Disappointingly, the Senate did not support Labor’s motion, moved in conjunction with the Greens, to disallow the marine park management plans put in place by Josh Frydenberg when he was minister for the environment.
This concluded a process that commenced under the Abbott Government in 2013 and has effectively cut the highly protected areas of Commonwealth Marine Parks in half.
What was formerly the largest area in the world limited to recreational fishing is now being re-accessed by commercial operators, and perhaps most disturbing of all, the Morrison Government has now established a massive trawling area immediately adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef. Longlining will now also be permitted north to south through the Coral Sea.
The original plans, now cast aside, were subject to over three years and six rounds of consultation, over 245 public and stakeholder meetings, attended by over 2,000 people, enabled 210 public comment days and considered almost three-quarters of a million public submissions. This far exceeds any consultation undertaken by the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government as part of its process to cut marine protection.
Labor has committed to reversing the largest removal of area from conservation in Australian history and restoring the original 2012 Marine Park Network in full. This includes an adjustment package for commercial fishers, and will still allow recreational fishing in 96 per cent of Commonwealth waters within one hundred kilometres of the shore. It does not affect the coastline or state waters.
Labor’s commitment to return the marine parks will also involve retaining some very minor improvements in the zoning in the current plans, including small oil and gas exclusion zones off the South Australian coast and the Kimberley Marine Park.