LOCAL MP Warren Entsch has again argued the case for multiple-use zones in the Coral Sea, supporting a bill that would require strict criteria to be met before a new marine reserve can be created.
The amendment to the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act, known as the ‘Making Marine Parks Accountable’ Bill, was debated in the House yesterday (MON).
Addressing Parliament, Mr Entsch described the process under which the Coral Sea marine reserve was declared last week as an “absolute disgrace”. He commended the Bill put up by fellow Liberal MP George Christensen, which would see the Environment Minister required to;
· commission an independent, social and economic impact assessment before any proclamations are made;
· obtain independent scientific peer-reviewed advice before making any proclamations and for this advice to be publicly available; and
· establish independent scientific reference panels and stakeholder advisory groups for each region to ensure rigorous decision making.
Mr Entsch labelled the Government’s $100 million compensation package as “short-sighted”, high-lighting the independent study undertaken by Cairns economist Bill Cummings, who looked at the secondary and long-term impacts and estimated a real cost to the Cairns economy of $1 billion.
“That is a billion dollars in a region with one of the highest unemployment figures in the country, contributing to the economic black hole that Labor has already got this country into over the past five years,” Mr Entsch said.
He added that there was “no denying that the government cannot produce any scientific evidence to show a threat from fishing activities to species in the Coral Sea”.
The MP cited the Cairns Post article of November 20th, which celebrated the fact that overseas buyers were lining up to take product from the Northern Prawn Fishery after its sustainable certification by the Marine Stewardship Council.
“Gaining this certification is no mean feat,” Mr Entsch said. “It proves that the operators in this fishery are using world’s best practice to harvest their catch sustainably.
“So what does this government do? It takes this certification and rubbishes it by declaring the Coral Sea as a marine reserve, shutting down 20 per cent of the Northern Prawn Fishery. What about the millions these operators have invested and the thousands of jobs they support? I just shake my head in disbelief.”
Mr Entsch also slammed Tony Burke’s ‘sham’ consultation process, saying the new requirement would ensure “no more backhanded swapping of areas … no more playing industry groups off each other…. and no more bowing to the pressure of ‘gan-greenous’ overseas lobby groups, like the PEW Foundation, who do not have the courage to take on the polluters and the over-fishers in their own waters”.
In closing, Mr Entsch said the Coral Sea marine reserve as it stood was a “failure for sustainability, a nail in the coffin for family-owned businesses and a death knell for highly-exploited species in Third World fisheries”.
“This Bill will instead provide a framework of accountability and transparency around the creation of marine reserves, and that is why I wholly support it,” he ended.
To view the full speech, click here