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EPBC Act

Speeches in Parliament
Rachel Siewert 23 Jun 2011

Senator SIEWERT (Western Australia—Australian Greens Whip) (15:47):  The Greens will not be supporting this motion. For a start, regarding this issue about private members' time, we did debate a bill this morning and we got a whole bill through. The Independents were always due to have a slot during this sitting. In fact, as I recollect, it was the previous week that they were due to have a slot on a program—the whole slot. Senator Xenophon was very generous in giving up some of the time for this morning's debate to start the debate on this particular bill.

It is quite obvious why the opposition has brought this debate on at 3.50 pm on the Thursday that we are rising. It is because they know very well what is about to happen in the Senate as of 30 June. So do not pretend anything else; that is exactly why you want to do it. All this talk that it is time dependent on 1 July is nonsense. Admit why it is time dependent. It is not because there are time dependent divisions in the legislation. Be honest: you got the drafting wrong and that is why you had to make amendments. The original drafter of the bill tried to amend the wrong piece of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act and it very rightly got sent off to committee.

Senator Colbeck needs to be fair about what happened in the committee. We all agreed that it should be reported and not pushed out beyond July. We all agreed at that discussion in the committee. As to the comments that Senator Colbeck made in terms of consultation, I think that I went through this pretty clearly this morning when I spoke about the extended period of consultation that had been occurring around the south-east process—during which time the coalition was in government—and the very extensive consultation process that is going on in the south-west areas.
If it sounds like I am backing up the government there, I do not want them to think that we are happy with the plans. We are on the record saying, 'No; we think it needs to improve.' But we do think that there has been a lot of consultation with every stakeholder. As for the backlash during the election, we know very well who was stirring up a whole lot of that. The untruths and misrepresentations of various people's positions that were articulated were outrageous—for example, about the Greens' position on fisheries. There were outlandish statements being made that we want to ban fisheries—which is so far from the truth; it is nonsense. We are the ones who care about the future of fishing because we are the ones who believe we should have adequate marine protected areas so that fisheries can be protected for the long term. In fact, since having that debate this morning, I received an email that once again highlighted the peril that our oceans and our fisheries are in.
To get back to the science, the science continues to highlight the importance of marine protected areas. The fact is that at the moment the act allows a lot of consultation. The management plans are disallowable instruments. In fact, you used that measure yourselves—and I am obviously referring to the coalition—to try to disallow the process for the Coral Sea. So you made use of that process yourselves. It did not get through, but you made use of that process yourselves as a disallowable instrument for the zoning of the management plans. So the ability to have the debate in here quite plainly works.
You want to circumvent the consultation process that happens in the community. When all that process is negotiated you want to then come in and circumvent that and make it a political process so that certain people in the community—and I am not pointing any fingers here—can tell mistruths and half truths about what impact those particular zonings have and say that it will stop fisheries forever and that certain people want to ban fisheries, which is nonsense. That is what will happen if you try to do that with marine protected areas.
Your party felt the process outlined in the EPBC Act was satisfactory at the time. Now, all of a sudden, it is changing, because 11 years down the track those provisions are finally starting to be used to get some conservation outcomes and a proper planning process. This talk about bioregional plans and the planning process delivering uncertainty is nonsense. They
deliver certainty because there has been extensive committee consultation and everybody knows where the lines are drawn. That is certainty; it is not uncertainty. What you want to do is further destabilise the process.

 

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