Department of the Environment

Archived media releases and speeches

The Hon Tony Burke MP

Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities

6PR Mornings with Paul Murray - 12 July 2012

12 July 2012
E&OE only

PAUL MURRAY: As you know, the Federal Government last month released its plan for the world's biggest network of marine parks, protecting waters around the nation. It actually, I think - if this comes to be - and it's in the middle of that process at the moment - Australia will have more marine parks than the rest of the world put together and, certainly, the one over the Coral Sea will be the biggest marine park anywhere in the world.

There's an extensive lot of marine parks go along the south coast of Western Australia and come up around the corner, up to around about the area, approximately, off Perth.

Tony Burke is the Minister for Sustainability. Yesterday he opened up the appeals process against this matter - or it's not really an appeals process, as much as a - as the final round of public comment. And Tony Burke joins us now. G'day, Tony.

TONY BURKE: G'day, Paul.

PAUL MURRAY: So just tell us what's the process from here on in?

TONY BURKE: Okay. It's sixty days as of yesterday where, by law, we've got to have a final process where public submissions where if anybody - sorry, Paul. I'm at home.

PAUL MURRAY: Have you got a baby on your knee?

TONY BURKE: How's that? They just found their way to Western Australia.


I thought I'd get a better line if I didn't use the mobile.

PAUL MURRAY: Beautifully done.


TONY BURKE: So anyway, the other method of consultation is for people to make submissions if there's issues that they think that we didn't cover that we didn't look into that they think need to be taken into account. And that's what happens during this period.

PAUL MURRAY: So is it likely that there'll be, you know, any sort of major changes to the plan, from here on in?

TONY BURKE: No, no. It's - the large part of consultation was what we've just done. That went for ninety days. I did a whole lot of that personally, including in your state; making sure that I met face to face with the rec fishing groups, with the commercial fishers, the environmental groups. I did that around the country personally. And that was the main part of working out where those boundaries would go. By law we've got to have this final stage, and so that kicked off as of yesterday.

PAUL MURRAY: I had Rex Hunt some of the program last week. And he's joined in Recfishwest's campaign. They still appear to be diametrically opposed to what you're trying to do here. And they have some hopes of changing whatever can be changed in the rest of this process.

TONY BURKE: Yes. Well, they're a good organisation, Recfishwest. And Rex Hunt, I know, is very proud of what Catch & Release has been able to achieve.

The thing with this process is this is something different to your normal fisheries management. What is happening here is we're effectively establishing the same as a national parks estate, only in the ocean. And if you start from a premise of all you want to make sure of is that you've got sustainable management of your fish stocks, then it's quite reasonable for someone to just be opposed to the whole process.

If you have a view that just with national parks inland there is some value in taking some of our most special places and saying well, we're just going to set that aside for nature, then that's what this concept's about.

PAUL MURRAY: Is it fair to say, Tony, that most of the recreational fishing takes place in the state fisheries areas, whereas these changes that you're about actually affect the commercial fisheries more?

TONY BURKE: Look, most - certainly, I know the West Australian - the day I announced it - had people - a photograph of people casting from the beach. You'd have to be a pretty good caster to reach Commonwealth waters from the beach.


But I don't want to pretend that there's not an impact on rec fishers as well. For example, the environmentalists call it the Perth Canyon. The rec fishers call it the Rottnest Trench.

There are three heads to that canyon, and they're all popular rec fishing spots. We put one of them into a marine national park, the northern-most head. So that area would be closed to rec fishing.

The other two remain completely there for rec fishing, so they are places that - it's not, you know, the most popular places for fishing, but they are significant places, so I don't want to undermine the fact that Recfishwest would prefer that there were some of these boundaries that we'd moved.

PAUL MURRAY: But commercial fishing, in the main, bears the brunt of these changes?

TONY BURKE: That's right. That's right. And - but even then, for commercial fishing - because people get concerned about well, what does this mean in terms of, you know, will this have an impact on how much seafood we need to import or something like that.

The whole plan, across our oceans, hits between one and two per cent of the total value of production for our wild catch fisheries. So wherever we could get the same environmental outcome but minimise the impact on commercial or rec fishing, we've taken those options.

PAUL MURRAY: So that's on value.

TONY BURKE: That's right.

PAUL MURRAY: One to two per cent?

TONY BURKE: That's right.

PAUL MURRAY: Okay. Because we're told now that seventy per cent of our seafood is imported. You wouldn't imagine that would go up too much in terms of replacement for what's lost.

TONY BURKE: No, no. On one to two per cent, there shouldn't be a significant difference. And remember, with that seventy per cent figure on imports, that - we also export a hell of a lot of seafoods, like our southern blue fin tuna. We export between ninety-eight and ninety-nine per cent of that. And WA rock lobster's a big export industry. So while we import a lot of seafood, we also export a fair bit too.

PAUL MURRAY: Has the issue of compensation for affected commercial fishers been finalised yet?

TONY BURKE: Not finalised, no. We've needed to lock down the maps in a more detailed way before you could have those serious conversations. And the department's been going out now and starting those conversations.

There aren't that many businesses where the - there are some, but there aren't that many businesses on your side of the country where there's a complete overhaul for individual businesses. But there's quite a few where there will be significant adjustment. And we've got to make sure that we come to the table to work that out.

PAUL MURRAY: Tony, I heard one of the green groups - I think it was the Wilderness Society - on radio earlier this morning, saying they wanted to use this next commentary period to expand some of the areas which they think should have been included in the first plan. Is that open to them?

TONY BURKE: They can put it in a submission, but I've made my position pretty clear. When we made the announcement a few weeks ago, that was the announcement; that was the plan. And, you know, I'd be surprised if people come up with something that's brand new that hadn't come up in the earlier consultation.

You know, you can end up with a bottomless pit in some of these discussions, where the environmental groups will always want you to go further and the fishing groups will always want you to do less. Where we've landed is something that, in terms of recreational commercial impacts - yes, the impacts are real. I don't want to pretend they're not, but they're not earth shattering. They're not devastating impacts for those industries or for recreation.

And at the same time we have become the world leader in protection of the oceans. Now we've got more ocean than most other countries. And where - there's that line that Paul Keating often uses about when they were handing out continents - not many people got one, but Australia did and that gives us a whole lot of ocean that we've got responsibility for.

I think it's right that we're the world leader on this, but I also think that that doesn't mean you need to turn it into some bottomless pit of constantly trying to go further and further. This is a big step, a good step, and something that I think Australians, for a long time, will be pretty proud of.

PAUL MURRAY: The opponents to the plan - I'll end up on this point - have been looking at the lobbying in Australia of the group called the Pew Foundation - an American group which has been pushing very hard, particularly for the Coral Sea Marine Park. They've got some evidence out of an American fishing magazine - the Pew Group saying that they wouldn't have been able to get this through in America; they've basically used Australia as a beach head. What's your view on that?

TONY BURKE: It's a group that I've hardly ever met with. I've met with them a few times, but the main groups I met with are groups like the Australian Conservation Foundation. So I know - I think part of it is when you're running a campaign it's always good if you can pretend that the other side is some foreign country out with a plot against Australia.

But the truth of this is I've been spending my time meeting with Australians, working out how we can get our own national park network in the ocean. And we've got some of the most spectacular ocean in the world and it's been those Australian conversations that have completely driven this.

PAUL MURRAY: Maybe Pew's been working harder on the bureaucracy than working on you, Tony.

TONY BURKE: Well, given that I made the judgement calls myself, then they went to the wrong place.


If I hadn't done that final round of consultation in Perth, then they might have got away with that sort of strategy.

PAUL MURRAY: Okay, Tony. Good to talk to you. Thanks.

TONY BURKE: Thanks, Paul.

PAUL MURRAY: Tony Burke, our Minister for Sustainability. And that final commentary period on the marine parks is taking place now for sixty days