Department of the Environment

Archived media releases and speeches

The Hon Tony Burke MP

Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities

Marine parks – Campbell Newman – container deposit legislation

Doorstop interview
24 August 2012

TOPICS: Tony Abbott's attack on marine parks Campbell Newman container deposit legislation

TONY BURKE: Thanks very much for coming down at short notice. Tony Abbott has just concluded a media conference at the Brisbane Boat Show, where, for the first time now, he declared that the Opposition seems firmly opposed to establishing a network of marine national parks in the ocean.

One of the key reasons Tony Abbott gave was that he believed the scientific work hadn't been done. This is the scientific work on which the proposal had been based. These are the documents Tony Abbott claims don't exist.

Now, I'm not surprised he's saying they don't exist. To understand them would involve reading, and Tony Abbott's had a new habit now, that if it involves reading it's not one of the things that he does.

But these documents have existed for some time. One of them even has a photograph of one of his colleagues having been responsible for developing part of the science of marine parks.

You'd think, from what Tony Abbott said today, that establishing national parks in the oceans was a brand new idea that had been rushed through without consultation. Let's make no mistake, the idea and the process began in the years of the Keating Government. The legislation which is being used which has determined the way marine parks in the ocean are established was introduced by the Howard Government and voted for by Tony Abbott, as the member for Warringah.

The process has been going for decades, and this year the Government has brought it to its conclusion. There is a large body of science which is about establishing the different bioregions to make sure that you get a representative network of the different forms of marine life that we have in our oceans.

The consultation has been extensive over that time, and I know because I haven't just relied on my department to do it. I've done a large amount of it personally, face to face with environmental groups, with recreational fishers, with commercial fishers, with different levels of the tourism industry as well. We've ended up with a situation where we have world leading environment outcomes, and yet we've minimised the impact on commercial fishing and on recreational fishing.

Tony Abbott, today, was claiming this would be a problem for young people who wanted to go out fishing. Where he was standing, in Brisbane, was four hundred kilometres away from the nearest area where recreational fishing would not be allowed. We have the most extraordinary fear campaign with an absence of any fact underpinning it from Tony Abbott today.

Make no mistake, Australians believe in protecting the ocean.

Even the Howard Government allowed these processes to advance. What we have from Tony Abbott today is simply an approach that says if you believe in environmental protection he will stand firmly opposed.

If you believe in protection the oceans he will stand firmly opposed to you. It's not about recreational fishing. People don't get in a tinnie and go out four hundred k and come back at the end of the evening with the fish there for dinner.

The commercial impact is less than one per cent of the impact of the value of our wild catch fisheries - less than one per cent. The only reason you would oppose this proposal is if you just don't believe in putting down protection for the environment. And that is firmly where Tony Abbott stands today.

QUESTION: You were talking about reading. This morning Mister Abbott was again critical of claims of the Slater and Gordon claims. Are you critical of him, that he didn't watch all the press conferences [inaudible]?

TONY BURKE: Well, he gave a media conference today that was less than five minutes. That's how much scrutiny he was open to. The Prime Minister, yesterday, had media conferences again and ended an hour and a half after it had begun. It went for ninety minutes. I mean she went directly from there to question time.

The Prime Minister is a strong character who is willing to be there, answering questions, and to be there for a level of scrutiny that would terrify Tony Abbott's minders. They had a go at giving him a bit of scrutiny. They put up on the 7:30 Report during the week. I bet they don't do that again for a very long time.

As far as reading's concerned, can I say if it involves reading Tony Abbott won't do it. If it involves checking for facts Tony Abbott won't do it. It's the way he operates now. He decided the less he knows the more he can claim and the Australian people are getting this loud and clear every time.

You ask him had he read the BHP report? He hadn't. Had he read the Prime Minister's transcript? He hadn't. He's now claimed that these documents don't exist. Why? Because they're in words, and that's not something that he'll deal with.

QUESTION: Mr Burke, you met with the state Environment Ministers today. Did you discuss this whole idea of having a tax on recycled bottles and cans?

TONY BURKE: The issue of container deposit schemes, was on the agenda for the meeting today. At the beginning of the discussion I made clear to state ministers that this was something that we weren't interested in imposing unilaterally on them. It is very much a decision for individual states.

Queensland have made clear that they don't want to go down that path at all and that's a decision for them. The other states took a view that they want the additional work done so that they can make decisions on this next year, and that work will now be going to the Commission.

QUESTION: Can I go back to the fishing issue? I understand what will likely happen [inaudible] Government to allow fishing in some of the exclusion zones. What would happen if [inaudible]?

TONY BURKE: Very simple. It comes to a principle of do you believe there is a value in having some areas just reserved for nature? This is becoming a very clear philosophy of the Liberal Party now as to how they view national parks.

We view national parks as something where you go there and it's a place where people can enjoy nature and where you don't engage in any levels of extractive activity. The Victorian Government have a view on land - if it's a national park you can use it for cattle grazing. In New South Wales they want to use them as rifle ranges. In Queensland there's been proposals for large scale clear felling which has appeared in the Courier Mail.

And now for national parks and the ocean, Tony Abbott's view is, well yeah call it a national park but you should still be allowed to fish as much as you want there.

It's a different view of environmental protection and at its core Tony Abbott doesn't see any value in protecting something for nature. It's just a line in the sand. It's a completely different way of viewing the natural environment.

And I do think he's firmly out of step with Australia and he's firmly out of step with what his own party used to believe. Don't forget much - there are marine national parks much closer to shore in Queensland than the ones that I'm proposing. They were put in place in the Great Barrier Reef under the Howard Government. Now how can we be in support of marine national parks that are about thirty kilometres out to see that were put in place by the Howard Government and now rail against ones that are four hundred kilometres away?

The only way you can have that view is if Tony Abbott is now embarking on a complete turnaround and wanting to separate what has always been the Australian view of national parks. It's not for nature - it's for extraction as well. That's his view and it's not mine

QUESTION: [inaudible]

TONY BURKE: You'd be hard pressed, very hard pressed to find many recreational fishers who go that far out. If you're down the east coast of New South Wales, suppose you're in Sydney and you head due east, you make it nearly to Lord Howe Island before you reach the first area where recreational fishers can't go. 

If you're in Queensland, where he was today in Brisbane, you've got to go four hundred kilometres out to sea in a particular direction before you can get to the nearest spot where you're not able to fish.

Don't believe for a moment that this is a frontline principle for recreational fishers, unless he lies about what's involved in it. That's why I raised in parliament during the week. Senator Sue Boyce is now distributing material, I presume with Tony Abbott's approval - that claims we are proposing a lock up of the entire Coral Sea. It's a lie. It is not true at all. 

But unless he can base his story on a lie Tony Abbott's arguments can't get anyone particularly passionate. Once they see the facts they can see it's a good outcome.

QUESTION: Where's the next round of consultation at?

TONY BURKE: There's only a few weeks to go now. I don't have the exact date on the current round of consultation and those submissions are still being collated and coming in. 

That's then followed by another brief process and then we get to a point of proclamation. After proclamation there's then two further periods of consultation when we deal with management plans. There is no shortage of consultation on this one, absolutely no shortage at all. And we're talking about a process which has a wealth of scientific underpinning of it and has been continuing now for decades.

QUESTION: Can I ask you [inaudible]?

TONY BURKE: The drafting of that hasn't been completed yet and I'm not in a position to be able to give you a specific date.

QUESTION: Have your views on that changed as a result of your dealings with [inaudible]?

TONY BURKE: My view hasn't changed at all, that if the same environmental standards can be met, then the more you can streamline the process for business the better. The challenges with Alpha caused me to question the extent to which the Queensland Government was willing to actually meet our environmental standards.

Now I've got to say since Alpha, we've made some amendments to the bilateral agreement with Queensland and we now have a much better line of sight during their assessment process, so I have a high degree of confidence that the changes being put in place mean that Alpha style outcome in terms of the arguments between us and Queensland is unlikely to occur.

I've got to say though, I had no idea that Campbell Newman was going to blow up and get stuck into me yesterday morning. I've got no idea where that one came from. He claims there are a whole lot of projects sitting on my desk at that moment waiting for approval. The number of projects waiting for my approval at the time he said that was zero. Zero.

So it's within the character of Campbell Newman, if there's no facts going at all but we'll still end up with an argument, but if we do it'll be one that he chooses to initiate, not me.

Thank you very much.