Matter of Public Importance - Marine Sanctuaries


Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (16:10): I hope to bring back a little bit of realism and truth into this debate. The last two speakers simply repeated the propaganda of Greenpeace. For some reason, Greenpeace seem to want to shut Australia down completely, and one wonders why that might be. Apart from the rhetoric and spin and buzzwords of the Green Left Weekly, the reality is, as the previous speaker said, the impact on commercial fishing in the Coral Sea will be absolutely minimal. I agree with that. Why then go to the extent of shutting down a fishery that was profitable, that was one of the best managed fisheries in the worlda fishery that the Australian Fisheries Management Authority had carefully monitored over many years and a fishery that had delivered some fresh seafood to Australian tables

This is the problem with the Labor-Greens alliance. An international environmental group like Pew, which is an offshoot of Greenpeace, come in and want to shut Australia down. But where is the science The science on the Coral Sea has been with us for decades and it is called the Australian Fisheries Management Authority. It has been very carefully managed. There has never been any problem with the fish stock there and, I suggest, right around Australia. Yet here we are shutting this down to any sort of commercial fishing. Currently 70 per cent of our seafood is imported from some place in the world that does not have the Australian Fisheries Management Authority's careful management. I am told that within 10 short years 82 per cent of seafood consumed in Australia will come from overseas.

We are not a productive fishing nation. Our waters, not being all that cold, are not the best for fisheries, but we made our own way. We have had the most careful fisheries management for decades. We have had the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation doing the research, the science, into this. It was not necessary to embark upon this sledgehammer approach to shut down not just the commercial fishing industry but a big swathe of recreational fishing as well.

Senator Cameron, who follows me in this debate, will be an expert on this no doubt, coming down from the ivory towers of the tall buildings in Sydney and Melbourne where he sat as a director on one of the big insurance companies in the Australian superannuation scene. He will be able to tell us how the government is going to police these marine parks. All the Australian fishermen will abide by the law because, much as they hate it, it is the law and they are law-abiding. But it will open the doors for pillaging by those pirates that we know are out there. There will be no-one left to observe them because the ones that used to observe them were the Australian fishermen when they were out in those distant waters. Now there will be no-one to observe them. Even if they were observed, any Australian fishing vessel that may have been able to police those boundaries is currently stuck out north-west of the country, in the fruitless task of trying to peg those porous borders that Ms Gillard has created with her immigration policy and her inability to stem the flow of illegal immigrants into Australia. Perhaps the Labor Party is going to accept the offer of Sea Shepherd to go out and police the marine park. Sea Shepherd has the vessel that is out there committing piracy on the high seas, whose captain is currently on an extradition order to South America to face marine criminal charges. The Sea Shepherd organisation have offered to help the Labor government get out of their quandary on who is going to police the marine park. Of course, why wouldn't Sea Shepherdpromoted by Pew and the Greenpeace organisationtry to help the Labor government fill in what is a clear gap in this whole proposal

I want to briefly respond to Senator Faulkner, who was saying that the only people that do any good in the environment are the Labor Party and the Greens. This whole policy of marine reserves comes from the coalition's oceans policy, the first oceans policy anywhere in the world, which did provide for marine bioregions. In the time I was minister, we introduced the first one, in the south-east of Australia, but the difference is: the marine reserve in the south-east of Australia is a multipurpose reserve. It was introduced in close consultation with fishermen, transport operators and any other stakeholders. And it was a good outcome. There is careful management, but there is also an ability to fish there, both commercially and recreationally. The Labor Party simply do not understand.

I remind Senator Faulkner as well that it was the coalition who brought in the green zones for the Great Barrier Reef. We did that knowing there would be some disruption to fishing, and we said we would set aside $10 million for compensation. We are currently $250 million into the compensation packet and it is nowhere near finished. And yet the Labor Party tell us that $100 millionwhich they have not budgeted for, I might addis there to pay off those people affected. Well, $100 million will not go anywhere. It is not budgeted for in the budget that is barely a month old, and who knows what that might do to the so-called surplus This is another example of the Labor Party's complete inability to manage anything properly.

If I had three hours, I could tell you of the good environmental legislation and management that the coalition have done, but we are opposed to this stupidity, which impacts on mums and dads and impacts on so many businesses, including small businesses in Cairns and Port Douglas, up my way, and small businesses in the Gulf of Carpentaria, in the northern prawn fishery region. There are marlin boats out of Cairns, recreational fishermen, who do go out that far, to the other side of the reef. As Senator Boswell mentioned, already one business is in trouble, having lost a $120,000 charter fee since the Labor Party brought in this regime. This is typical of the Labor Party. They cannot tell the truth before the election and then, when they get into power, they cannot manage anything they touch. It is the Midas touch in reverse, yet again. (Time expired)

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