Nature Repair Market Bill 2023

SECOND READING DEBATE - HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

I'd like to thank the member for Durack for her contribution to this debate. It was heartening to hear some of the positive comments she made about this important piece of legislation, the Nature Repair Market Bill 2023, particularly after being privy to the contribution made by the member for New England today, which led me to believe that all of those opposite believe that there is no problem—nothing needs to be fixed—and that anything implying we should take action, as a government, to protect or repair our natural environment, which has been degraded over time, is lunacy. That is what I took from the member for New England's contribution earlier today.

One of the problems I have with the member for Durack's contribution, though, is that she says, on the one hand, this government had taken too long and had done too much consultation, while, on the other hand, the Western Australian government has not taken long enough and not done enough consultation—both talking about similar things. I note, too, that the member for Durack's comments about the consultation that happened when the coalition was in government around a biodiversity market included deep conversation with farmers. There was some criticism in the member's contribution that the member for Sydney, as the minister for the environment, had taken this more broadly, beyond farmers and to other areas of our community, and that that was somehow the wrong thing to do, after the former government had done so much work. I take it that means that some work had been done on the notion of a biodiversity market. This piece of legislation, having been introduced by the member for Sydney, is about a nature repair market that goes beyond farmland and includes marine considerations. It is not surprising that those opposite are not embracing the notion of this going beyond current farmland.

I want to talk a bit about my electorate, which is home to a Ramsar wetland. The Ramsar site is at the mouth of the Werribee River, where it reaches the bay. This wetland is home to birdlife that comes from all over the globe at different times of the year. As breeding season comes, birds fly in from as far as Russia. They travel across the globe to come to this site, hence its protection under the Ramsar wetlands agreement. Sitting right beside it is land that was once farmland and on which sits the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works sewage treatment plant. On a drive from my electorate to the member for Hawke's electorate, I would see sheep grazing and maybe paddocks full of grain. Now, alarmingly, we see paddocks full of rocks, paddocks full of rabbits and, bluntly, paddocks full of noxious weeds sitting in very close proximity to what is an international site.

I want to talk a bit about my electorate, which is home to a Ramsar wetland. The Ramsar site is at the mouth of the Werribee River, where it reaches the bay. This wetland is home to birdlife that comes from all over the globe at different times of the year. As breeding season comes, birds fly in from as far as Russia. They travel across the globe to come to this site, hence its protection under the Ramsar wetlands agreement. Sitting right beside it is land that was once farmland and on which sits the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works sewage treatment plant. On a drive from my electorate to the member for Hawke's electorate, I would see sheep grazing and maybe paddocks full of grain. Now, alarmingly, we see paddocks full of rocks, paddocks full of rabbits and, bluntly, paddocks full of noxious weeds sitting in very close proximity to what is an international site.

But it's not a surprise for me that those opposite are a bit torn about this piece of legislation. As the member for Durack pointed out, they'd done a lot of work around a market. Last week, after listening to contributions from those opposite, I was struggling to understand why the party of the market, the party that's so often criticised for letting the market rip, were coming in, one after the other, to criticise a bill that was going to create a new market and a market in an area that all Australians will benefit from. This market comes into being with the appropriate regulations around it, with the appropriate oversight around it and with the expansion of it beyond current farmland and into all areas of our great country. If it incentivises private capital investment into those spaces, this could be a real game changer for us as a country.

Colleagues of mine have talked about our commitment on this side to environmental protection. This bill does more than environmental protection. This bill is about repairing degradation. This bill is about giving nature a chance, about getting a natural footprint back into areas where that's possible. But it's not a surprise to me that those opposite are struggling with this concept. We know that the former minister, now the deputy opposition leader, the member for Farrer, hid a report from the Australian people—a report that landed last year, the official five-yearly report card on the Australian environment called the State of the e nvironment report. That report landed but was hidden from view, not tabled in this place, not available to the public. We know why: because, after nearly 10 years of coalition government, it was a catalogue of horrors. It showed just how much damage a decade of Liberal and National Party neglect did to our environment. As those on this side have said, one of the primary things that report found was that Australia has lost more mammal species to extinction than any other continent. We're standing in a building where above us, on our coat of arms, we have an emu and a kangaroo— because they don't take a backward step—to note that we have lost more mammal species to extinction than any other continent. For the first time, Australia has more foreign plant species than native. Some of those foreign plant species will be noxious weeds, and I know in my part of the world that's certainly the case.

When I travel anywhere, after weeks away from home one of the things I do to ground myself back in the electorate is get in the car and drive across the Iramoo plains in the direction of the You Yangs, a path I've taken since I was a child. It grounds me, and it reminds me of where I am. It is depressing doing that drive now and seeing those paddocks being overtaken by weeds—absolutely depressing. Habitat the size of Tasmania has been cleared between 2000 and 2017. Plastics are choking our oceans with up to 80,000 pieces of plastic per square kilometre. In December 2019, flow in most Murray-Darling rivers had reached record low levels. That record becomes exposed while we debate action in this place.

I want to commend the member for Sydney for the work she has done in broadening the scope of her deliberations, in broadening the scope of the public hearings and consultation that has occurred, and in landing for us a bill that will see the development of a nature repair market and the regulations set around that to ensure we get this investment right. This bill will ensure we attract private investment and make it easier for businesses and philanthropists to invest in efforts of nature repair. This bill supports landholders including farmers and First Nations communities to do things like plant native species, repair damaged riverbeds and remove invasive species. These are incredibly important things.

The Albanese Labor government is delivering on its Nature Positive Plan with the establishment of this repair market. This market will make it easier for businesses, organisations, governments and individuals to invest in projects to protect and repair nature. We've committed to protecting 30 per cent of Australia's land and seas by 2030. As I speak, I am reminded of one of the other things the previous government did upon coming to office, and that was halving the national marine parks. That was an extraordinary act that undid groundbreaking work and wound the clock back. But we shouldn't be surprised because, as a government, they had 22 energy policies and failed to land one.

As a country we need to be standing up internationally and taking action on climate change and making positive changes in our energy market. Those opposite are having trouble coming in here and supporting the repair of our natural habitats across this great country. They seem to be in a time warp where you're either for farmers or you're against farmers. You can be for farmers and for nature. I'm from farmers and I know lots of farming families that have been actively involved in Landcare projects and planting trees. But in this chamber we get this picture of farmers as if they are completely and utterly centred on their own business at the expense of this country. They're not the farmers I know; they're not the farmers I represent. I represent farmers who will come to a meeting to talk about climate change and talk about action on climate change. I work with farmers who are scientists in the way they grow produce on their farms. I think that my farmers will welcome the Nature Repair Market Bill. My market gardeners, my vegetable growers will welcome the opportunity to have weeds eradicated from the dryer paddocks two kilometres away from where they're currently doing four crops of vegetables a year.

It is timely that this legislation is in the chamber. It has been interesting listening from this side of the debate to the varying points of view from those opposite. I welcome some of the positive comments made by the member for Durack and hope that those opposite decide that the integrity of environmental outcomes is an important thing and something that they should support. I hope they think about the work they did in government around a biodiversity market. I hope they take that knowledge to this piece of legislation, unlike the other things that have been policies of theirs in government that they have walked into this place and voted against. I am desperately hoping that this legislation makes a difference in communities like mine, makes a difference across this great country and makes a difference to places like the Great Barrier Reef. I think it is a real positive in terms of looking for and finding ways for our remote communities to also be involved in this marketplace and bringing together those who love this country, whether they have had an attachment to this country for 65,000 years or, like lots of people that I represent, they have only been in the country for less than five years. I hope that this legislation is something that everyone in my electorate can support. I hope that business and philanthropists get behind this market and make a difference in communities like mine.

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