62 Wray Ave
PO Box 1224
Ms Parke (4:20 pm) — A constituent recently recounted to me a story about an encounter she had had with a resident of Albany. This person was considering the case she had heard for marine parks. She recounted that she came from a former whaling family. She said, looking back, that the experience of transitioning out of whaling in the seventies was hard for her family and they opposed it at the time but that they had come to realise that it was the right thing to do. After some consideration, this person, whose family had subsequently moved into commercial fishing, felt that the move to put in place a network of marine sanctuaries was another of those important moments—the right thing to do.
Last week, the Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, Tony Burke, on behalf of the federal Labor government announced the single biggest conservation decision in this nation's history: the world's first comprehensive network of marine parks and the world's single largest marine park. This week, as the world's leaders, including our Prime Minister, go from the G20 meeting in Mexico to the Earth Summit in Rio, Australia's decision to protect its oceans takes centre stage. With this unprecedented decision Australia is leading a global turning point in the official understanding and recognition of not only the critical importance of the oceans to sustaining all life on earth but also the devastating impacts of damaging fishing practices, overfishing and the damage that oil and gas drilling can have, and the need to act decisively to set aside key areas from extraction.
As the member for Fremantle I am immensely proud of the strong stand my constituents have taken in calling on the Australian government to acquit its responsibility to protect Australia's unique marine life. In particular I am humbled to have been part of their creation of a vision for the protection of one of the most intriguing and important underwater features in Australia's ocean territory: the magnificent Perth Canyon in Fremantle's very own oceanic backyard. With federal Labor's leadership the Perth Canyon and the incredible underwater ecosystem that this dynamic feature nurtures will be recognised, boosting the livelihoods of the great community of Fremantle, whose history, culture and very life force comes from the ocean.
I am particularly proud that the campaign for marine parks in WA's south-west marine region led the charge nationally in achieving a prioritisation of high-level protection for the most biologically important and threatened part of our oceans: the continental shelf. In Australia's south-west corner the marine worlds collide with the meeting of the wild Southern Ocean and the vast Indian Ocean, mixed together by the magnitude of the force of nature that is the Leeuwin Current as it races south. Our south-west, on both land and sea, is a globally recognised biodiversity hot spot, and it is this legacy of shelf protection that the people of Western Australia are creating now that delivers on the heart of the scientific imperative, and that in doing so provides a firm platform to be built on in the future.
I take the opportunity now to flag the importance of the case that the local community of the Western Australian South Coast has made, many of them long-term recreational fishers, in calling for an end to the long-term inaction by the WA state government and, in particular, the Minister for Fisheries and for Mines and Petroleum, Minister Norman Moore, over the terrible death toll of marine animals and other non-target marine life in the demersal gill nets, a gear type which is not only intolerable but also unnecessary. Hook-and-line is a far better option. This also remains the imperative in the new marine park off Jurien, the most important breeding colony for threatened Australian sea lions on WA's west coast. The community of Geographe Bay has led the way in showing this can and must be done. The next frontier for high-level protection will be the state's north-west—Shark Bay, Ningaloo, the Rowley Shoals, the Pilbara, Coral Coast and the Kimberley—areas that are increasingly at a crossroads with the expansion of resource extraction.
I pay particular tribute to the community of Margaret River, who have overcome great tragedy and challenge in recent times, maintaining control of their destinies by asserting their future as one based on a lifestyle which is the envy of the world. With the creation of a very large no-oil zone the federal government has heard their call that all extraction, like coal, has no part in the future of Margaret River. Margaret River is now flanked on the one side with the old-growth forest protected by Geoff Gallop in 2001, and on the other side with the sea, protected in 2012 by federal Labor.
Fishing is a central part of WA's lifestyle, but the decline of some important fish stocks is gravely concerning. I am excited by the possibilities that last week's announcement opens up for the important contribution it will make to the return of fish stocks to the abundant levels our forefathers knew so well. In 2005 we embraced the opportunity with the introduction of broad-scale sanctuaries in Ningaloo Marine Park, following hard on the heels of the rezoning of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park the year before. Great waves of science are now rolling in off the back of these measures, showing that marine sanctuaries are the most effective way to protect marine life. It is no accident that the best fishing spots in the world are on the edges of marine sanctuaries.
These marine parks will now boost the environmental credibility and marketability of an industry which is working its way towards industry-wide environmental certification, and I am pleased that this federal Labor government is contributing to their case. Like on land, national parks in the ocean are just common sense, so it is no surprise that new marine parks are being rolled out at this very moment by the state government of Western Australia in that state's waters. This week the Camden Sound Marine Park was created, including WA's largest marine sanctuary. Last week the Ngari Capes Marine Park was created in the capes region of the south-west and there are three more to come, including the greatly anticipated Greater Kimberley Marine Park. Such is the strength of support out west for these issues that the member for Curtin—the Deputy Leader of the Opposition—and Premier Colin Barnett are very welcome supporters. It is interesting and telling that there is no member of the opposition from Western Australia speaking on this MPI. This is because they know full well that marine protection is extremely popular in Western Australia.
I am disappointed, though, by the confusing messages that elements of the federal coalition are sending on this matter. Is this the same coalition that under John Howard put in place high-level protection over a third of the Great Barrier Reef; that under Robert Hill put in place some of Australia's largest marine parks at the Great Australian Bight, Macquarie Island and Heard and McDonald Islands; whose very own Liberal Senator Chris Back established one of WA's first marine sanctuaries at Kingston Reef off Rottnest Island, which has now been proven by the CSIRO to have boosted rock lobster levels by 500 per cent?
In this MPI debate today the Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, Mr Burke, talked about the great environmental decisions that have been made by previous governments. In his publication Thoughtlines former New South Wales Premier and now Australia's Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Bob Carr, points to how the big conservation decisions have played an important role in defining leadership in Australia: 'Fraser Island, the reef, New South Wales rainforests, the Franklin River, the wet tropics of North Queensland. Every one of these decisions was tough. Every one of them was politically contested. Every one of them involved the possibility of a backlash in the regions. The Australian government has got it right, and today these great natural areas saved for all time help us define ourselves as Australians.' But it has been a long time between drinks. There is a whole generation of Australians who would not have been born the last time Australia made a globally significant decision for our environment. Now young Australians can celebrate as well in the first-hand knowledge that history has been created.
Let us take a moment to stand back and see what has been done. We started with less than one per cent of Commonwealth waters protected and we now have a national network of marine reserves to protect our ocean environment for future generations. Where did this process start? It started with the Keating government and was continued by the Howard government and now the Rudd and Gillard governments. This is positive change that should be above politics. It is positive change that will benefit not only Australian diving and tourism industries but also recreational and commercial fishers.
I come from a proud fishing community. I have not had one negative response since Minister Burke's announcement last week; not one. Indeed, during the extensive consultation process leading to the announcement I worked closely with Clayton Nelson from the South West Trawl Fishery which operates in a sustainable manner in waters off Fremantle. Notwithstanding some inaccurate news reports last week, the new marine network will have no impact on Clayton's fishery; indeed, he has told us that he is very happy with the result of the federal government's marine process. Australia-wide the impact of this decision on commercial fisheries averages one per cent and for recreational fishers it is negligible. As noted in an article by Paul Gamblin in today's West Australian—which is accompanied by a beautiful picture—interest in marine conservation in Western Australia is growing strongly, with those who have made submissions in favour of protection numbering in the tens of thousands. As Mr Gamblin notes, the real level of support this signals is much greater. And as celebrated Fremantle author Tim Winton noted in a speech in the House recently, when the bumper stickers that say 'I fish and I support marine sanctuaries' go from appearing on kombi vans to appearing on people movers, and now on tradies' utes, you know you have hit the mainstream. I am proud to be part of a federal Labor government that has made this historic decision to support our marine environment. I congratulate the minister for his vision and thank all those involved in the consultation process.