REGULATIONS AND DETERMINATIONS - Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Amendment (Hammerhead Shark) Regulations 2018 - Disallowance


Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (18:01): If it comes to a question of who to believe in these issues, Greenpeace and Senator Whish-Wilson or the Threatened Species Scientific Committee, I will always go with the scientific committee. I've seen the Greens political party in action before. In fact, I remember a Senate committee that Senator Whish-Wilson chaired. After wanting to go for a taxpayer-funded snorkelling trip to the Barrier Reef, he called the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, who, contrary to the allegations of the Greens political party gave evidence every day, inconveniently for the Greens, that actually the waters in the northern Great Barrier Reef were one degree cooler than they had been the previous year.

Senator Whish-Wilson: What a stunning revelation!

Senator IAN MACDONALD: It's the evidence given to a committee that you chaired, Senator Whish-Wilson. But of course you don't like it because it is an inconvenient truth. Don't worry about the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority; we will take the view of a politician, Senator Whish-Wilson.

I once employed, when I was the environment parliamentary secretary, a very able and committed young environmentalist who had previously worked for Greenpeace. I said, in conversation with her once, 'Why did you leave Greenpeace?' She said, 'I could not stand the lies and misrepresentation that these green groups put out.' That was because they worked on the basis that the means justifies the end. They'd just make up any story, any story at all, as long as it would attract a headline on the ABC, which is pretty easy to do. It didn't matter how inaccurate it was. That was the approach of Greenpeace and, from what I've seen through long experience in this chamber, it's the approach of the Greens political party as well.

The Threatened Species Scientific Committee found that the scalloped hammerhead shark could be eligible for the endangered list, but its clear recommendation was for Minister Frydenberg to list the species in the conservation dependent category, as that would provide the best outcome for the survival of this species. That was the recommendation of that scientific committee, but it doesn't accord with Senator Whish-Wilson's jaundiced view on this and other matters. Why did they recommend that? Because strong management actions agreed with the Northern Territory and Queensland governments for the species' protection and recovery could be implemented under law, including within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. That includes limiting the total annual catch of scalloped hammerhead to 200 tonnes or less. The committee said:

… management actions will remain in place while the species remains listed as Conservation Dependent.

It also said significantly improved monitoring and reporting would facilitate knowledge of the rates of recovery for the species and underpin the management reforms and future reviews of conservation dependent listing. That's the recommendation of the scientists, but Senator Whish-Wilson and his crazy mates from the Greens political party don't like the scientific evidence, so they make up their own.

I would have liked to have contributed a full 20 minutes on this, but I'm aware there are a lot of senators who would like to make a contribution. So, unlike Senator Whish-Wilson, I won't take the full 20 minutes. I'll attempt to leave some time for other senators who want to make a contribution. But, before I do allow colleagues to speak, by curtailing my remarks, I just want to read a couple of excerpts from a couple of pieces of correspondence which I've had from constituents of mine in Queensland. One's from David Caracciolo from Mackay Reef Fish Supplies, and I suspect many other senators have got this letter. He says: 'To all senators, I'm writing to make you aware of the false allegations by some green groups who are trying—and succeeding—to see the demise of all commercial fishing activity in Australian waters.' As a former fisheries minister, I happen to know that that is true. The Greens would like nothing more than to shut down all forestry and to shut down all fishing within Australian waters.

Senator Canavan: They still eat fish.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Yes, they still eat fish! So we could use imported fish from sources that are sometimes questionable—that's what the Greens want. But fortunately the majority in this place don't agree with them. This letter from Mr Caracciolo, who is a well-regarded, well-respected person in the Mackay area, says: 'The latest allegations are that the scalloped hammerhead shark is near extinction in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. These allegations are totally incorrect. The commercial sector does not target this species, so the managers will not see big catches reported in logs, but we do catch some when we are targeting other species that are incidental catches.' He goes on with some very compelling arguments which I don't have time to read in full, but I will come to the paragraph that is important to me as a representative of Queensland constituents. He says: 'There are lots of associated businesses along these coastal towns of Queensland that rely on these producers for supply of fresh seafood to sell to consumers who cannot catch their own fish and our tourists who come to these regions. I do hope this does not fall on deaf ears and you can see how wrong these motions are. There are a lot of livelihoods that you guys are holding in your decisions.' That's a sentiment that I think is mirrored by most people, not just those in the fishing industry, along the coast of Queensland who I represent.

The other letter I just want to very briefly mention is from Margaret Stevenson from Burnett Heads near Bundaberg in Queensland. She's the wife of a commercial fisherman. She's been involved in fisheries issues for 20 years. She was on the Queensland shark working group and is currently on the Queensland government's East Coast Inshore Fishery Working Group. She says: 'Whilst the hammerhead shark is supposed to be under threat in some parts of the world, when I was on the shark working committee we were told that the entire Australian take of these sharks is approximately one per cent of the world's take.' So clearly—and I say this with irony—this is a fish that is under threat! She goes on to say: 'They are extremely common in Queensland waters. In recent years our Queensland government has taken steps to control and reduce the commercial take to ensure that it does not increase in order to prevent our Queensland catch, less than one per cent of the world's take, impacting on world stocks.' Mrs Stevenson goes on to mention the importance of the fishing industry to a lot of communities along the Queensland coast and to the consumers of seafood who like to eat Australian seafood, rather than imported seafood. The science is with the way this government has dealt with matters. Clearly, there is no danger to the species whatsoever. It's properly managed. And this disallowance motion should be defeated.

Can I just conclude by making reference again to this book I've often referred to, a book put out by a lot of the mature, sensible conservation groups, entitled A Big Blue Legacy: the Liberal National Tradition of Marine Conservation. I like to wave this around. Senator Whish-Wilson and the Greens hate it, because this book clearly demonstrates that the only political parties that have ever done anything for marine conservation in Australia are not the Greens or the Labor Party but the Liberal-National party coalition, and we will continue to do that.

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