Tuesday, 18 September 2018
Just a month after unveiling a plan to further protect marine life in New South Wales, this week the New South Wales government have axed no-fishing zones in their planned future Sydney marine park. This change even pre-empted the community consultation period which was due to begin this week. This proposal to boost marine protections in state waters in New South Wales was going to protect 25 zones from Newcastle to Wollongong and would have imposed restrictions on line and spear fishing in some zones and banned fishing completely in other zones, or what we commonly call no-take zones.
This change of heart has come as a big surprise to the communities in New South Wales who have campaigned for increased marine protections in state waters and to the thousands of conservationists who have worked for years to get a proper set of marine parks in place in state waters. But it is no surprise to me at all that this has happened, coincidentally, around the same time that this Senate set the benchmark so low with federal marine park protections by axing 50 per cent of the no-take zones planned in the 2012 marine protected areas, after nearly a decade of campaigning by hundreds of thousands of Australians to get a proper set of marine parks in place in this country.
I warned the crossbench, and I know they were warned by others, to keep the campaign going to get a proper set of marine protections, to reject this government's plan, to not set the bar so low—the standard you walk past is the standard you accept. But what we feared the most—which I spoke directly to Senator Hinch, Senator Storer and Senator Patrick of Centre Alliance about—was that this precedent would lead to a stampede of cuts to marine protections in state waters, especially under Liberal state governments. I warned that this was a political decision we were making here: if we cut marine protections in Australia, it would likely lead to cuts and weakening of marine protections in state waters and that is exactly what happened in the last 24 hours in New South Wales. This was a complete surprise to the New South Wales community who have been campaigning on this. Just as they were prepared to go into consultation, the whole thing has been pulled by a state government clearly frightened of a few fishing interests. Who is next? What about South Australia?
South Australia has elected a Liberal government and, lo and behold, what have they talked about doing? What have they announced on their website? While they're going to keep their state based marine park sizes the same, they're reviewing their no-take zones, their green zones in state waters in South Australia—exactly what New South Wales has just pulled the rug out from. South Australia is now reviewing its marine park protections for marine life.
I warned the crossbench that if the Senate were to pass these regulations and put them into effect to undermine completely and gut the decades of hard work by thousands of Australians to get a proper set of marine protected areas in place, this would send a signal that would embolden interests who don't want to see conservation at the heart of marine protection, who don't want to see future benefits flowing from marine-protected areas. We know in a time of climate change, in a time of warming waters, in a time of increased stresses on oceans that protecting some areas of high-conservation value determined by science will lead to both ecological and community benefit. That is what the science says and that is being completely ignored by the New South Wales government. It's being ignored by the South Australian government. It's certainly being ignored by Senator Colbeck and his fishing cronies in this place. And it's a disgrace that this Senate has set the bar so low it has state counterparts or Liberal counterparts cutting marine protections in Australia. We will get them back. The community will not give up on this. Federally or at state level, you can be sure, when we turf you out, we will get proper marine protections in Australia.