Department of the Environment

Archived media releases and speeches

The Hon Tony Burke MP

Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities

Question without notice - Parliament House

18 June 2012

GRAHAM PERRETT (MEMBER FOR MORETON): Will the minister update the house on Australia’s commitment to protection of our oceans? Are there any risks to delivering the policy and what are the implications beyond Commonwealth waters?

BURKE: Thanks very much Madam Deputy Speaker and I’m glad that there is a side of the House willing to ask a question on this issue.

It was extraordinary enough that they were willing to damage the national interest on the issue because they had this killer attack on the way and the suspense we are all waiting for, because a major announcement was made last week.

Australia has always been one of the world leaders in national parks on land. Yellowstone and the Royal National Park were the two first national parks on land in the world.

Last week Australia also because the world leader on national parks in the ocean.

It’s something that this side of the House is very proud of and it’s something that despite the games that have been played opposite there had been talk that there was a level of bipartisanship on this.

The plan was first put forward, the principals were first put forward under the Keating Government. But the commitments that were made internationally were made at a conference known as Rio+10 in Johannesburg where the representative for Australia was a bloke by the name of Kemp, Environment Minister Kemp.

When the other side signed up to the words that there would be a representative, comprehensive and adequate network of marine national parks. We found out since the objections that have come previously with Ron Boswell interestingly becoming the person to commit the opposition to try to tear this apart on the ground of the impact of commercial fishers and rec fishers.

Let’s look at each of them. In terms of commercial fishing, the impact of the gross value production is between 1 and 2 per cent of the total industry. 1 to 2 per cent impact.

On rec fishing, which has been the principle issue that the Leader of the Opposition has identified as being his concern. If you are on the east coast and you are anywhere south of Mackay, you have to get out in your tinny almost to Lord Howe Island before you find the first area where rec fishers are not allow to go.

Even if you are in Mackay you have to take your tinny for 400km before you reach Marion reef and once you get to Marion reef you are banned from fishing on it, but you are still allowed to fish around it which are the key pelagic species that the rec fishers are after.

We have a situation where the fear campaign that they have wanted to run during the last 12 months. Time is up.

Rec fishers know that this is in Commonwealth waters a long way away from the areas that they want and Australians know and are proud to be the world leaders in establishing protection of the oceans.

SUPPLEMENTARY QUESTION: I refer to the Minister’s comments on the need for global action on our oceans and our environment. How will Australia be advancing this at Rio+20?

BURKE: I am very glad that question has been asked Madam Deputy Speaker.

All of these reforms, to make them at their best practice you want to make sure that you go as far as possible in the world coming closer to the good standard of fisheries management that Australia has and the good standard of marine parks that Australia has. That’s why it used to be bipartisan that we would have an involvement in the coral triangle initiative. That why it used to be bipartisan that we would engage in the Earth Summit and the meeting of Environment Ministers that happens once every ten years.

It is not necessarily the summit itself. It’s the bilateral meetings that you have on the one occasion with all the Environment Ministers in the world are in the same place. It should be bipartisan that you will have those negotiations country after country.

Yet the exact same officials who were organising bilateral after bilateral, back to back - not the meetings on the beach that the Member for Flinders wanted to be able to attend when he was on TV on the weekend. Not the meetings on the beach - but the bilateral where you advance the national interest in meeting after meeting. Those same officials are now cancelling those meetings.

For the simple reason that the same pairing arrangements that caused the Leader of the Opposition to play chasey in and out of the chamber, the same pairing arrangements that cause chaos on that other side mean that even this has to be turned into a political game.