disallowance? You've heard the words of Tim Winton. That is the same sentiment I've heard from so many other people around this country. We have to continue the campaign to get proper marine protections in place in this country. There's never been a more important time, given what's going on in our oceans, to not only put marine protections in place but improve marine protections.

If this disallowance gets up, there will be existing protections in place under international conservation measures. There will be protections in place under EPBC law and there will be protections in place under the directions of national parks. All the crossbench senators have had all this pointed out to them in recent weeks. Of course, this debate would've been much easier if the Labor and Greens plans had come into force earlier. What we're seeing here today would've been a much starker compromise. But do not be fooled by the argument that, if we don't get these marine protected areas up, we're going to have no marine protections on the water. That is not the case. If you support this today, you are supporting the government's campaign, and the vested interests behind it, to gut marine protections and set an extremely bad example, to reward bad behaviour. It will be noticed all around the world. The environment movement is asking you to stand with them and continue the campaign to get proper protections in place, to make a difference at a time when it's so critically needed.

There are many other things I would love to say today, but I won't have the time. Many other senators need to contribute to this debate. It's not something that we should be sweeping under the carpet. It's one of the most important things I can think of to debate in the Senate—that is, the future of our oceans for the communities that depend on them, be they rec fishers or commercial fishers, future generations, divers, surfers or any Australian who loves their ocean.

I can't understand how we can vote for a plan today that would deliberately set out, from the beginning—in an election promise—to rip up marine protections, to gut 20 years of hard work by so many people. I can't understand how we could do that today. I admit I will be deeply disappointed and shocked if the Senate doesn't support the Labor and Greens disallowance, if it gives satisfaction to those vested interests who have manipulated parliament. It doesn't surprise me that they manipulate the Liberal and National parties. That's why those opposite are here—to represent their mates. But, for those hundreds of thousands of Australians, those millions of Australians, who care about the ocean, please know that I put on the record today my respect for your decades of hard work and I will express my disappointment if this plan gets up. If this goes into force tomorrow then it will officially happen. This is our last chance. We have today and this afternoon to convince senators to not support this government's deliberate attempt to decimate marine protections at a time when they are most desperately needed.

But don't give up heart; don't give up hope. Whatever happens today, the movement will continue to campaign for proper marine protections, and the Greens will continue to campaign for proper marine protections. It doesn't end here today. In fact, I've got no doubt that a Labor government, hopefully, will be elected at the next federal election and will make a difference by putting in place proper marine protected areas.

Senator Ian Macdonald interjecting

You can laugh all you like, Senator Macdonald. You won't be here, which is a good thing in my opinion. However, in my last 23 seconds—do not give this mob the satisfaction. You can choose between the oceans and Mr Tony Abbott. That's your choice here today. You can choose between protecting the oceans for future generations and giving this mob what they want.

10:18 am

Photo of Ian MacdonaldIan Macdonald (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

What utter humbug and hypocrisy is the argument of the Greens, particularly, and the Labor Party on this issue! Let me just explain that to anyone who might be listening. The government is bringing forward some plans for marine protection. The disallowance motion of the Labor Party and the Greens is about stopping those marine protection plans. You've just heard 20 minutes of humbug from a Greens senator about protecting the marine environment, and what they are doing today is stopping protections for our marine parks. You always know when the Greens have run out of arguments, which the previous speaker did after about 30 seconds—they start using the old arguments of vested interests. When they run out of any sensible arguments, it's the vested interests that the Greens, particularly, and the Labor Party always try to bring up on any debate to try and align sensible Australians with coalition policy.

Of course, you know they've run out of arguments when they start talking about donors. The Greens talk about large corporate donors, but of course we remember that the Greens political party was the party that received the largest single donation from any corporate entity anywhere in Australia's political history. That was, of course, when Mr Graeme Wood gave them $1.6 million, the biggest donation to a political party ever. Lo and behold, would you believe, I was in a committee a few weeks later when Mr Bob Brown, then Senator Bob Brown, actually tried to get a taxation committee to give an exemption for the sort of online newspaper that Graeme Wood was hoping to set up. They talk about vested interests and hypocrisy and corruption, but the Greens should look in the mirror when it comes to those sort of things.

Now, back to the issue—

Photo of Gavin MarshallGavin Marshall (Victoria, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Macdonald, resume your seat. Senator Whish-Wilson, on a point of order?

Photo of Peter Whish-WilsonPeter Whish-Wilson (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

Point of order. Senator Macdonald just made a previous reflection on a previous senator in this place, Bob Brown, as being corrupt. He's a total coward to use parliamentary privilege to do so. I ask him to withdraw that comment.

Photo of Gavin MarshallGavin Marshall (Victoria, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I don't believe former members of this place are actually covered by the standing order, so I won't rule that way. However, if I'm wrong, someone will tell me shortly and we will revisit it, but I'm pretty sure I'm right there. Senator Macdonald, you have the call.

Photo of Ian MacdonaldIan Macdonald (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President. Dare I say, I believe you're correct. The record will show that I didn't accuse former Senator Bob Brown of being corrupt, but if that's the way that Senator Whish-Wilson thinks he was, then that's a matter for Senator Whish-Wilson, not for me. I said the Greens political party were corrupt. They were corrupt. Did that not happen? Didn't then Senator Brown, a couple of weeks after this donation was received by the Greens political party, move at a Senate economics committee or make advocacy for getting a tax exemption for online newspapers that were about to start up? And wasn't it Mr Graeme Wood thinking about doing that at the time? I'm not going to accuse any individual of being corrupt, but I'm going to say the Greens political party is corrupt, and you tell me where I'm wrong, because I know you cannot. I know you cannot.

We heard from Senator Whish-Wilson arguments about the dire straits of our oceans, but he forgets to mention that the government that introduced marine protected areas anywhere in the world was a Liberal government when then Senator Robert Hill was Minister for the Environment. It was a Liberal government who did those sorts of things. Don't take my word for it. Have a look at this book put out by the sensible conservation group. It's titled, A Big Blue Legacy. The Liberal National tradition of marine conservation. You should read this book—unfortunately I only have one copy—because it goes through in detail all the marine conservation work done by various Liberal governments over the last few decades, starting, of course, with Malcolm Fraser's protection of Fraser Island and the establishment of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, and it goes on. None of the Greens are interested in this book, because it's the conservation groups themselves telling the world the truth about which government it is that has actually done something.

It's okay for the Greens to talk; they know they'll never be in government and never have to deliver. The Labor Party, unfortunately, talk a lot and never deliver either. The only party that has ever delivered on marine conservation is the Liberal-National Party, and we continue to do that in these plans that the Greens and the Labor Party are trying to stop. What sort of logic is that? They want to protect the oceans, and yet here they are today trying to defeat the five plans that will protect the oceans. I know what annoys the Labor Party, because under these plans we're going protect 509 conservation features, including reefs, sea mounts and canyons, and 344 sites have received the highest level of protection compared with those under the Labor plan of 331. The Greens urge the people to vote for the Labor Party so they can be in government—because we know the Greens and the Labor Party are one and the same in any case. But answer this: we're putting aside 344 sites of the highest level of protection; Labor wants 331, which is 13 less, and yet the Greens say the Labor Party's plan is a better one than ours—can you please explain that? We are protecting more sites, but you want to go back to the Labor plan that protects fewer sites. We have green zones that are more than 20 times the size of Kakadu and half the size of New South Wales. We protect sea-floor habitats totalling almost the size of Victoria.

I enter into this debate because I'm a Queensland senator. I'm interested in northern Australia, as you may have heard me say before, and part of my electorate, Northern Queensland, actually contains the Great Barrier Reef, and the communities of hundreds of thousands of people who make their living from the Great Barrier Reef. They are the ones who are demanding that we do what we do.

And can I tell you—and I'll specifically refer to the Coral Sea marine park that the Greens and the Labor Party are today trying to stop—there is a plan in place, and the Greens and the Labor Party are trying to abandon it, to stop it, to abolish it. This marine plan that the coalition has introduced, which the Greens and Labor are trying to stop, enables our recreational fishers—those five million Aussies who enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime wilderness experience in the Coral Sea—to continue doing so whilst protecting the Coral Sea.

We've given these fishers up my way, off Cairns, off Innisfail, off Tully, off Cardwell and, indeed, even off Mooloolaba, the chance to fish at iconic reefs such as Kenn Reef, Bougainville Reef, Marion Reef and Wreck Reef in a very, very sustainable way. These are recreational fishers, not commercial fishermen. These are recreational fishers being given that opportunity for very sustainable recreational fishing. That is what the people of North Queensland, of my state, want to happen. And we're doing that in a way that is sustainable and protects an increasing number of parts of our marine environment.

We want some of our professional fishers, including Walker Seafoods, based at Mooloolaba, to continue to export their Marine-Stewardship-Council-certified tuna to markets around the globe. For those who don't understand, if you get the Marine Stewardship Council's tick of approval—which the Greens used to promote years ago, although I don't know what they're doing these days; they're such hypocrites in the Greens' political party that probably they don't like the Marine Stewardship Council anymore—it's for fishing that is done sustainably. And Walker Seafoods in Mooloolaba have got that sustainable tick of approval for certified tuna, and they export to the world. This plan allows for that. The Greens and the Labor Party want to abolish the plan, so that not only could Walkers but anyone could do anything. It's open slather if this motion passes today because there are no plans, no management arrangements, at all. And, would you believe, that's what the Greens and the Labor Party are trying to get the Senate to do: to have no plans—to have an open slather, so everyone can go out and do whatever they want and catch whatever they want. That's what Senator Whish-Wilson is asking you to do today. How sensible is that? What absolute humbug! What absolute hypocrisy!

( Quorum formed ) You know you've got them on the run when they do those sorts of things, like calling a quorum, to interrupt my speech. Thank you for that, Senator Ketter. That is a real compliment to me. When the arguments start to bite home and the Labor Party and the Greens realise the hypocrisy and utter humbug of the approach they're taking, they then call a quorum so that they shut me up for a minute or two.

What the Labor Party and the Greens are asking you to do today is to remove the current protections of our marine areas. They want it to be open slather. We've just had a Greens senator telling us for 20 minutes that all they were interested in was marine protection, and yet they want to dismiss it. They want to abandon it. They want to abolish it. What absolute and utter humbug and hypocrisy from the Greens political party. Nothing surprises me about hypocrisy and humbug from the Greens, but this one must take the cake. Here we have the biggest amount of marine protection plans anywhere in Australia, ever in Australia. As I recall, under these plans we have the second highest marine protected and conserved areas anywhere in the world, but the Greens and the Labor Party want to stop it. What hypocrisy. What absolute humbug.

I was talking about Walker Seafoods, a great company out of Mooloolaba in my state. They have the Marine Stewardship Council tick for their fishing in the Coral Sea allowed by these plans. The Greens and the Labor Party want to stop that and destroy the jobs and small businesses of tens of thousands of people along the coast of my state of Queensland. They want to deprive the hundreds of thousands of Queenslanders, and other Australians from all over, of the enjoyment of sustainable recreational fishing in the Coral Sea.

We want our northern prawn fishers to continue to supply us with those magnificent banana prawns that you can only get off the coast of Queensland. And yet the Labor Party and the Greens want to stop that. They want us to import vannamei prawns from Vietnam, grown in the—I better not say that, because we like our Vietnamese people. The vannamei prawns from Vietnam, which the Greens and Labor Party would rather us be consuming, are not in the same category—not in the same world—as the wonderful, fresh banana prawns we get out of the Coral Sea in Queensland. It keeps Queenslanders in jobs and it keeps tourists coming to our state, because there aren't many places in the world where you can enjoy fresh fish and fresh prawns straight out of the Coral Sea, farmed and caught in a sustainable way. I know that Senator Ruston, here in the chamber, runs a fisheries regime as fisheries minister which won't even countenance any suggestion of overfishing. The fisheries plans that Senator Ruston oversees and the Australian Fisheries Management Authority carefully limit fishing for our fish stocks to make sure that they are forever sustainable.

Relentless campaigns by Labor and the dark forces who oppose fishing have galvanised and unified—and this is an achievement in itself, I have to say—our professional and recreational fishers. They don't often get on together but they are determined in their support for these plans. I'm not sure I even like to say this, because I've said some nasty things about the Pew regime over the years, but I'm told by Senator Ruston that even the Pew foundation, the great American conservation so-called foundation which originated in oil money out of the Gulf of Mexico—and the Pew foundation, in my view, are always trying to salve their consciences by splashing money around on conservation issues around the world—are in this building this week supporting these plans, and why wouldn't they? If you do what the Labor Party and the Greens want you to do, you'll get rid of every marine conservation plan in Australia and it will be open slather. That's what Senator Whish-Wilson wants. He wants open slather in our marine environment. He just spent 20 minutes telling us how he was so concerned about conservation of our marine areas, and what he is proposing today is that we get rid of all of these plans. What hypocrisy! What utter and absolute humbug! It's the sort of hypocrisy and lies that we've come to expect of the Greens political party, because we know they will simply say and do anything to try and make a point.

This is almost such a simple proposition that it really doesn't warrant much more discussion. You can go with the plans that are already in place, which protect the greatest areas of the Australian marine environment, or you can go with the Greens and the Labor Party and abolish those plans so that there'll be nothing there. It is such a simple proposition that I can't imagine any senator would contemplate joining the Greens and the Labor Party. Those two are only doing it because they hate anything that the coalition government does. They can't stand this booklet that says the only people who have done any work in the marine conservation area are Liberal governments. They hate that. So, for political and ideological reasons, they would have you abandon these plans that are in place and lead you back to open slather with nothing. What hypocrisy!

10:38 am

Photo of Rachel SiewertRachel Siewert (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

It is not a pleasure to follow Senator Macdonald in speaking, in terms of the load of baloney that the minister—that the senator just delivered to this chamber.

An honourable senator: He never made minister!

He did for a short time, in actual fact. Comments that Senator Macdonald made were derogatory to the Greens and to those that have worked for so long and hard to put in place marine protection. His No. 1 argument is, 'Well, you'd rather have nothing and you're trying to get rid of these marine plans.' That's what that side of the chamber did, when they got rid of the management plans for the marine parks in the marine protected areas, in the first place. So how can he come into this chamber and say, 'Ooh, Labor and the Greens seek to get rid of these management plans,' when that's exactly what his side did?

They got rid of the world's leading series of marine protected areas. They're well acknowledged around the world as being world leading. I cannot believe that he would have the audacity to have a go at us for trying to take it back to what it was, because that government have reduced marine protection in very important areas, bowing to the pressure from the fishing industry. That's exactly what that government did. They took away the protection that had just been put in place.

I, for one, will freely acknowledge that previous coalition governments have done work on marine protection, but to say they're the only ones is a pack of nonsense, when quite clearly we're standing here trying to protect and get back what the previous Labor government put in place. And, yes, we were critical of the things that weren't included in those areas. We wanted them to do better. I'm on the record as having said that. But this government came in place and got rid of those areas. They can play around with wording, but there is absolutely no doubt in the community's mind that that's what they did. They took away that series of marine protected areas and they took away the bioregional marine parks that were put in place as part of that process.

I've been working on marine protection since the mid-eighties. I've been through the highs and the lows. I've been through building community awareness. I've been through the process of arguing that marine protected areas and no-take zones don't protect fishing stocks. We had that really ridiculous argument when people tried to argue that they don't play a role in protecting fish stocks. We've been through that. Some people still like to deny the evidence. We've been through that. We now have acceptance of the importance of marine protection, both for the protection of marine biodiversity and for fish stocks. We've been through that. Now we have a government bowing to pressure from recreational fishers and commercial fishers and it will compromise the protection of really important areas.

I'd like to focus on Western Australia. Andrew Bartlett will talk about the travesty of the cuts to the Coral Sea, but I want to talk about my home state of Western Australia. Overwhelmingly, people in Western Australia love the marine environment. Most Western Australians live by the coast. I think it would be freely acknowledged in this place that we have a lot of very special coast. I go back to the marine campaign. Tim Winton was involved in the campaign to protect the Ningaloo Coast, to make sure that we did not have inappropriate development in Coral Bay that would have damaged the Ningaloo Coast. The Ningaloo rally was one of the biggest rallies we've ever had in Western Australia. I remember marching in Fremantle all those years ago to protect that coast, as did Tim and thousands and thousands of Western Australians. Have no doubt that Western Australians love their marine environment. They love Ningaloo and they love the south-west.

Just for a little bit of one-up-personship: the south-west marine area has the highest number of marine endemic species—far higher than other areas around the Australian coast—so it's very important that we have adequate marine protection there. We are still, in fact, developing our understanding of some of those areas. In Western Australia, under the plans that this government wants to put in place, we've seen cuts to Geographe Bay. It's halved from the 2012 area. We've seen the green zones moved offshore in those really important areas around Bremer, and allowing scallop trawling. We have seen the more intense protection for the Rowley Shoals reduced by 45 per cent. We've seen around Gascoyne and Ningaloo a 75 per cent reduction. They have mucked around the Perth Canyon and moved the protection to the wrong spot. These are important areas for marine biodiversity from around the world, growing more so every day as we understand the impact of climate change on our marine environment. These parks do not now deliver the best system in the world. We did have that, but, because of pressure from industry, and from Senator Macdonald's— (Time expired)