Feb 9, 2015

Private Members’ Business – Great Barrier Reef Marine Park

Federation Chamber 

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (12:16): The Great Barrier Reef is not just an environmental asset; it is important to our economy as a tourism asset as well. It is already worth some $5.7 billion to the Australian economy, resulting in the direct employment of some 65,000 people, including many Indigenous Australians. There are 1.6 million visitors per year, and it is a key drawcard for our major markets in China, India and Malaysia. Tourism is the ultimate sustainable industry and has been nominated by Deloitte as a key driver of jobs and prosperity over the next 20 years.

Voters in the Queensland election sent a very clear message up and down the coast to save the Great Barrier Reef. The LNP know the price of everything and the value of nothing. Queensland Labor listened and committed important funding—$100 million for the reef package to improve water quality and $40 million for a tourism plan to lift demand and create jobs. Campbell Newman just had a plan to reannounce infrastructure funding for tourism roads. There was no reef plan for the future.

The member for Leichhardt’s motion is important but it cannot stand alone. Climate change is of course amongst the biggest threats to the Great Barrier Reef, and we must address this in conjunction with other measures, which has been made very clear. The government’s position is very clear. President Obama spoke in Queensland and said on 15 November last year:

The incredible natural glory of the Great Barrier Reef is threatened … I want to come back and I want my daughters to be able to come back and I want them to be able to bring their daughters or sons to visit. And I want that there 50 years from now.

Did the current federal government acknowledge that praise for the pristine Great Barrier Reef? No. They condemned President Obama’s statements as an attack on our national sovereignty—showing how backward they are. This reaction from the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the trade minister shows that they simply just do not get it. It does not matter who is in charge of the LNP; only Labor is committed to a strong environmental policy that recognises that our natural environment is not only important for the quality of our life but also a major driver of economic activity.

Of course, the current government have cut all domestic tourism funding. They argue that domestic tourism funding is the business just of state governments. That particularly hurts Queensland. They have of course cancelled Australia’s membership of the United Nations World Tourism Organization—a minimal fee for involvement on the global stage. Once again we saw the isolationism that led those opposite to oppose the ratification of the Kyoto protocol and the engagement in those international forums for so long.

Only Labor governments will protect the reef. We will take real action on climate change, not the absurd response that we have seen from those opposite, who either support the policy that Malcolm Turnbull denigrated so effectively or, as Malcolm Turnbull himself has done, backflip on their own views in order to try and win votes for the ongoing leadership battle that is occurring in those opposite.

As tourism shadow minister, I, with Mark Butler, announced—in November last year that Labor would put a ban on dredge spoil dumping in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage area and that we would continue our work investing in the reef. The former federal Labor government invested $200 million in Reef Rescue—cut by those opposite. That, together with Queensland Labor’s commitment, was one of the reasons that the LNP were rejected so resoundingly in the Queensland election and why Australian voters are continuing to reject the Abbott government.