Julia Gillard has dumped many election promises because she now relies on a motley group of independents and The Greens to stay in power - but she has signalled that she will proceed with one promise: a vast network of marine reserves right around the Australian coastline.
In her speech opening the 43rd Parliament, setting out the new Government’s program, Governor General Quentin Bryce said: “To better protect our most sensitive marine habitats and assist the long-term viability of our ocean based industries, the Government will seek to build a representative network of protected areas in Australian waters.”
In the months leading up to the August election, fishers around the country became aware of Labor’s plans for a vast network of reserves right around the Australian coastline out to the 200 nautical mile limit of the Exclusive Economic Zone.
The suspicion of fishers about the government’s intentions were increased when it became widely known that then Environment Minister Peter Garrett declared the entire Coral Sea a conservation zone after discussions with only the U.S. based environmental organisation the Pew Foundation, and the Australian Conservation Foundation. No other stakeholders were consulted, leading to justified concern about a bias towards extreme green outcomes.
Suspicions were further heightened when Mr Garrett pushed the announcement of draft marine reserves out until well after the election. The first is now due next year. Concern also deepened as the pre-election deal between Labor and The Greens brought the latter’s anti-fishing policy into clear focus.
Anti-fishing Greens policies include a call for 30% no-take zones across all of Australia’s territorial waters, 100% no-take for the entire Coral Sea, compulsory state zoning to matching federal bans, and removal of the tax break on diesel costs for the fishing fleet.
From July next year the minority Labor government will need the support of The Greens in the Senate to govern, and will therefore have to give them some policy wins.
Senator Boswell said fishermen – professional and recreational – had to prepare now for the battle of their lives to protect their livelihoods – or their precious pastime.
“There is some hope that now we are rid of Garrett, some commonsense might return to the process, but the big complication is the extreme nature of The Greens policy, and a strong pro-Green flavour in the Department itself.
“Add to that mix Labor’s need to keep the Greens happy and we could be in for some extraordinary proposals. The only language Labor will understand is a threat to the political future of every Labor member, state and federal, within 50 kilometres of the ocean - right around the Australian coastline.
They simply won’t respond to reasoned argument. All they will understand, and act on, is a threat to Ministerial leather.”