Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Bioregional Plans) Bill 2011
Senator SIEWERT (Western Australia—Australian Greens Whip) (11:39): So the Greens are the extreme ones in this debate, apparently, and yet Senator Boswell has just accused the minister for the environment of being a dictator.
e clearly does not understand the act. He acknowledged that he was not paying attention when his side of politics put through the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, which set out what is actually a very consultative process for bioregional planning and for marine protected areas. It is an extremely useful process which, at the time, his side of politics—who are not always known for their environmental credentials—thought was a good process in terms of consultation and the process you go through to establish bioregional planning processes in marine protected areas. But now he is saying, 'No, we don't think it is.' But if you actually look at the process you
see that it is a highly consultative process that takes years.
I have been involved in marine protection and these issues for 25 years. I have been involved in a lot of consultation and I have been involved in the south-west marine planning process since about the mid-1990s. Now we have finally got a draft plan on the table. That is 15 or 16 years. How much longer do the coalition want to be able to consult on marine protected areas? I will tell you: forever—because they do not want them. This is what this is about: they are scared of evidence based planning, which is what happens with marine bioregional planning and when you put marine reserves and marine protected areas in place. It is evidence based planning, and that is why we so strongly oppose this particular bill. What the coalition want to do is make this a political process and try to never get marine protected areas in place. Senator Boswell ignores the science consistently. For years the coalition have been saying, 'No, we don't want marine protected areas. No, we don't want marine no-take areas,' because they are trying to imply that all marine protected areas are no-take areas, and that is blatantly not true.
For years the coalition have been saying, 'There is no science around marine protected areas. There is no science around the role marine no-take areas play.' The science is well and truly in about the role they play in protecting our marine biodiversity. Also on the ledger is how much marine biodiversity we have lost and the parlous state of our coral reefs around this planet—the global importance of protecting those reefs in Australia. Now that the science is much better documented, they cannot rely on that argument anymore, even though they keep rolling it out. Now they want to come in here and try to use a political process to stop marine protected areas, because they know the science is in, they know the evidence is in, they know that communities support it. Go and talk to West Australians. You will clearly see that the majority of Western Australians support marine protected areas and marine reserves.
Go and talk to my community in my home state of Western Australia. Talk to the people in the south-west, which I do all the time. There is overwhelming support for the south-west bioregional area. There is overwhelming support for marine protected areas, because West Australians understand the science and the roles of marine protected areas. They are overwhelmingly committed to Ningaloo Marine Park. They are overwhelmingly supportive of the zoning of Ningaloo. They want to see their precious marine environment protected. The south-west regional area, from the south-west of WA over into South Australia, has more unique species than the Great Barrier Reef. There are species there that are found nowhere else on the planet. It is highly important, and the government has gone through a very consultative process with industry, with stakeholders and with the community. And they are still going through it. This thing about our not talking to the fishers is complete nonsense. The fishers have had extra-special access around, for example, the fishing gear assessment process. The community still have not seen that report, but the fishing industry have, rec fishers have; they have seen it. Here is the coalition saying that there is special consultation with—I am going to mention the word, Senator Boswell—Pew. I am going to mention—wait for it—Imogen Zethoven. I will go back to the issue of claims that the Greens are extreme. You should see Senator Boswell light up and press his button every time you mention that name in estimates. How many hours have the coalition, and Senator Boswell in particular, wasted in estimates asking ridiculous questions about times that non-government organisations have actually dared to ring the government?
Senator Colbeck: Madam Acting Deputy President, on a point of order: I reject the reflection that Senator Siewert is making upon coalition senators and questions we have asked in estimates about bioregional planning. I have spent a lot of time asking questions about bioregional planning because I am concerned about it and I treat it as serious. I reject the reflection that she makes and I ask her to withdraw it.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Moore): Senator, what is your point of order?
Senator Colbeck: It is a reflection on another senator and I ask her to withdraw the reflection.
Senator Bob Brown: On the point of order—what a specious point of order. Senator Siewert has the right to make the comments she has made. They are quite within the rules, and Senator Colbeck should have that request dismissed.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Thank you, Senator Brown.
Senator Colbeck: I have the right to make a point of order—
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Colbeck, you do indeed.
Senator Colbeck: and to deal with issues as I see fit, and we do not need the help of Senator Brown.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: You are now beginning to argue the matter.
Senator Siewert interjecting—
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: I am going to rule on the point of order, Senator Siewert. I do not believe there is a point of order at this stage, Senator Colbeck; it is part of the debate. But I will continue to listen closely.
Senator SIEWERT: If Senator Colbeck would let me finish, I was about to highlight the fact that they are asking questions as though it is wrong, in a democracy, that organisations are allowed to speak to government or to statutory organisations. They ask questions like: have non-government organisations spoken to ministers? Have they spoken to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority? That is the way fishing organisations talk to government all the time. Of course recreational fishers talk to government and statutory authorities—all the time. I would like to know his point. He keeps pushing the argument that Pew run the marine management process. It would not have taken 16 or more years to get to the point where we have some draft plans out on the south-west bioregional planning process if a non-government organisation were pulling the strings of the government—as they keep implying—which is of course a whole lot of nonsense.
There has been an extensive consultation process, which has looked at the science, at the biodiversity hotspots, at the areas of high endemism and at the areas that need special protection. They have consulted industry—they have consulted the fishing industry; they have consulted recreational fishers; they have consulted the oil and gas industry—for a very long time and now those plans are on the table. The conservation movement has made its view very clear: they do not think it has gone far enough. At the moment, the fishing industry or recreational fishers are making claims that it has gone too far. That is part of the process. There is a clear process, a review of management plans, where they are a disallowable instrument.
This is about not allowing the role that marine protected areas play in the essential protection of biodiversity and fish stocks. As I said, they keep denying that, despite the overwhelming evidence.
I urge coalition members to look at the role that marine protected areas play in protecting fish stocks in particular. It is really ironic that recreational fishers and the fishing industry are so vehemently opposed to marine protected areas and particularly to marine no-take areas—look at the role they play in terms of protecting fish stocks. No-take areas are absolutely essential, particularly given the overfishing that has occurred around the world.
Before the opposition jump up and say that I am having a go at fishing regulations, I want to point out that I have stated many times in this chamber that Australia has some of the best fishing regulation in the world. I have acknowledged that. I do not say it has reached optimum effectiveness, but we have said on many occasions that it is among the best in the world. But that is not to say that it cannot be improved. We are still seeing fish stocks depleted. In Western Australia the system has become so politicised, because no government dared to create adequate marine protected areas off the coast of Western Australia, that there are fish stocks after fish stocks and species after species that have got to the point where— (Time expired)