Former Australian Conservation Foundation president Peter Garrett - Labor’s disastrous ex pop-star Environment Minister - is a key player in the ALP’s desperate and increasingly brazen hunt for Green preferences, Senator Ron Boswell said today.
Senator Boswell said the starkest example from Mr Garrett was his conduct in pandering to green interests, at the expense of all other stakeholders, in the vast Marine Bioregional Planning process.
For example, in May 2009 Mr Garrett used the emergency interim protection provisions of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act to declare the one million square kilometre Coral Sea Conservation Zone.
The declared area matched perfectly the proposed 100% no-take Coral Sea Heritage Park being vigorously promoted by the U.S. based PEW Foundation and Mr Garrett’s old organisation, the Australian Conservation Foundation.
Departmental officials conceded in Senate Estimates last year that the two organisations were the only ones consulted before Mr Garrett made the declaration. All other stakeholders were ignored. Senator Boswell said the declaration was a demonstrable nonsense in every material way, an abuse of the Act, and could only be explained as a symbolic encouragement to green ambitions, and green preferences.
The section of the EPBC Act used by the Minister enables creation of an interim protection regime to give the Government the opportunity to control a threat while considering its options for longer term protection. (See Section 390 (d) of the EPBC Act)
Mr Garrett allowed all existing uses to continue, making plain that no existing use of the Coral Sea justified the action. No emerging threat, such as a planned major expansion of fishing or mining related activity, was cited – because none existed. (See the Minister’s May 19 2009 statement.)
When Mr Garrett was asked during a radio interview to identify what had justified the action - all that specifically came to mind was ocean acidification – an issue beyond the reach of the EPBC. (See the transcript on the Minister’s website.)
Further, the vast area was already being examined for its environmental values as part of the Marine Bioregional Planning process. In summary, no threat was identified, and the Government was already considering its options for longer term protection. That is the very basis of the Marine Bioregional Planning regime. Use of the Act by the Minister was simply an abuse of the Act to curry favour with the Greens.
Mr Garrett again pandered to green interests in March this year when he declared the entire Coral Sea Conservation Zone an Area for Further Assessment under the Marine Bioregional Planning process. The Areas for Further Assessment represent the alleged distillation by Mr Garrett’s Department of areas in which a network of Marine Protected Areas will be established. The decision again gave encouragement to green groups, and shocked many other interests.
Asked in Senate Estimates last month how a valid scientific assessment of one million square kilometres of ocean could be made - departmental officials conceded they knew little about the marine environment generally, even less about the Coral Sea, but could not afford new science.
At the same time as he announced the entire Zone would now be closely examined for the establishment of marine parks, Mr Garrett pushed the decision making period out……until well past the election.