Constituency Statement – Commonwealth Marine Reserves

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

In August each year the Hervey Bay Seafood Festival attracts about 10,000 people from across Australia. It’s the only seafood festival in Australia managed by the men and women who catch it!

Australian seafood, caught by Australians in Australian waters, processed by Australians, cooked and served by Australians. You know where it’s come from – it’s fresh and safe!  

At this year’s Festival, held just last week, I was joined by Senators Matt Canavan and James McGrath to speak to commercial and recreational fishers. Not only are they concerned about State Labor’s proposed net-free fishing zones between Keppel bay and Fitzroy River, they are anxiously awaiting the results of a review into Commonwealth Marine Reserves.     

Prior to our election in 2013, Senator Canavan and I met with commercial fishers in Hervey Bay who were concerned the then Labor Federal Government was planning to lock them out of 1.3 million square kilometres in the Coral Sea.

Consultation with the fishing industry was non-existent. Instead, Labor was focussed on appeasing the inner-city soy decaf late’ sipping Greens, who have probably never wet a line in their life. But I bet they’ve feasted on the spoils of the hardworking fishermen of Queensland.    

Had Labor been re-elected, their decision would have sent countless family-owned business broke, cost hundreds of jobs and hurt regional economies. They would have destroyed an industry overnight in much the same fashion as they did with the live cattle trade.

The Coalition committed to set aside and review Labor’s management plans for the new Commonwealth marine reserves. And just three months after winning Government, that’s exactly what we did. We are working to restore community confidence.

The people in my electorate know better than most how important it is for Government to strike a sensible balance which protects the environment, supports a sustainable fishing industry, attracts tourism and provides cultural, recreational and economic benefits for coastal communities.

Hinkler has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. Seafood and tourism are among our biggest employers. We need a management plan which considers the humpback whales that migrate through Hervey Bay each year, the loggerhead turtles that nest at Mon Repos, the families that make a living catching fresh local seafood, the people who eat it as part of a balanced diet, and the tourists that visit the region to fish with their mates.  

What many Greens don’t realise is that the commercial fishermen in my electorate want to protect the marine environment just as much as they do – they’ve spent their lives at sea, it’s their home. They rely on its sustainability to make a living. They are the great guardians of our oceans – the first ones to know when something is wrong!

As part of the independent review, five bioregional advisory panels held over 170 regional public meetings all over the country this year.

The review received over 13,000 written submissions and approximately 1800 responses to the online survey. The feedback has been collated and is being considered by the panel. I look forward to seeing their recommendations to Government. Striking the right balance will require a proposal that is vastly different to Labor’s! 


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