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Media Release
Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment

Common Sense Wins Over Democrat Hysteria

19 November 1996

Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill says a decision by the Senate to support regulations to allow a controlled fishing experiment on the Great Barrier Reef is a win for the environment.

The Australian Democrats had sought to overturn the regulations despite the weight of evidence provided by eminent Australian marine scientists that the experiment should proceed.

The Labor Party had supported the Democrats in contradiction of assurances sought and given to their Environment spokesperson, Dr Carmen Lawrence.

Senator Hill says the decision of the Senate to reject the Democrat move will be welcomed by all Australians who are interested in the future health of the Great Barrier Reef.

"The Democrats behaviour during this debate has been outrageous. Their claims of destruction of Reef fishing stocks were based more on grabbing a headline than in protecting the Reef. Their claims have been exposed as foolish, deceptive and hysterical.

"These experiments will allow marine scientists to monitor the impact of fishing on 8 of the 500 or so reefs which are currently closed to fishing. They would be fished for a period of one year.

"Eight reefs which are currently open to fishing would be closed for a period of five years.

"There is nothing sinister or threatening about this proposal. It is about ensuring that fishing that is currently allowed on the Reef is sustainable. It is about protecting the future of the Reef, not destroying it."

Senator Hill says it is unfortunate that the Labor Party had become caught up in the Democrat hysteria on the issue, further sidelining Dr Lawrence.

"Dr Lawrence wrote to me stating several conditions which would need to be met for Labor to support the experiment. The Government met all those conditions.

"Senator Faulkner's decision to back the Democrats over his own Environment spokesperson is a slap in the face for Dr Lawrence and leaves her position on the Labor front bench under a huge question mark."

Senator Hill says Australia's world renowned marine scientists will now be able to get on with the job of protecting one of our nation's most valuable natural assets for future generations.

Media comment: Matt Brown 06 277 7640

Commonwealth of Australia