Mr Wilson (1:15pm) — I move—
That this House:
We have been on the brink of introducing the first national network of marine protection since the Labor government completed a careful and widely consultative process in 2013. The reason for finally establishing a system of strong and comprehensive national marine protection could not be clearer or more compelling. Across the globe and here in Australia, oceans have already suffered significant damage and marine life is under threat. We have seen very significant loss of species. We know that fragile marine ecosystems like the Great Barrier Reef are being degraded by the impact of human activity. Around the world, we have witnessed catastrophic environmental disasters in the form of oil spills and we have marked the savage depletion of fishing stocks.
If we keep going along this path without change, without radical improvement to marine protection and conservation, the social, economic and environmental harm will be profound and, in some cases, irreversible. Everyone will lose. Our oceans and the marine life with which we share this planet and on which we depend will be subject to ever steepening pressure, harm and degradation if we do not act, and act decisively. That is a proposition we have understood and accepted for some time. That is the shining imperative behind the Save Our Marine Life campaign.
Since 2013, the Abbott-Turnbull government has stalled progress on reform in favour of a questionable review process which has resulted in two work products, the expert scientific panel report and the bioregional advisory panel report. The expert review has comprehensively endorsed the process that created the network proclaimed by the Labor government. It has endorsed the science, the economics and the consultation. It confirms the value of marine park national park zones, which offer the highest value protection, within a framework of varying representative protected areas. But the report of the bioregional advisory panel has proposed some changes that defy the science and will substantially weaken marine protection in key regions.
In my part of the world, this would mean moving the sanctuary away from the head of the incredible Perth Canyon, where the nutrient upwelling is strongest. This is a feeding ground for the endangered blue whale, and it is the main biodiversity hotspot between Ningaloo Reef and Kangaroo Island. The review also proposes removing inshore sanctuary protection at Bremer Bay, a zone of importance for endangered Australian sea lions and one of only three calving sites for southern right whales. This wind-back is to accommodate the expansion of a trawling operation that ABARES has estimated is worth a grand total of $4,700 per annum. As the Ocean Science Council of Australia has said, the ‘overall emphasis of the review’ appears to have largely focused on modifying the zoning by ‘eroding the critically important zones of high protection to zones of lesser protection’, but without any scientific basis and, according to ABARES, minimal economic benefit.
Reform is not easy, and the last thing we need is to start undermining or walking back the vital pieces of this network. I represent a fishing community. I marched through the streets of Fremantle a few weeks ago as part of the 68th annual blessing of the fleet. I have close friends whose families depend on fishing, and I also know how important diving, surfing, sailing and tourism are to the local and wider Western Australian economy. Freo people, like people right around this island nation, feel connected to and responsible for the sea. As Tim Winton has said, it is part of their birthright.
On this issue, all our social, cultural and economic interests are aligned. So let us not go about creating false divisions on this issue. Let us not pretend that a person who fishes for their livelihood, for their table or for fun is somehow different from a person who loves the sea, who wants to protect biodiversity and ensure that future generations live in harmony with the ocean and all its life. They are the same person. They could just as well live in Albany, Hobart, Darwin or Maroubra as in Spearwood or North Fremantle.
Shaping and implementing this network of marine protection is not a contest; it is a shared endeavour. Through painstaking consultation, evidence and scientific expertise, the Labor government secured a network that reaches around this continent and represents at last a basis on which we can live in harmony with the great blue lifeblood that surrounds us. It is open for the Turnbull government to deliver on that reform and to share in that legacy achievement, but it requires them to show some steel. The bioregional advisory panel report makes recommendations that rip and tear at the fabric of a network that must be allowed to operate as a whole; that is what the science tells us. And it will be a howling failure if, by ignorance of the science or by some calculation of narrow political benefit, this government caves in and carves back carefully chosen and scientifically formulated marine protection. Reform is not easy. This reform has been hard won. Let’s seize the opportunity to look after our oceans while we still have the chance.