Sustainable Ports Development Bill

12 Nov 2015 11:01 AMMichael Hart


Mr HART (Burleigh—LNP) (5. 53 pm): I had written quite a comprehensive speech to give tonight on the Sustainable Ports Development Bill, but I have decided to ditch that and I am just going to talk about some of the issues that were raised in the committee’s report and some of the things I have heard here tonight from the government because we have heard some interesting things. I thought the member for Hinchinbrook moved a great motion to help Cairns along, and that was one of the major issues we did hear on our trip around when we were looking at the ports in Queensland that are affected by this particular bill. I will come back to that after dinner, Mr Deputy Speaker.

It is important for members here to recognise that an original version of this bill was introduced by the LNP in late 2014. The bill that is before the House tonight is not much different to what the LNP proposed in 2014. There are only a couple of differences—one is that there is no review period in 2022, and the other is that there is to be no sea dredge disposal, which is something that we were looking at any way. In hindsight, I guess you could say that the bills are not that different really. I was quite surprised when I heard the minister start his speech in this second reading debate by saying that he had read through the recommendations of the committee—and there are 13 of those—and he was accepting every recommendation, because one of those recommendations states—

The committee unanimously recommends the Minister considers declaring the Port of Cairns as a priority port following a considered assessment of:

 the environmental impacts on the Great Barrier Reef

 the economic benefits to the Cairns region, and

 the government’s commitments made to UNESCO and under the Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan.


I thought for a second we were going to see Cairns as a priority port, and that would have been as all members of the committee had agreed and recommended very strongly. We got to that decision after listening to various members of the Cairns community on our visit there. But the Labor members on the committee actually put in a statement of reservation about our own report. They said—

Government Members of the Committee in support of recommendation 12—

which is to make Cairns a priority port—

wish to make it clear that we do not want the future economic development of Cairns to be shut down.

They are the words that the Labor members on the committee used—that they did not want to see the port of Cairns shut down. They came away from our discussion in Cairns thinking that this particular bill, apart from the Cairns Shipping Development Project, may well shut down the port of Cairns, and I will talk briefly about that later in the night.

In the few minutes I have left before we go to the next item of business, I want to cover some of the things that were said by the minister in his response to the motion. The member for Hinchinbrook, in moving that motion, put forward a date of 1 April for deferring that bill. That date was used because that is what is on the government’s website for the finalisation date of the EIS for the Cairns Shipping Development Project. Through you, Mr Deputy Speaker, to the minister, that is where that date came from, so that is not a very constructive argument at all. The argument about having to delay the port master planning is just rubbish really. At the end of the day, there is nothing to stop any of these ports from moving forward with their master planning. Nothing stops them at all. They could have got on quite well with that.

The argument from the Minister for National Parks and the Great Barrier Reef is that we are protecting the Great Barrier Reef with all of this legislation, but just yesterday we had the minister for ports in here telling us about the massive expansion in Townsville. So on one hand members of the Labor Party are very concerned about the reef, but in certain circumstances that all goes completely out the window because it is okay to massively expand one port that is right in the middle of all of that. I really think it is a little bit hypocritical to put those particular arguments up.


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