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On Thursday, 8 March 2018 I made a Private Members' Statement in the Legislative Assembly on protecting our important marine environment, and the proud legacy of Liberal Governments around Australia in marine protection.
Below is the Hansard transcript of my speech:
Mr JAMES GRIFFIN (Manly) (18:34): I take this opportunity to speak on the impressive record of Liberal governments, both State and Federal, in the protection of our marine environment, important work that I will seek to continue and encourage during my time in this place. As the Hon. Robert Hill, AC, former Federal Minister for Environment and Heritage in the Howard Government, said:
"We are all, at heart, conservationists … however, being a conservationist doesn't necessarily mean you are 'green'. In fact, as Liberals, we regard our shared concern for the future as rather a deep blue."
As such, I am proud to stand here today to speak on my party's tradition in marine conservation. The record is impressive: The end of whaling in Australian waters, the proclamation of the Great Australian Bight Marine Park in 1998, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park commencing in 1979, the Solitary Islands Marine Reserve in 1991 and the South East Commonwealth Marine Reserves network consisting of 13 marine reserves are all State or Federal Liberal government initiatives.
From the Howard Government's expansion of green zones in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park to the Greiner Government's establishment of the Solitary Islands Marine Reserve, Coalition governments have a proud history of marine conservation that we should continue to champion into the future. The Great Australian Bight Marine National Park, which the South Australian Liberal Government proclaimed in 1995 as a marine park whale sanctuary, was, together with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, the largest marine park in the world. Conservation in the 1990s was critical, as we grappled with giving much-needed protection to our vulnerable oceans and marine life, whilst also protecting important access for industry to keep Australia moving, and protect Australian jobs and livelihoods.
I will speak more on the Great Australian Bight Marine Park, which, as I previously stated, was originally proclaimed by the State Coalition Government and subsequently expanded by the Howard Government. This marine park, which is perhaps less well known by us than the Great Barrier Reef, is a vital conservation corridor from the South Australian coast extending outwards into the bight. The Commonwealth park declared in 1998 was made up of two overlapping zones. Adjacent to the South Australian park is the marine mammal protection zone that is intended to provide protected calving waters for both the southern right whale and Australian sea lion colonies. The Federal Minister for the Environment noted at the time that the Benthic Protection Zone was:
"... the first major marine park in any part of the Southern Ocean that seeks to protect such a large area of the ocean's floor" and that will "provide protection for an area that will be of enormous importance to the nation's scientific efforts to understand our marine environment."
This incredible legacy in one of Australia's—if not the world's—most important marine environments can be a significant point of pride for my colleagues, which I will seek to carry on in New South Wales. One of Australia's greatest environmental and economic assets, the Great Barrier Reef, also has a strong history of protection under Coalition governments. Since the marine park was first proclaimed by the Fraser Government in 1979 until the marine park zoning plan was implemented in 2004 under the Howard Government, the areas protected from fishing or extraction rose from just 4.6 per cent of the park to more than 33 per cent. These are all major achievements of which we as a Coalition Government can and should be proud. We should not vacate the debate on marine conservation, nor should we hide from the fact that these decisions take courage.
In my electorate of Manly, the Cabbage Tree Bay Aquatic Reserve provides an insight—of course, on a much smaller scale—into the importance of the Greater Barrier Reef and other marine parks. I was fortunate to welcome professional skater Tony Hawk to Manly recently. Of all the places he could snorkel in New South Wales during his visit with Destination NSW, he came to Manly because our sanctuary at Cabbage Tree Bay is working and provides amazing snorkelling opportunities, and at the same time supporting a thriving tourist economy. The direct relationship between sanctuaries, tourism and the local economy is real and provides a commercial incentive for those who seek one as part of this debate.
I remind members in this place of the words of the Hon. Robert Hill, AC:
"We believe that a comprehensive and representative system of marine parks is an essential component of our efforts to protect Australia's unique marine biodiversity."
I am proud to stand in this place as a strong advocate for our local marine environment. I will continue to support greater protection for the important marine areas of my electorate, backed up by the best science and expert advice available.