Marine parks, political football

Seeking to hold the Gillard government to account over marine planning by ensuring that declarations of marine parks are subject to parliamentary scrutiny, the Coalition has moved to strip Environment Minister Tony Burke of his power to restrict fishing in marine parks.

The opposition action was brought forward in a Private Members Bill in the Senate by Tasmanian Liberal Richard Colbeck. The Bill would require Mr Burke to have the declaration of a marine reserve approved by a vote of parliament, giving MPs a veto over any no-take zones.

Currently, the Environment Minister can declare marine reserves, with potentially major ramifications for all users of the ocean across a vast area, at the stroke of a pen, a situation which Queensland Nationals Senator Ron Boswell has called “ridiculous.”

According to Senator Boswell, the government’s consultation process has been minimal, especially under former Environment Minister Peter Garrett, who he claims, demonstrably favoured green organisations over all other affected interest groups.

After the Coalition introduced the Private Members Bill to limit the power of the Environment Minister, Greens Senator Rachel Siewart referred the matter to Committee. Hearings are expected to commence in mid April. The Committee is due to report by May 13, 2011.

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