Shark Control Program, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park

Mr PERRETT (Gympie—LNP) (2.35 pm): I congratulate Minister Furner and the Labor Party for finally adopting in principle the LNP’s SMART drumline policy, designed to keep Queenslanders safe.

In the end, the right decision was taken to implement some sensible shark control programs in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. It is disappointing that the federal government had to drag this government kicking and screaming to do something. Five months ago, in September last year, the LNP committed to putting SMART drumlines in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. We have announced $15 million over three years to do the job and call on the state Labor government to immediately match the commitment. We understood that urgent action was needed to protect the community.

For 134 days Annastacia Palaszczuk and her ministers attacked the LNP’s plan, playing politics with swimmer safety and putting tourism jobs at risk. I commend Minister Furner on his statement in the House this morning, where he ate humble pie and accepted the adoption of SMART drumlines. The complete turnaround comes after continual claims that our plan would put lives at risk. In fact, Minister Furner is on the record more than 10 times, from as late as November last year, criticising the LNP’s policy of SMART drumlines.

Some of his greatest hits in trashing the very policy he is now trumpeting in newspapers across the state include: on 25 September in the Townsville Bulletin Minister Furner said that he did not believe that SMART drumlines were appropriate in the Great Barrier Reef, even though they were being trialled in other states; on 3 October in the Mackay Daily Mercury the minister said that the LNP catch and release was the wrong approach within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park; on 4 October in the Australian the minister again said that SMART drumlines are not appropriate or suited to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park; on 25 October in the Courier-Mail Minister Furner referred to the ‘so-called’ SMART drumlines as being ineffective, the same SMART drumlines he has now signed up to; on 30 October in the Courier-Mail the minister doubled down, saying that it would be ‘near impossible’ to operate shark drum lines throughout the Whitsundays, going further to say that he had ‘no desire’ to deploy drum lines in the Whitsundays; on 31 October in the Courier-Mail Minister Furner and Minister Jones criticised the federal government and the Prime Minister for ‘having blood on their hands’ in relation to its drum line policy; and on 4 November in the Courier-Mail Minister Furner went even further in response to the LNP policy, saying—

Let me be clear, we will not support alternative technologies that don’t work or provide a sense of false protection. We will not implement something that science tells us won’t work.

On 9 November in the Morning Bulletin Minister Furner said that the LNP’s catch and release policy would mean towing sharks away from one popular beach to another. He said our policy would put in danger the lives of not only beachgoers but also Shark Control Program staff and contractors and that the government had legal advice that staff could be liable to prosecution if they were unable to meet the new conditions.

The minister repeated his claims in statements to this House in September and October. In the last 24 hours we have seen an extraordinary turnaround. The minister’s judgement has again been exposed as unsatisfactory and incompetent. The minister is completely out of his depth. The truth is that, after abruptly removing the drum lines in September last year, Minister Furner never wanted to put back any form of shark protection.

The court did not order removal of the drum lines, only that they not be fatal. Despite this, the minister cynically seized the opportunity to shirk his responsibilities. He used baseless claims to cynically dodge responsibility. Minister Furner has now been dragged kicking and screaming to complete the most basic of his ministerial responsibilities. The minister should come into this House and apologise to Queenslanders for cynically delaying and obstructing this commonsense solution and for his outrageous and relentless grandstanding.

The LNP welcomes the initiative shown by the federal government by principally adopting our Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Shark Control Program. Only the LNP understands and has a plan to safeguard and support Queensland’s tourism industry. Only a Deb Frecklington LNP government can be trusted to deliver SMART drumlines. Only the LNP can be trusted to implement sensible and pragmatic shark control measures to protect humans and local tourism jobs.