Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority - Documents

Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (15:44): I have come late to this debate, unfortunately; I was not aware it was on. As someone who has lived all of their life in a town adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef, I get very concerned at the scaremongering, particularly by the Australian Greens political party, about the reef. I am told all the time by the Greens political party that the reef is being destroyed and that that is bad for jobs in the tourism industry. But, as I suggested to the Marine Conservation Society yesterday, it is scare campaigns such as you get from the Greens political party that is really costing jobs and impacting on tourism to the Great Barrier Reef.

I have great confidence in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. I think they do a fabulous job. I was the fisheries minister when the last Liberal-National Party government introduced green zones into the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. It was a decision that was courageous but difficult for our government and particularly for the fishing industry. The fishing industry was impacted on by that decision but eventually understood—without perhaps in all cases accepting it—that this was an important initiative. It showed the concern that the Liberal and National parties and the government at the time under the prime ministership of John Howard had for the Great Barrier Reef. In fact, our support for the Great Barrier Reef goes back many decades. It was a Liberal government that introduced the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. It was under Liberal governments back in the early days—I think, from memory, in the McMahon era—when the first steps were taken to protect our environment, particularly the Great Barrier Reef.

So I get concerned when there is this sort of campaign. It is a campaign mounted by the Greens political party effectively to shut down coalmining, bauxite mining and the aluminium industry in my state of Queensland. They will use any means to try to achieve that end. As a representative of the state of Queensland, I am very well aware of the jobs and workers that are involved in those industries. I would, at times, appreciate more support on this from the Labor Party, the party that is supposed to be looking after the interests of unions—although we have had examples in the last year or so of how little some members of the Labor Party care about the interests of members of their unions. For instance, Craig Thomson is one who springs to mind. But it would be good if at times the Labor Party more broadly sought to help those whose jobs rely upon industries that we currently have in Queensland.

As I mentioned, we on our side—and Mr Hunt has made this very clear—do not believe in development at all cost. In fact, in respect of the Abbott Point example that was mentioned by the previous speaker, Mr Hunt has imposed a significant number of very stringent conditions. I am confident that the work the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has done has indicated that this can go ahead without damage to the reef. I have been told for years that it is climate change which is destroying the Great Barrier Reef, but it seems that the cause for this alleged destruction of the Great Barrier Reef varies depending on which argument the Greens political party are putting up at a particular time in a political cycle. It used to be that it was climate change that was causing the so-called destruction of the Great Barrier Reef, which I deny. Then when the Greens wanted to attack the farming industry in Queensland, they said it was the run-off and sediments from cane farmers in particular and the beef cattle producers that were causing the problems to the reef. Then, when it suited them, it was this dredging of a very small area of Abbot Point that was going to be the cause of the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef.

You read in some of the material from the Greens political party about how spoil is being dumped on the Great Barrier Reef, yet anyone who understands the Great Barrier Reef will know that there is a big area between the coastline and the actual reef. The dumping is not on the reef. It is in the marine park, but it is not on the Great Barrier Reef. When the Greens say we are dumping spoil on the Great Barrier Reef, people who do not follow these things closely will think of loads of soil and sand being dumped actually on coral reefs. That, as Senator Waters well knows, is not what is proposed. But, as I say, it does not matter to the Greens what the lie is as long as they can justify the end, of shutting down industries in Queensland.

The same thing happened with the forestry industry in Tasmania. I am delighted that we at last have a government in Tasmania that is prepared to stand up to the lies of the Greens political party and their allies when it comes to the forestry industry. The most sustainable forest industry in the world created so many jobs for CFMEU and AWU members. But, thanks to the Greens influence on the Labor Party, these forests have all but been shut down today. I am delighted that Mr Hodgman has made it clear that he was elected on that promise and that he is going to abide by the promise that he made. Good luck to him.

To get back to the point, there has been a reason given why these documents are not being produced. I do not know why the Greens and the Labor Party are insisting on the immediate production of these documents when, as has been said, it could have an impact on court proceedings. My reason for entering into this debate is to say to people around the world that of course the Barrier Reef will change. Of course any natural asset will change, but it is a magnificent place. It is a magnificent place to go diving. It is a magnificent place to have a holiday, and it is not being destroyed as is alleged.

I guarantee to any would-be visitor from Australia or any part of the world that, if they come to the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Queensland, they will have a fantastic time. They will see some magnificent coral reefs. They will be looked after by people involved in the industry who are caring, who know their job, who are proud of the work they do. It is an experience not to be missed.

If there are any senators who have not been to the Great Barrier Reef, I urge them to visit. If they do it during a Senate sitting, I will not even criticise them for doing that. It is an experience that people should be in awe of, able to experience and publicise to the world that the Great Barrier Reef is there. It will always be there. It is a great asset we have and it is doing pretty well.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Thank you, Senator Macdonald. I don't think I can endorse your comments of senators being absent from the chamber to visit the reef.

Question agreed to.

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