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: Oceans

4 June 2013

DARREN CHEESEMAN - MEMBER FOR CORANGAMITE: My question is to the Minister for the Environment. Will the Minister update the House on what the Government is doing to protect our oceans? What obstacles are there to this approach?

TONY BURKE - ENVIRONMENT MINISTER: Thanks very much speaker and I thank the Member for Corangamite for the question. Because there is a lot at stake today in terms of whether or not Australia continues to be the world leader on protecting the oceans. And to whether or not we continue a process which has been going on for 20 years and had been supported under the Howard years that has had a complete back flip under this Leader of the opposition.

On the weekend I saw a big article in The Australia that told me there was going to be up to 1000 people rallying in Torquay who were going to be very angry about this process. And then after The Australian article, and I will table it, there was no media coverage of it at all. And I discovered the reason must be that it's a funny way to calculate 1000 people. Those numbers are someway short, they have used the Shadow Treasurer to do the figures clearly.

But what you've got there and I thought well why would it be that so few people ended up turning up to the rally. Because what the Shadow Minister for the Environment didn't tell them was that from the tinny they were speaking from, they spoke from a tinny, admittedly it was on land, but they spoke in a tinny. And when they were making their speeches they didn't let you all know that if you were to go from that rally to an area where you are not allowed to fish, you would have to go out, turn left, go across the Bass Straight and after 460 km you would get to the first place that you not could fish. A place where the no fishing zone was put in place in 2007 when the Member for Wentworth was the Minister for the Environment. The nearest restriction on recreational fishing to that rally was put in place by them under the Howard Government when they were in charge.

The science on which the whole process has been based on was commenced under the Howard years. Some of these plans, on the inside cover have the happy smiling face of the Member for Wentworth endorsing the science. The process of consultation when they say no consultation happened at all - five separate rounds of consultation, three quarters of a million submissions engaged in a process that worked.

Because what we found for the Great Barrier Reef marine park, work which has now come back show restrictions put in place by the Howard Government that they now conveniently forget, is that fish stocks do improve. Coral trout numbers, six times what they used to be, crown of thorns starfish, a  quarter of the levels in the protected zones to what they are in the rest of the park. A process which, for 20 years, had bipartisan support which the opposition are hoping will come to nothing tonight.

DARREN CHEESEMAN - MEMBER FOR CORANGAMITE: Further to the Minister's answer, could he explain the impact if the marine parks' management plans are disallowed?

TONY BURKE - ENVIRONMENT MINISTER: Thanks for the supplementary question. I notice the Shadow Minister is not the one who has moved the disallowance, he has deferred it to the Member for Calare. The Member for Calare, in a piece of organisational brilliance, hasn't only moved disallowance for the Coral Sea, for the north west zone, for the north zone, for the south west zone and the temperate east. He has also moved disallowance for the south east zone, which was the Howard Government zone.

So they are actually attempting, in the vote tonight to abandon the exact plans that had been called on by the Howard Government. This shows exactly how far the negativity has gone. It's not enough to outdo and to try to wreck conservation attempts by this government, they have to attack what little environmental legacy there was from the Howard Government and get rid of that too.

Make no mistake, if disallowance goes through tonight it again becomes legal for oil and gas drilling to happen in the Coral Sea, it again becomes legal for oil and gas drilling to happen off the Margaret River. Areas like the Diamentina Fracture Zone, areas like the Perth Canyon, up for protection now, 20 years of science, all the consultation and what is their approach?

In the power of wanting to say no, just like they did when it was with the super trawler. If it's about protecting the ocean, this opposition has no interest.