Monday, 18 June 2012
Questions without Notice
My question is to Senator Conroy, representing the environment minister, and it is about marine reserves. Minister, could you tell us how the government intends to police the marine park boundaries, particularly those in the Coral Sea, which go out about 1,000 kilometres? You will be aware that in the past commercial fishermen were the best guardians of those boundaries. Now that they will be removed, what will stop the Taiwanese, Chinese, Indonesian and other foreign boats from coming in and raping and pillaging in the Coral Sea?
Government senators interjecting—
Bearing in mind that no Commonwealth naval or Customs assets will be available—they have all left the east coast and gone over to try to shore up the porous borders on the north-west, and Queensland does not have any boats to do it—how are you going to police these boundaries?
I should not be churlish, so I thank Senator Macdonald for his question. There is an excuse for Senator Boswell having never met Ms Bishop, but there is none for you. Do you have a bumper sticker, 'Save our marine life'? Have you joined up with Ms Bishop on this? I mean, seriously: the National Party can play this game, but certainly the Liberal Party cannot.
Mr President, I rise on a point of order. It may well be relatively early in the answer, but merely abusing the person who asked the question—in a smart alec, larrikin way, as Senator Conroy does—cannot be regarded as relevant, either directly or indirectly, to anything Senator Macdonald asks.
Mr President, I rise on this point of order. I did not do so during Senator Macdonald's question, although I thought about doing so. When the senator ask the question in which he accuses foreign fishermen of 'raping and pillaging', he does actually invite a debate or an answer at the rhetorical level rather than at the level of clear analysis.
My question is clearly about how you police those borders. It has nothing to do with Ms Bishop or any flyer or anything else. As a former fisheries minister, I am aware of how foreign fishermen do rape and pillage our fisheries.
I also draw the attention of those in the chamber to the fact that Mr Peter Lindsay has been publicly advertising in support of the government's position—the former member from out that way. You may have met Mr Lindsay.
Mr President, it does not need me to raise this point of order. I am not arguing about the decision to create marine reserves; I am asking how they are going to police them. It is a very specific area of questioning, and the minister has not gone anywhere near it in the time he has been going. It does not need me to raise these points of order. You should hold the minister to account.
Senator Macdonald just might want to ignore members of his own current parliamentary party. He just might want to ignore former members who are very well known to him, and their position on this issue. He is trying to create an issue. We will work with the industry and we will work with the relevant authorities to ensure that there is policing in this way. The network of marine parks will have little to no impact on recreational fishing—as I have already stated—while securing our ocean environments for the future.
Mr President, I again ask you to ask the minister to refer to the question. I did not mention recreational fishing. I spoke about commercial fishing, about how the minister and his government are going to police the boundaries and about the rules he has put in place.
Mr President, on that point of order, Senator Conroy has highlighted that this will be a matter for consultation. That he has gone broader than that in his answer is obviously a response to the nature of the question. When Senator Macdonald chooses to ask a question accusing foreign fishermen of 'raping and pillaging', he cannot be surprised by the response, as Senator Evans says.
The recreational, charter and commercial fishing industries will also have their say on plans to manage the use of the reserves. The government will work with the recreational sector and with the charter sector, who access these marine environments, to get the management arrangements right. We will consult with all affected parts of the industry to ensure that we get this right. We will work constructively with the industry. That is what we are committed to.
Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. My question is again on marine reserves and follows up on Senator Boswell's question, which the minister has mentioned again. Could the minister identify where in the budget an allowance has been made for the $100 million compensation that has been spoken about? How will it impact upon the forecast budget surplus? Also, how will this $100 million be divided between commercial fishers, associated industries, communities and individuals?
I thank Senator Macdonald for his question. The government will update its budget figures in MYEFO, later in the year, as it does every year. I think it is a legitimate question. We will be giving a full update on the budget later in the year. We are not simply going to respond to calls from those opposite, who had barely met their own parliamentary colleagues before they started demanding answers from us. Why don't you go and get a bumper sticker from Ms Bishop? Why don't you, Senator Boswell, go and get a bumper sticker from Ms Bishop before you come in here with your hypotheses.
We will be updating the full budgetary impact of any and all decisions that are made over the course of the next few months, as is normal government procedure. It is the normal course of government business, just as it was for those opposite when they were in government.
Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. The minister will understand that as you restrict commercial fishing in a certain area those left in the fishing industry then concentrate in what fishing areas are left for the commercial fishing industry. Does the government intend to buy back commercial fishing licences in non-marine-reserve areas to reduce the pressure that will occur on those remaining fishing areas left in Australia?
I think I have already indicated this, but I am happy to repeat it for Senator Macdonald. There will be a range of impacts on the industry. Now that the final reserves have been announced, the government can work out who will need what. The government will build, with the industry, a tailored package to meet each of these needs. The government—
I rise on the question of relevance. I asked if the government would engage in a buy-back of existing licences to reduce or alleviate the increased pressure on those fishing areas that remain. It has nothing to do with compensation or whatever the minister is prattling on about.
I am actually describing our adjustment package. The government is going to work with those who want to, and are able to, change their business model. The individuals might change where they fish, how they fish and the type of fish they catch. They may also want to leave the industry entirely. The government will build a package that suits each of their needs. The government will provide direct business support to those who find that to be of the most value. We intend to support— (Time expired)