DOCUMENTS - Great Barrier Reef - Order for the Production of Documents


Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (15:18): What a rambling, pathetic, nonsensical speech—not a speech, a shouting match from Senator Carr. Perhaps the worst minister that even the Labor Party has produced, he presided over the failure of the car industry in Australia and he did nothing, absolutely nothing, for marine science during the time he was in charge of it. And, more or less, with all his political comments, this is the guy who—I understand—the Labor Party didn't want to endorse. The guy who Mr Shorten removed from his front bench, and he only put him back when there was a bit of a revolt amongst Senator Carr's three or four supporters. This is the guy that couldn't even turn up to the preselection of the former Deputy President—the guy who supported Senator Carr, but Senator Carr couldn't even respond and help his mate out at the time of his preselection.

Those who listened to that rambling tirade—that shouting match, that irrelevant speech—mightn't have bothered, because Senator Carr has little credibility in this place and within his own party. I enter this debate only because of some of the outrageous smears that Senator Carr indulged himself in—which should have been addressed by the chair, I might say. The comment that Senator Cash is facing criminal charges is just an outright lie. As has been said in this chamber so many times, Senator Cash is not under investigation. If there is anyone under investigation, it could be a former member of Senator Cash's staff. Whilst the Labor Party rail on about that, we forget what that raid was all about. It was all about Mr Bill Shorten, as the leader of the AWU some years ago, wrongly appropriating some funds to his own benefit. The police investigation is not about Senator Cash but about misconduct by Mr Bill Shorten before he entered this parliament—or perhaps as he was entering this parliament, because he is alleged to have misappropriated money to himself from other sources for his election campaign.

Madam Deputy President, you and members of the Labor Party may not like these comments—which, as you know, are accurate—but when Senator Carr gets up and makes the outlandish, untrue, lying accusations he did then they have to be responded to. I know the Labor Party are fixated with police investigations, because Senator Keneally is in this place now, and two of the ministers from her government are now serving jail terms for real criminal offences. Senator Keneally put these ministers into her cabinet when she was the Premier of New South Wales. These two men were great friends with Senator Doug Cameron. I don't like raising these matters, but when the Labor Party is continually carrying on in a lying way about Senator Cash and others then I have to respond in kind. To paraphrase what that former great Labor leader Mark Latham once said about Graham Richardson, 'If Senator Cameron wanted to go and meet his mates for a reunion party, he'd have to do it in jail,' because that's where the guys who protected Senator Cameron, and whom he subsequently protected, are now.

I could spend an hour speaking in this chamber about Labor members of parliament who are now in jail. Remember that Orkopoulos fellow, a minister from New South Wales who ended up in jail on paedophilia charges? Remember Gordon Nuttall from my state of Queensland, a minister in a Labor government, who ended up in jail for accepting bribes—proved and convicted in court? I don't like raising these things, but when the likes of Senator Cameron and Senator Carr continually raise lying comments about Senator Cash and others then they can expect this sort of response from me. I could go on with any number of Labor Party people. Remember Keith Wright, the leader of the Labor Party in Queensland, then a member down here, in jail for indecent dealings with children? Remember Bill D'Arcy, a member of the Queensland Labor government, in jail for similar offences? If you go through the annals of New South Wales Labor politicians, you'll find many of them in jail. You know why my namesake—

Senator Pratt: You are trying to justify your own failing to answer questions before this place with more examples of outright corruption—

The PRESIDENT: Order, Senator Pratt.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Thanks, Senator Pratt, I'll take that interjection to get that on the record. As I said, Senator Pratt, for as long as the likes of Senator Cameron and Senator Carr will continue to lie about—

Senator Pratt: Madam Deputy President—

Senator IAN MACDONALD: We must be getting close to the mark here!

Senator Pratt: A point of order, Madam Deputy President: Senator Macdonald accused members on this side of continuing to lie, and accusing people of lying is against the standing orders.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: I withdraw.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Thank you, Senator Macdonald.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: As I've said before, some of the allegations made by the likes of Senator Cameron and Senator Carr, they know are not true. They know they are lies. Yet they continue to make them. Senator Pratt, for as long as people on your side will continue to tell lies about Senator Cash and others, then you will get this response from me. I'll come next time with real details of members of the Labor Party, parliamentarians from the Labor Party, who are now currently in jail and have been in jail.

Senator Pratt: Should Senator Cash be in jail?

Senator IAN MACDONALD: You clearly weren't listening, Senator Pratt. Again I'll take your interjection. As Senator Cash and everyone has known—and you know; you've been in the estimates committee with me when these outrageous allegations have been raised—Senator Cash is not under investigation. If anyone is, it is a former member of her staff, but related to what? It is related to a criminal investigation into whether Mr Bill Shorten, the current Leader of the Australian Labor Party, when he was trying to get into parliament, misused $40,000 of other people's money to fund his election campaign. That's what this is all about. That's what the police investigation is about; it is not into Senator Cash, not into Senator Cash's staff but into Mr Bill Shorten and the AWU. As I said, for as long as this continues to be raised by the likes of Senator Carr and Senator Cameron, you'll get the truth back from me about criminal activity—actual criminal activity, proven criminal activity—of Senator Cameron's mates.

Senator Cameron's mate Mr Eddie Obeid—why is he in jail? I don't have the exact details, but it was something like this, according to the media: he arranged with Mr Ian Macdonald—regrettably my name, but, as I always hasten to add, this was a member of the Labor Party in the upper house of the New South Wales parliament—the bad Ian Macdonald, to give some money to a union guy who could then get a preferential allocation of a coal licence which was worth millions and millions of dollars. It was all arranged by Mr Obeid and the bad Ian Macdonald, one of Senator Cameron's mates. You can understand why the Labor Party, Senator Cameron and Senator Carr particularly, are fixated with police inquiries, because there are so many police inquiries into members of the Labor Party that they obviously dream and sleep it every night.

The attack on the Great Barrier Reef Foundation that I think contained part of Senator Carr's allegation is, again, clearly as unsustainable as almost everything else that he said. The truth of the matter is that this government is determined to look after our marine environment. As I often say, even the conservation groups put out a glossy brochure titled A Big Blue Legacy: The Liberal National Tradition of Marine Conservation. That's not put out by the Liberal Party. It's put out by conservation groups, who go through in detail—and I invite people to have a look at it—all of the serious, actual advancements made in our marine environment by the Liberal and National governments. I've been here a long time and I know the Labor Party have never done anything. The Greens talk about it all the time and do nothing except send their former leader, Bob Brown, in his Sea Shepherd boat up to Cairns harbour and into the centre of the Great Barrier Reef, dropping oil all over Cairns harbour. That's the Greens' contribution to the protection of the Great Barrier Reef!

This government, in April this year, announced an additional $500 million investment to secure the future of the reef. That included $443 million to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation. If you listened to Senator Carr, you would think the foundation—what he calls 'Malcolm Turnbull's rich mates'; this is how Senator Carr described them—put $444 million in their pockets and went out and bought a yacht, ran a big party, upgraded their house perhaps. That's what you'd think, if anyone believed Senator Carr. But I don't think there would be many people in Australia who would believe anything he said, let alone that accusation. This money went to a foundation with a track record in gaining other money from the private sector to contribute to the Great Barrier Reef. This foundation received that money. It all went through the proper processes and has been ticked off by all the relevant authorities.

The funding agreement is a robust one, and it sets out the terms of the partnership. That agreement is readily available for Senator Carr to read, if he could be bothered to do that. But, of course, he doesn't want to do that because then he would know the truth of the matter and would know that everything he says is an absolute and outright misrepresentation. The agreement requires the foundation to implement a strong governance framework, including safeguards to provide assurance over the funds, including against fraud, unlawful activities and other inappropriate conduct. It's all there in the agreement. The department undertook a thorough risk assessment of the grant proposal. The agreement requires a detailed planning and design process in the early stages to address the identified risks and successfully deliver this new investment into the Great Barrier Reef.

What the government was looking for was a partner who could leverage off government funding, and the foundation has a proven track record on this. It attracts substantial funding from the private sector. It's raised more than $90 million for the reef and, of this, about $87 million has come from corporate, philanthropic and other non-government sources. It's demonstrated its ability to deliver benefits to the reef and deliver government funding appropriately. An example of that is the Raine Island Recovery Project, which it did in partnership with BHP Billiton. The foundation engages some of Australia's leading philanthropists as well as scientists from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, CSIRO, the Australian Institute of Marine Science and universities. The foundation will deliver funds to a range of partners experienced in delivering reef protection action, and it will drive a new capacity and partnership for the reef.

I suspect that Senator Carr, even when he was the minister responsible for science, has rarely been to the Great Barrier Reef. As I have said often in this chamber, I am one of the few senators, perhaps the only senator, who actually lives adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef. I know the Great Barrier Reef. I've been there often. I interact with people in my home town of Ayr, in Townsville where my office is, and in Cairns, representing the people there. I know what happens on the Great Barrier Reef. Senator Carr has no knowledge of or interest in the Great Barrier Reef. All he does is get up in this chamber and make unfounded accusations against hardworking, honest and forward-thinking ministers in this government.

The money that the Turnbull government is putting into the Great Barrier Reef is for many, many purposes, one of which is the crown-of-thorns starfish. The Greens would have you believe that the crown-of-thorns starfish is simply a result of climate change in the last few years. Of course, the issue of the crown-of-thorns starfish has been going for, I think, about 100 years, but certainly for 50 or 60 years. I remember as a small child hearing about Ben Cropp and his first work to try and address the crown-of-thorns starfish. Part of the money that is being provided for the reef will be to increase the number of boats and the number of divers who go out and pick up the starfish. I'm not a scientist, but that seems to me to be not a terribly effective way of addressing the crown-of-thorns starfish. I have raised it with people from AIMS, the universities and GBRMPA. I've said, 'Is that an effective way to do it?' and they've told me it is. We are going to increase the number of boats that go out and the number of divers who go out and pick up the crown-of-thorns starfish.

In so many ways, this government and our predecessor government are the ones that look after the Great Barrier Reef. I remember when I was fisheries minister that it wasn't much welcomed in the fishing community—although they eventually did accept the sense of this—when a coalition government set up the green zones in the Barrier Reef. Yet you never get a word of thanks from the Greens political party about the real work that has been done to protect the Great Barrier Reef.

I have responded to Senator Carr's untruthful accusations and I will do so every time they are raised. I know that the Senate wants to get on with other matters. There is an agenda before us, which the Labor Party often disrupt with these questions about answers taken on notice and documents that have been asked to be produced not being produced. Senator Cash gave a very reasonable explanation of why it has not been possible to give the answers that are required at this time. As I understood Senator Cash, the answers are being sought but they do require a lot of work by a lot of different agencies. She was asked why they weren't. She gave a very clear, reasonable and short explanation of it. That was followed by a 15-minute tirade from Senator Carr about nothing—about nothing that was relevant to the question before the chamber.

For as long as the Labor Party think they can get up and make these sorts of unfounded accusations, besmirching the good character of the ministers of this government, they'll get me responding for 20 minutes to explain the truth of the matter. So, I would hope that they don't continue to waste the time of the Senate with these unfounded accusations and these political tirades being shouted at those of us who have the misfortune to stay in the chamber. But, for as long as they do, they will have me responding to them, because I'm not going to let—I won't use the description I would like to—some senators of Senator Carr's standing besmirch honest, hardworking ministers in the way he often chooses to do.

Question agreed to.

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