National Parks Amendment (Leasing Powers and Other Matters) Bill 2013
I am pleased to speak against this piece of legislation. I am not necessarily pleased to speak against legislation, but I feel the need to speak clearly against this proposed legislation. Having just listened to the member for Gembrook, it seems to me he is very confused about what this legislation is about. He seems to think it in some way shows the coalition’s support for nature-based tourism, whereas Labor does not support it. That is quite wrong. As a member representing a regional seat, a seat with some very beautiful nature-based tourism opportunities within it, and as somebody who has a great enthusiasm for bushwalking, having over the years walked through Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park and many national parks in both Victoria and Tasmania, I have appreciated those parks, like so many others.
As a former teacher, and with my family, I have enjoyed the opportunities for picnics and spent time appreciating the beauty of those national parks.
We on this side of the house, the Labor Party, showed in the 11 years of the Bracks and Brumby governments that we strongly supported nature-based tourism. We made a lot of commitments both financially and in terms of energy to those areas, which I greatly supported. The member for Gembrook talked about the need to support tourism in his area. Labor likewise supports opportunities for areas in his electorate. He did not explain why you need to build in national parks to support tourism in our rural and regional communities, because the fact is that you do not. It is almost counterproductive to say you need to build major structures within national parks, because in nearly all of our national park areas of Victoria there is private land available either in the locally based rural communities or in other places adjoining the parks.
Those places afford opportunities to provide the accommodation and other facilities that some people would benefit from if they wanted to spend a longer time in our national parks.
During the term of the Bracks government I chaired the Victorian Trails Advisory Committee. It did a lot of work looking at how we can sell Victoria as a site for world-class bushwalks so that people would not just think of going to Tasmania to walk in Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, New Zealand or other places which have clearly developed their industries and tourism opportunities to sell themselves as significant world-class walking sites. Victoria has world-class walking sites. We did a lot of work on that committee. I went down to Cape Otway and walked some of the newly developed Great Ocean Walk, which the Bracks government supported and developed. Now the trail is in place, but there are still opportunities to ensure that we increase patronage in that area.
Yes, there is a need to provide better accommodation opportunities and other facilities for people who want to go into that area.
If members consider the Great Ocean Walk and the whole area from Cape Otway through to Port Campbell and then on to Warrnambool, there are plenty of opportunities to build accommodation that is not located in the narrow national park boundaries, and that would be very beneficial to those local communities. There is very little need to look at building in these iconic national park areas that people will want to come to if we promote them properly. Labor’s position is very clear: we support nature-based tourism. With my background I know the value of going to national parks to appreciate the beauty of those areas in our state, and we want to ensure that they are appreciated by other people.
We do not want them damaged by new developments being built in them, which then require infrastructure. If you build substantial accommodation facilities — and the bill generally talks about accommodation as the major type of facility for which the government is proposing 99-year leases in this bill — then you need roads put in, electricity and sewerage connected, and you therefore change the nature of the national park in that area to provide those facilities. It is just not necessary.
There would be challenges for any developer who wishes to go about that process because they would be operating, in most cases, against the community view in those areas, as we have seen in the past, so it does not make sense even to try to promote those opportunities. There are sites associated with our national parkland in Victoria that are private land and that provide the opportunity for significant developments that will assist nature-based tourism.
I am stunned by so many of the things that have been said by members on the other side. We know their history in this regard. The Nationals during the time of the Bracks and Brumby governments, and before, never supported the establishment of new national parks when we have proposed them. They said, ‘No, this isn’t a great thing. We want to be able to go into those national parks in any way we want and use them in any way we want, and we don’t need to set any guidelines, as the national parks do’.
In the early days of the current government, the first thing that the so-called environment minister did was to propose that we put cattle back into the Alpine National Park. It is a good thing that the federal government challenged that and said, ‘On what scientific basis will you have so-called trials?’. It was a bit like the Japanese whaling system, because this government proposed trials of grazing in the Alpine National Park, an area we know is very sensitive environmentally.
Mr Delahunty interjected.
Mr HOWARD— As we hear from the member for Lowan, it was an election commitment, so the government felt it needed to go with it. I am not sure whether the member is saying, ‘If we hadn’t slipped up ahead of the election and hadn’t made a promise, we wouldn’t have gone ahead with it’. Anyway the government couched it in the same terms as the Japanese did: ‘It’s a trial’.
But rather than a trial of killing whales, this was a trial of cattle grazing in our high country, and when the federal government — —
Mr Watt — On a point of order, Deputy Speaker, the member is quite clearly straying from the bill. I do not know what Japanese whaling has to do with this bill, and I ask you to bring him back to it.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER — Order! I do not uphold the point of order.
Thankfully the federal Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities said, ‘What is your rationale for this scientific trial of cattle grazing in the national parks?’, and of course this government could not provide any rationale for so-called scientific trialling of grazing in the national parks. The way the Minister for Environment and Climate Change and this whole government value our national parks is a disappointment. I heard from the member for Gembrook that we can trust our Minister for Environment and Climate Change and that, ‘If we allow construction in national parks, this environment minister will be very responsible’. This is the same environment minister who, as his first act in office, wanted to allow cattle to graze in the Alpine National Park, the same minister who seems to take no interest in climate change issues. Support for the alternative energy industry has gone backwards in this state under the environment minister, and there are so many other ways in which he is clearly not standing up for the environment in this state.
It would be of great concern to me to see this environment minister responsible for any construction of buildings under 99-year leases in our national parks. This government really does not appreciate the value of national parks as do so many others across our state, and I certainly do not support the bill; it is unnecessary. I state clearly that the Labor Party is strongly a supporter of nature-based tourism, and I am strongly in support of nature-based tourism, but we do not need to go down the track of building in national parks. We can build around them on private land and provide the facilities that can benefit our rural and regional communities, where nature-based tourism exists.