Great Barrier Reef

Federation Chamber on 18/06/2018

PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS - Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is a remarkable natural wonder. It's breathtaking and spectacular. I've been very privileged to visit it before. It makes up in total about 10 per cent of the world's coral reef ecosystems. It stretches almost 3,000 kilometres, almost the distance from Brisbane to Melbourne and back again. It's one of Queensland's greatest landmarks and one of Australia's most beautiful natural environmental treasures.

The long-term protection and conservation of the Great Barrier Reef is critically important, and it is essential that it be preserved for future generations. That's why I and so many people in Brisbane were delighted that this year's federal budget made an additional investment, Australia's largest ever investment in the reef, of more than $500 million. This new funding is on top of the $2 billion that's already been allocated under this government to protect the reef.

In areas like conservation actions speak louder than words, so I'm proud that this government is doing more, investing more, funding more programs, than any other government in Australia's history. This record extends a long track record of support and protection of the Great Barrier Reef by former federal Liberal governments. It was, after all, the Fraser Liberal government that proclaimed the first section of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park in 1979, and it was the Fraser Liberal government again that nominated the Great Barrier Reef for World Heritage listing, leading to the World Heritage Committee placing it on the World Heritage List in 1981. The Howard government brought in the Great Barrier Reef Region (Prohibition of Mining) Regulations 1999 to prohibit mining in areas just outside the Great Barrier Reef region, falling outside the marine park. And it was also the Howard Liberal government that extended the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park in 2000 to include six new sections right along the coastline of Queensland that were previously missing out on the park's protection status. That added almost 1,300 square kilometres to the park.

When this coalition government took office in 2013, we inherited a situation where, sadly, the Great Barrier Reef was on the UN World Heritage Committee's watch list, basically because Labor was proposing four sites there for the dumping of dredge spoils. The coalition put a stop to the dredge sites, and, happily, the Great Barrier Reef was then taken off the UN's watch list. That's the environmental record of action of which this government is rightly proud.

Of course, I'm pleased that this government is bringing in the next generation of marine parks, including new marine parks in the Coral Sea adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef. Once this government has finished this work, Australia will have one of the largest networks of marine sanctuaries around the world. I noted the comments of the earlier speaker the member for Grayndler. Where he is wrong in his assessment is that Labor never could bring the different stakeholders together. They didn't adequately base their initial proposals on the science. It was mostly politics and talk, rather than action—no results. This government is actually getting that job done. We've actually brought the stakeholders together and based it on the science, and therefore we will have these new marine parks very proudly as part of our environmental heritage when it comes to the Great Barrier Reef and marine parks.

I spoke in my maiden speech about my love for and connection with Australia's landscapes and environments. The Great Barrier Reef includes more than 2,900 coral reefs of different shapes and sizes, 600 islands, 300 coral cays and about 150 inshore mangrove islands. These sorts of landscapes and seascapes right around Australia, including the Great Barrier Reef, provide some of the most spectacular scenery and marine ecosystems on the planet.

I want to draw out the fact that over $100 million of the new funding announced in the budget will go specifically to scientific research, to invest in cutting-edge scientific technologies that will build more resilient coral, to adapt and deal with some of the global pressures, including the heat and light stress that the Great Barrier Reef is currently subject to. Like reefs all around the world, the Great Barrier Reef is under pressure. That's why it's important that our good work in Australia in reef restoration is shared internationally, to help some of our neighbours in the Asia-Pacific region to tackle this global challenge.

This federal budget contained very welcome news for those of us who want to see our natural environment protected for future generations, as only a Liberal government has proven it can do. Conservation is inherently a conservative thing. Hopefully this record investment in the reef by the federal government will inspire even more Australians, including philanthropists and groups, to work together and build on the united efforts being made to protect and conserve the reef for generations to come.