Bills - Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Amendment Bill 2017 - Second Reading


Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (11:28): 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.

Senator Rice: It is called science.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: 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—

Senator Rice: It is called science.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: I will come to you, Senator Rice, and I will demonstrate to you how what you portray as 'debate' is pure ideological claptrap.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Macdonald, I remind you to make your remarks to the chair, thank you.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: If you showed some balance and stopped Senator Rice interjecting, perhaps I would refer my—

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Macdonald, please resume your seat.

Senator Whish-Wilson: Point of order. Senator Macdonald clearly just made a reflection on you in the chair.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: 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.

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

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: 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.

Senator IAN 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?

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Please resume your seat. I have responded to that. Please continue your contribution.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: 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.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Macdonald, please resume your seat. Senator Whish-Wilson.

Senator Whish-Wilson: 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.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: I believe I have addressed those points and made my views clear. Please continue, Senator Macdonald.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: 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.

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