Queensland MP George Christensen.
Queensland MP George Christensen. Tony Martin

Christensen wants to stop marine park

QUEENSLAND MP George Christensen wants to stop the clock on Federal Government plans to establish the world's biggest marine park network.

The Member for Dawson will put forward a private member's bill which he claims would protect the rights of recreational anglers and ensure greater scientific and socio-economic scrutiny of proposed marine parks.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott revealed details of the bill at the opening of the Brisbane Boat Show on Friday morning.

The bill, if passed, would require the environment minister to seek the advice of an independent scientific panel and a stakeholder group, comprising representatives from the fishing industry and environmental bodies, before making any decisions on proposed marine parks.

These panels would have two months to undertake their work, with the findings to be made public.

Further, the bill would require the environment minister to commission an independent socio-economic impact assessment, and crucially, would give the Parliament where required the final say on marine park proposals.

Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke unveiled plans in June to create a network of marine parks, including locking up parts of the Coral Sea.

The move was praised by environment and conservation groups, but drew criticism from the fishing industry and Coalition MPs who claimed there was a lack of consultation and scientific evaluation prior to the plan being announced.

Mr Christensen said his bill, which would amend the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment Act, would go some way to addressing those concerns.

He said his bill would not have been necessary had the government done the "right thing in the first place".

"The fact is they should have had the science done before they went and put lines on maps.

"There's no science out there that the public can see and the industry can see," Mr Christensen said. "They should have been seriously talking with the seafood industry, with the marine industry and recreational fishing groups. They haven't done that properly."

An angry Mr Burke fronted the media in Canberra armed with more than a dozen reports and documents to highlight a sample of the scientific work and consultation that helped shape the marine park plan.

"This is the scientific work on which the proposals have been based.

"These are the documents Tony Abbott claims don't exist," said Mr Burke, pointing to the reports.

He said in opposing the marine park plan Mr Abbott was "firmly out of step" with most Australians and "what his party used to believe".

The latter was a reference to the marine parks created under the Howard government, which Mr Abbott served under as a minister.

Mr Burke said the next round of consultation was a few weeks away from being completed.

The Greens will not support the Coalition bill, dismissing the move as a "scare campaign", which means it will require the support of all three independent MPs to pass.

Mr Abbott used the announcement to begin applying pressure to key independents Rob Oakeshott, Tony Windsor and Andrew Wilkie.

"I think we should get crossbench support because I think that many of the independent and crossbench members have constituencies that take fishing seriously," he said.

"I think that Mr Oakeshott, Mr Windsor, Mr Wilkie, all of them have tens of thousands of people in their electorates who want to have a fish, who want their kids to have a fish, who want their grandkids to be able to have a fish. That means sensible management of Australia's oceans. It doesn't mean tying them up in green tape."


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