Labor and the Greens have launched a fresh attempt to disallow controversial new marine park management plans proposed by the Turnbull government last week, bowling up individual motions to boost the chances of scuttling at least part of the proposal.
A first attempt to disallow the management plans failed on Tuesday night when the government brought on a vote after a procedural skirmish – deploying an unusual chamber tactic, effectively inviting the Senate to vote down the Coalition’s regulations.
The government was on safe ground bringing on the vote because the Senate crossbenchers lined up with the Coalition uniformly in support of the management plans.
But Labor and the Greens intend to persist with trying to scuttle them and have tabled five disallowance motions to allow individual elements of the marine park management plans to be voted down if the numbers are there.
“If the government thought that last night’s rushed vote was the end of the matter it has another think coming,” the Labor’s environment spokesman, Tony Burke, told Guardian Australia.
“This time the disallowance motions have been moved separately for each of the regions. This gives senators an opportunity to focus on the regions they might be most concerned about, particularly the Coral sea where the cuts are extraordinary.”
The Greens healthy oceans spokesman, Peter Whish-Wilson, said the new approach gave environment groups “time to lobby the Senate on the merits of each and every plan”.
“As some plans are much worse than others, it’s likely we have a greater chance of success with some plans than with others, and definitely a greater chance than voting on them as a bloc,” he said.
“In the meantime, the Greens will be doing what we can to lobby the crossbench ourselves and we will be working to highlight how flawed these so-called marine protections really are.”
While the events of this week will trigger a campaign from environment groups on the issue, scuttling the plans will be a tough ask in terms of Senate numbers.
Labor and the Greens in the Senate are a bloc of 35, so another four votes are required for the majority a successful disallowance needs.
The marine parks issue has a vexed political history. Before it lost office in 2013, Labor unveiled a network of 42 marine reserves that was largely welcomed by environmental groups but was designed to have a minimal impact on commercial activities, which led to some criticism from conservationists and scientists.
When Tony Abbott came to government in 2013, Labor’s proposal was suspended. Abbott said he did not want to “lock up our oceans” and that more consultation was needed.
The Turnbull government has taken the process through to its conclusion. Following a scientific review, the Coalition released draft management plans for consultation in September last year and the final boundaries appeared last Tuesday.
The environment minister, Josh Frydenberg, has described the new regime as “a world-leading management regime” for Australia’s marine parks.
Frydenberg said the new management plans would mean Australia had 36% of its waters included in marine parks, and the new plans would be beneficial for recreational fishers.
He said the government proposal had enhanced protections for the sea floor and fewer areas open for mining than the proposal Labor brought forward when it was in government.