That this House:
(1) acknowledges that Marine National Park (Green) Zones as defined in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Zoning Plan 2003 serve to better protect the biodiversity within the Marine Park and help to ensure:
(a) the continued existence of the unique marine animals, plants and habitats that are found only in the Great Barrier Reef and provide additional protection for threatened species such as dugong and marine turtles;
(b) those industries that rely on the health of the Marine Park are able to continue, providing social and economic benefits to local communities and the wider economy;
(c) a diverse range of other benefits and values of the Marine Park, including recreational, cultural, educational and scientific values, are protected;
(d) that future generations are able to continue to use and enjoy the Marine Park;
(e) the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage values are protected; and
(f) the ecologically sustainable use of marine resources by traditional owners consistent with their traditional practices, are provided for;
(2) accepts that Marine National Park (Green) Zones can be beneficial in:
(a) protecting spawning areas and nursery grounds;
(b) minimising damage to important habitats;
(c) providing refuge for protected species, such as turtles and dugongs; only
(d) boosting species numbers, which helps the food web as a whole;
(e) increasing the abundance of fish; and
(f) building the resilience of the reef against threats such as climate change and water pollution;
(3) affirms the Native Title Act 1993 which recognises the right of certain traditional owners to hunt and gather in their sea country and that native title holders may undertake traditional use of marine resources;
(4) recognises that the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority is working with traditional owners for the protection of the Great Barrier Reef, by expanding the Traditional Use of the Marine Resources Agreement program and strengthening communications between local communities, managers and reef stakeholders;
(5) acknowledges the value of the Ranger Program in providing job opportunities for Indigenous people to care for their country, take on important skills, develop career pathways, protect dugongs and turtles and manage environmental threats stemming from feral animals, among other benefits;
(6) calls on the:
(a) Australian Labor Party and the Greens to pass the Environment Legislation Amendment Bill 2013 which will enable a tripling of penalties for those poaching turtles and/or dugongs; and
(b) relevant parties to work, as a priority, with traditional owners to progressively increase the protections afforded to threatened species, such as turtle and dugong, through traditional use marine resource agreements and other appropriate means, seeking to:
(i) where traditional rights under the Native Title Act 1993 apply, seek agreement with traditional owners to prohibit the capture and killing of any species from designated Green Zones within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park area;
(ii) continue to allow certain activities to take place with a permit, such as research and management programs for fauna and flora where they pose a threat to humans or the environment, as per existing regulations; and
(iii) introduce legislation to prohibit the taking of marine species, including seabirds, in designated Green Zones within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Area, where other efforts have proven to be inadequate;
(7) in the interest of supporting the policing of turtle and dugong product that is transported for commercial purposes, prohibit the movement of native species, taken under the Native Title Act 1993 outside the area in which it is caught; and
(8) recognises that these initiatives would complement a range of measures already being implemented under the Government’s Turtle and Dugong Protection Plan and Community Management Plans, which will enhance the protection of marine turtles and dugongs in Far North Queensland and the Torres Strait.
I rise today to speak on this motion. I seek to put in place measures that will afford greater protection for our marine creatures within the protected zones of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and also to hold accountable those very few individuals who continue to abuse the traditional rights of native title hunters by slaughtering these creatures in numbers that are totally unsustainable, certainly very inappropriate and very much not in the spirit of native title.
We all know that the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is something that is under a tremendous amount of scrutiny. We all love it and we all appreciate the value of it. We also know that the green zones have been put in place where there is absolutely no taking of any species whatsoever. They are there to protect biodiversity. We also know that in those areas, particularly up around places like Green Island and Michaelmas Cay, there is a huge amount of human interaction where, in many ways, the tourists are educated by these creatures and appreciate the beauty of these creatures. These creatures become very, very quiet because there is no threat to them.
Unfortunately, what we are seeing is a very small number of individuals who are going out there and slaughtering these creatures on a regular basis. If I could just describe it to you: they will take turtles out in front of visiting tourists, rip the turtles out onto the beach, rip their guts out and leave all of the entrails on the side of the beach. A very upset ranger has to clean up the mess while they take away that meat. They will come back time after time after time. They will swim around snorkellers on the reef and spear fish. Through glass bottom boats, the tourists have seen them take 80-year-old clams, cut out the clams and take them away for no other purpose than the fact that they can do it. This, of course, is very distressing for tourists. It is very distressing for visitors to the reef. It is also very distressing for a lot of the traditional owners.
We have ranger programs there. We have the Yirrganydji people of Cairns and Port Douglas who have focused on identifying the illegal activities that are occurring in the marine park. We have the Lama Lama people from Princess Charlotte Bay and the Normanby River, who are addressing compliance activities, research and education. We have a whole range. More recently, the Gunggandji people south of Cairns have just gone into a memorandum of intent. All these things are great, but, unless we have the legislative power behind them to protect them when they go out there and say, ‘You can’t do this in these green zones,’ really they are powerless. What I am arguing is that we need to have that legislative authority to say that the taking of these creatures in these protected zones is prohibited for everybody. That gives them the legislative power to enforce that. I am arguing that very strongly.
The other issue that I am pushing very strongly on is the transportation of the meat. You see dugong and turtle meat coming regularly through the airport, packed up in cryovac boxes being sent all over Australia. That is not the intention of the Native Title Act. I totally support traditional hunting, but the meat should be consumed in those traditional areas for the ceremonies that are supposed to be there, not packed up and sent all over the country where you have no control on whether or not it is commercial.
It makes enforcement of this impossible for our legal authorities. So what I am saying is that we need to insist that that meat, wherever it is taken for traditional purposes, has to be consumed. It cannot be packed up and sent around the country so that people can have taste tests of this type of meat. These animals are vulnerable and we are being continually criticised because of our lack of action in the southern seas in relation to what the Japanese are doing over there. How can we do that
A division having been called in the House of Representatives
To view the official Hansard, click here