MATTERS OF URGENCY - Climate Change


Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (17:11): We have just heard speakers from the Greens political party and the Australian Labor Party—federally, that is—again denigrating one of the biggest job providers in Queensland, which is our Great Barrier Reef. The reef is a natural attraction that people in their droves come from North America and from Europe to see, yet the Greens and the Labor Party, falsely, would have these people believe that the reef has been destroyed. That is why, in one of their finest moments in life, the tourism operators in Cairns refused to take Senator Waters and Senator Di Natale out to the reef. I applaud them for doing that. I am not quite sure how the senators got there, but it appears from question time that they did get there. I suspect it was probably by the Greenpeace vessel shortly after the time that it dropped oil into the Cairns harbour, which has had an impact on the Great Barrier Reef. The only vessel that has done real damage to the Great Barrier Reef in recent years has been that Greenpeace vessel. I think the former Leader of the Greens, Mr Bob Brown, was chairman of Greenpeace when it dropped oil into Cairns harbour, polluting the Great Barrier Reef. Perhaps that is how they got out there. But all credit to those courageous tourism operators in Cairns who drew attention to the lies being promulgated by the Greens and the Labor Party by refusing to convey them out to the reef.

I enter this debate as the only one of the listed speakers who actually lives adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef, which I have done for most of my life. I am also one of those who has actually seen the Barrier Reef for the last 50 years or so and who has an understanding of how it is resilient and how it will protect itself. I want to put this debate in perspective as one of the few who are not just reading what the Greens and the radical environment groups propagandise but have actually experienced what this is about. I also want to put this in perspective by again highlighting this little booklet put out by the Marine Conservation Society entitled The Big Blue Legacy: the Liberal National Tradition of Marine Conservation. Indeed, it is a wonderful book. I have had my issues with the Marine Conservation Society and with the other groups that have supported this, but they have fairly indicated that every single initiative for our marine health has been at the core of the Liberal and National parties. I pay tribute to my friend former senator Robert Hill for introducing the world's first oceans policy, which led to the establishment of these marine protected areas.

I also have an interest in this because I was the Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation at the time Senator Hill and Mr David Kemp were the environment ministers who introduced the green zones. I can tell you as fisheries minister that that was a challenge, but these are initiatives which the coalition has taken. Labor has never done anything at all, and the Greens of course shout from the sidelines but are never likely to seriously have any tangible benefit to the Great Barrier Reef.

You have heard from Labor speakers here, and no wonder they are confused. They have confused everyone else. The last Labor speaker spent all of her speech attacking the coalition federal government and Mr Hunt in particular for approving the Adani mine, but clearly she does not realise that the last two necessary approvals for the Adani mine have been given by the Queensland Labor government. So, for all the attacks of the Labor Party on Mr Hunt, the government that has given power to the Adani mine to go ahead—rightly so; I must say it is one of the few decisions made by Premier Palaszczuk's government and by far the most sensible decision her government has ever made—is the Queensland Labor government. The Adani mine, in the Queensland Labor government's defence, has a number of very strenuous conditions. Mr Hunt's approval of the Adani mine has a great series of conditions attached to it. And, of course, the Adani mine is some 300 kilometres from the coast. The Greens would, as they did with the Port Hinchinbrook debate, misrepresent the issue to gullible Australians who will believe their rhetoric. Of course, 300 kilometres inland is nowhere near the Great Barrier Reef and all the protections in place to protect the Great Barrier Reef.

While the Greens and the Labor Party denigrate the Great Barrier Reef and the marvellous resource it is for any number of Australians and their employment, they never mention the research that came out of the Australian Institute of Marine Science just three or four weeks ago at a function that I was privileged to attend with the whole of the board and the senior officers—all of the senior scientists who have an interest in the Great Barrier Reef. What did they determine which you never hear the Greens or the Labor Party mention? It was that the coral coverage on the Great Barrier Reef is actually increasing. In the four zones of the Great Barrier Reef, three of them are substantially increasing their coral coverage. Have you ever heard Senator Waters mention that? Have you ever heard Senator Singh mention that? Have you ever heard any of the Greens or the conservation societies mention that? No, because it does not fit their rhetoric. It does not fit the misinformation they continue to peddle to gullible Australians, no doubt with the hope of getting a vote at the next election. So the coral coverage is actually increasing in three of the four zones. In the most northern zone it is coming down but from a very high base.

The reef has always had challenges. The crown-of-thorns starfish has been around for at least 50 years that I know of, and we have been addressing it. We keep funding different things—different initiatives, different programs—to address that. The Commonwealth government takes very seriously any threat to the Barrier Reef, and that is why we have immediately provided some substantial funding to target monitoring of the coral bleaching through the University of Queensland. We have announced $60 million worth of projects under the Reef Trust that will greatly improve water quality and reef resilience. Minister Hunt has also sought and received detailed briefings by the independent expert scientific panel on reef science, led by former Chief Scientist Professor Ian Chubb.

These are real initiatives—real, tangible actions—things that are seriously addressing the issues on the Great Barrier Reef, but they are not the headline-grabbing stuff that the Greens political party and the Labor Party choose to embark upon. But, in doing what the Greens and the Labor Party are doing federally, they are destroying the jobs and livelihoods of many small businesses along the Queensland coast, some in the community in which I live, by falsely pretending to international would-be tourists that the Barrier Reef is dead. The Barrier Reef has been changing since time immemorial. It is a resilient organism. It has its problems but it recovers and, with government help, it will. But I tell you what does not help: when the Greens attempt to destroy the livelihoods and jobs of many small businesses and workers along the coast of Queensland.

The rhetoric about the Adani mine is simply not true. You heard Senator Singh make some allegations that Adani have decided to shelve it. That is simply not true. It is a misstatement. It is not at all factual, and yet this is the standard of debate we get from the Greens and the Labor Party when it comes to the Barrier Reef. It is a great asset and it is something I am proud to say will be there forever.

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