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Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Dr David Kemp
10 February 2003
Labor's introduction of a Private Members Bill that proposes to extend the Great Barrier Reef to the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is a breathtaking combination of hypocrisy and laziness, Minister for Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, said today.
"It is lazy because Labor recycled exactly the same purposeless Bill introduced by the Democrats back in March last year. The Howard Government had already put in place the strongest regime in our history to protect the Great Barrier Reef - Australia's greatest natural icon," he said.
"The Reef and its World Heritage values are now protected not only by the Marine Park Act itself but by the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act - the most powerful piece of legislation ever enacted to protect the Reef, which enables anything which could damage the reef or its world heritage values to be stopped.
"It is hypocritical because Labor, when in office, prepared an offshore strategy through the Department of Primary Industries and Energy - Promoting Petroleum Exploration Offshore Australia - (published in 1990 when Allan Griffiths was Minister) which pressed exploration of near-reef areas on oil exploration companies.
"It touted that such areas were "under-explored." In fact, Labor encouraged oil drilling not just in two basins adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park - the Townsville Trough and the Queensland Trough, which literally hugs the reef to the tip of Cape York.
"Labor's report told industry that if it found oil just off the Great Barrier Reef, it would have an automatic right to a production licence - and if it needed a pipeline, a pipeline licence would be granted."
Dr Kemp said the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority is working to develop further protection measures for the Reef's biodiversity by establishing representative areas, in close and extensive consultation with industry and the community.
The Howard Government also recently announced funding for a Great Barrier Reef Water Quality Protection Plan to be carried out by the Douglas Shire Council. This will also be carried out with extensive community and industry consultation and follows the MOU signed by the Federal and Queensland Governments on Water Quality in the Great Barrier Reef in August last year.
"Water quality in the lagoon is fundamental to offering maximum protection to the Reef. The Howard Government's EPBC Act enables the Government to stop any action which could endanger or damage the Reef and yet all Labor can do is recycle other parties' policies.
"Labor is so bereft of policy that it is now scrambling around in the Democrats' waste paper baskets to find something it can call its own."
[A copy of Labor's Promoting Petroleum Exploration Offshore Australia report is available by contacting the Minister's office.]
Dr Peter Poggioli 02 6277 7640