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Media Release
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Dr David Kemp

22 October 2002

Kemp Says Labor Deserts the Workers on Cape York to "Grand-Stand"

Minister for the Environment and Heritage Dr David Kemp said today a joint move by the Labor Party and the Australian Democrats in the Senate to block all commercial fishing in Princess Charlotte Bay on Cape York was a callous attack on working families of the Cape.

Left Wing Labor Senator Jan McLucas yesterday joined forces with Democrat Senator Andrew Bartlett to stop a small group of local businesses continuing to make a living from fishing in the isolated Bay, north of Cooktown.

The move follows a decision earlier this year by Dr Kemp to significantly reduce the level of commercial fishing in the Bay to protect dugong.

Before the Howard Government declared Princess Charlotte Bay as a Conservation Park Zone, under the Far Northern Section Zoning Plan for the park, up to 53 boats annually fished the bay with large mesh nets.

The Government has insisted on a reduction in fishing, in line with recommendations from Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, to limit access to those few fishers whose history showed they relied heavily on the bay for their base income. This was a maximum of 16 boats.

The regulations that Labor and the Democrats say they will oppose would enable those family fishers to apply for permits to continue to fish, under strict controls aimed at minimizing interaction with dugongs. Disallowance of the regulations would bring about a total ban on commercial large mesh netting in the Bay.

Dr Kemp said the move was "callous, grand-stand, politics."

"This is an isolated part of the world, where making a living is tough, and Labor and the Democrats are selling these people out for political rather than environmental gain," he said.

"The reduction in fishing that the government sought to put in place was a measured response to the need to protect the dugong, while causing minimal social and economic disruption. It was a good decision and Labor is just grand-standing."

Dr Kemp said he would be interested to know how the ALP State member for the electorate covering Cape York, Steve Bredhauer, viewed the move by his federal colleague, Senator McLucas.

"Mr Bredhauer should be standing up for his constituents. Perhaps he can talk some sense into his Canberra colleagues - but he will need to move quickly."

Dr Kemp said that, on the other hand, he welcomed a statement today by Labor environment spokesman Kelvin Thomson today that the Representative Areas Program for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park currently under development by the Howard Government, was "the most significant marine protected area initiative in the global marine environment."

Dr Kemp also welcomed the Opposition's recognition that the RAP program was the subject of "an intensive community consultation process," but rejected his parallel and contradictory claim that the Commonwealth was using its regulatory powers to reduce protection of the reef.

"Labor has rightly acknowledged the RAP being developed by the Howard government is the most significant marine protected initiative in the world in terms of the marine environment," Dr Kemp said. "I agree, and he simply can't have it both ways."

Dr Kemp said no government had done more to enhance protection of the reef that the Howard Government.

"The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act legislated by the Howard Government has offered unprecedented protection for the reef from any negative impacts associated with the oil drilling in near-reef waters so vigorously encouraged by the last Labor government.

"This Government has established a Memorandum of Understanding with the Queensland Government to protect water quality in the Great Barrier Reef lagoon.

"We negotiated with the Queensland Government to establish the East Coast Trawl Plan which has massively reduced commercial fishing pressure in the park, and we are developing both national oceans and coastal policies.

"This is a suite of efforts in relation to the Great Barrier Reef, and indeed in relation to all our marine assets, that Labor had 13 years to engage but never got around to."

Media contact:
Catherine Job (02) 6277 7640 or 0408 648 400

Commonwealth of Australia