Marine Parks Amendment (Moratorium) Bill 2011


I lead on behalf of the Opposition in debate on the Marine Parks Amendment (Moratorium) Bill 2011, a private member's bill that was introduced by the Hon. Robert Brown. The object of this bill is to impose a moratorium on the declaration of additional marine parks or the expansion of sanctuary zones within existing marine parks. I indicate at the outset that the Opposition opposes the bill. The former Labor Government did not support the bill and nor will the current Opposition. The principal objectives of the Marine Parks Act 1997 are the protection of marine biodiversity, ecological processes and marine habitats, while at the same time allowing recreational and commercial activities within marine parks that do not violate those primary objectives—a plainly stated aim.

All we had from the Hon. Duncan Gay in his time as shadow Minister was a campaign of lies, distortions and scaremongering in an attempt by him to portray The Nationals as the heroes of the hour, saving fish for recreational and commercial fishing. In truth, the ideas propagated by the Hon. Duncan Gay would achieve the opposite. Marine parks allow for commercial and recreational fishing in the majority of their waters, while sanctuary areas protect key habitats. Fishing is permitted in over 93 per cent of the marine jurisdiction of New South Wales and on average in 80 per cent of marine park waters in New South Wales. Marine parks and sanctuaries help to restore and replenish fish stocks, boost the number, size and breed potential of fish, and strengthen the ability of the marine environment to respond to human pressures such as climate change.

This private member's bill, sponsored by members of the Shooters and Fishers Party, has a long history. Members of that party have a clear policy on these matters. They advocated that policy in the term of the last Labor Government and in the term of this incoming Coalition Government. I do not criticise them for that. Labor respectfully disagrees with the policy of the Shooters and Fishers Party in this area. My criticism is of the O'Farrell Government. I believe the elevation of this matter in today's Notice Paper is clearly the result of a deal between the O'Farrell Government and the Shooters and Fishers Party that included the passage of the Government's punitive industrial relations laws applying to New South Wales public servants a couple of weeks ago.

Mr O'Farrell promised higher standards of governance. Prior to the election he put his hand on his heart and repeatedly stated that he would not do deals with the minor parties in this Chamber. But what do we see? On the last day of the first session of the Fifty-fifth Parliament the deal has come in. Two weeks ago the rights of hundreds of thousands of public servants in this State to access an independent industrial tribunal was taken away by a punitive piece of legislation. At each and every step the Shooters and Fishers Party supported the Government in the passage of the legislation, despite the arguments of the Opposition and trade union movement in this State. A couple of weeks later a matter that was not at the top of the list of private members' business was elevated, without notice, to be passed through this Chamber today. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck one can only conclude—

Mr David Shoebridge: That they are going to shoot it.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: —that it is a duck. It is obvious to all who care to look that the vows of the Premier that he would not do deals with minor parties in this Chamber was an outright lie. That is why this matter is before us today. It has been elevated on the Notice Paper because Barry O'Farrell has done a deal with the Shooters and Fishers Party to trash the marine environment in New South Wales. Where is the environment Minister on this issue? A former member of this House, she now sits in the other place. The Hon. Robyn Parker has a very heavy responsibility as the environment Minister of New South Wales to stand up for the State's environment. She is nowhere to be seen.

The Hon. Catherine Cusack tried to stand up for the environment of this State and she copped a bullet for it. She was sacked by Barry O'Farrell in a breach of his election promise to keep all his shadow Ministers in his Cabinet when he came into office. Less than two weeks prior to the election the Hon. Robert Brown, in a statement, expressed no confidence in the Hon. Catherine Cusack in the most explicit terms. Once again, I make no criticism of the honourable member for that. The Shooters and Fishers Party has been upfront and clear at all times about its policy agenda. When it has had arguments with the major parties or with particular portfolio holders in the major parties it has said so robustly, as is their right.

My criticism is of the Premier, who said he would appoint all the shadow Ministers to the Cabinet. As soon as the Hon. Robert Brown on behalf of the Shooters and Fishers Party said, "We don't want a bar of Catherine Cusack", she copped it. She was dropped from Cabinet. On the very first day of the O'Farrell Government we saw the abolition of the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water. Now there is no department to advocate for the environment. We have a lame duck environment Minister who knows if she stands up for the environment she will cop what the Hon. Catherine Cusack copped. We have an environment Minister who knows that her job is to do anything other than stand up for the environment in New South Wales.

We saw the reversal of restrictions in the Coffs Harbour area at Fish Rock which were designed to protect a critically endangered species. The grey nurse shark is critically endangered: the scientific evidence is there. Yet in the face of that scientific evidence the Government moved to remove the protection for that critically endangered species. On the issue of sanctuary zones at Jervis Bay and Solitary Islands marine parks, the Government moved in the other place, with its weight of numbers, to disallow the regulation that put in place the new zoning plans for those two marine parks. The Minister for Roads and Ports spoke earlier about the Liberal and Nationals election policy in this area. In that election policy there is not a word about the issue of the zoning plans at the Jervis Bay and Solitary Islands marine parks.

The Hon. Duncan Gay: You are misleading the House. It was absolutely upfront in our policy. It was my policy. You wouldn't know.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: I am happy to quote from the policy.

Mr David Shoebridge: Table it.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: I am happy to quote from or table the policy. The policy is entitled "NSW Liberals and Nationals Recreational Fishing Policy: Restoring the Balance". The hope that the Coalition held out in its policy was for an expansion of the habitat protection zones within existing marine parks. Its policy states:

To achieve this balance the NSW Liberals & Nationals will:

• Subject to the results of the scientific independent audit; expand the current Habitat Protection Zones within existing marine parks.

It also states:

To ensure future Marine Park policy is guided by evidence in government we will:

• Immediately commission an independent scientific audit of the effectiveness of existing zoning arrangements in meeting domestic and international commitments to the conservation of marine biodiversity. Where in that document is there a statement that before the audit—which the policy states is an immediate audit—they will knock over the zoning plans, reverse them, and then have the audit? Where in that document does it state that they will deliver the outcome before they have the inquiry? It is not mentioned anywhere in that policy document. As part of the consultation process on the draft zoning plan for the Solitary Islands Marine Park 6,519 submissions were received and 42 stakeholder meetings and community information days were held. The Minister for Roads and Ports did not tell the House that improved access for recreational anglers and spearfishers was granted at the end of that process. Improved access was granted at key sites, including Bare Bluff and South West Solitary Island, or Groper Islet, all year round, as well as an extra 500 metres at Minnie Water Back Beach and a section of reef at Northwest Rock.

What was the key move in the zoning plan that led the Government to move disallowance of government regulation? It involved the commercial fishing industry and the prawn trawling industry. I do not blame the Hon. Robert Brown for this; I blame The Nationals. It was about looking after its mates in the commercial prawn trawling industry. It was not about looking after recreational anglers, because the extensive consultation process had resulted in a zoning plan that gave recreational anglers around Coffs Harbour a better deal. Dr Melanie Bishop, President of the New South Wales branch of the Australian Marine Scientists Association, has written to the Minister for Primary Industries, the Hon. Katrina Hodgkinson, and given her a huge serve for what the Government did. Dr Bishop made the point in her correspondence that a previous sanctuary zone was reopened in the Jervis Bay Marine Park as a result of the zoning plan.

One of the moves in the Jervis Bay Marine Park was that commercial trawling no longer occurred at Wreck Bay or Crookhaven Bight and lift-netting activities were prohibited in Jervis Bay. The zoning plans that the Government disallowed last month, without a word of advance warning prior to doing so in the other place, was off the back of extensive community consultation. Almost 10,000 submissions were made across the two marine parks. Scores of stakeholder meetings and community information days were held. The zoning plans at Jervis Bay and Solitary Islands looked after recreational fishers and resulted in improved access for recreational anglers in many areas. What The Nationals objected to and why the Government took the step, without any hint of warning prior to overturning the regulation, was the banning of prawn trawling in large parts of the Solitary Islands Marine Park. The Government said not a word prior to the election that before its "immediate scientific audit" it would deliver a result by overturning the zoning plans that had been the subject of two years of consultation, thousands of submissions, and scores of public meetings—not a word.

The passage of the bill through this House today is most obviously the result of a dirty deal by a Government that is prepared to trash the environment of New South Wales in order to secure passage of repugnant government legislation in other policy areas, such as a bill that trashes the rights of our hardworking public servants and removes a century of access by hundreds of thousands of workers to an independent industrial commission. That is what this bill is about. The environment Minister has gone missing in action. We know for sure that the environment Minister of this State will not stand up for the New South Wales environment for one very good reason—if she does, The Nationals hit squad will come in and she will get the same treatment as the Hon. Catherine Cusack.

The environment Minister of this State knows very well that she is forbidden to advocate for the environment for the life of the O'Farrell Government. This Government is prepared to wage war on environmental protection in New South Wales. We saw the execution of the Hon. Catherine Cusack in breach of the Premier's election commitment to appoint all his shadow Cabinet to his Cabinet in government. We have seen the abolition of the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water. We have seen the removal of the restrictions designed to protect a critically endangered species, the grey nurse shark. We have seen the overturning of the zoning plans for the Solitary Islands and Jervis Bay marine parks that were the result of extensive consultation and a very real attempt to balance conservation and the interests of recreational fishers in this State.

We have seen war waged on renewable energy. We have seen the 110,000 households in New South Wales who did the right thing and, at the invitation of government, invested in a clean energy future in solar disparaged as a privileged minority by this Government. When the Government puts out its glossy 100 Day Action Plan pamphlet in 10 days time it should also release a pamphlet on its environmental record. It should put out a pamphlet detailing its long and growing list of crimes against the environment in this State and make it clear to the people of New South Wales that this Government will sacrifice the environment every time in order to get the conservative crossbenches in this place to pass harsh, punitive government legislation that is designed to beat hardworking public servants in this State with a stick. That is what this Government is about. We have seen this bill elevated up the batting list today so that the Shooters and Fishers Party, which has always been very clear about its policy in this area, can be rewarded by the O'Farrell Government for voting for the passage of the Industrial Relations Amendment (Public Sector Conditions of Employment) Bill 2011. Labor opposed this legislation when in government. We certainly oppose it in opposition