Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson has renewed a push for Tasmania to become a world leader in marine plastics pollution research.
Campaigning for the federal government to allocate $25 million over five years for a Marine Plastics Cooperative Research Centre in Hobart, Senator Whish-Wilson said Tasmania has all of the experts required to fill a 70-personnel research centre.
But Liberal Senator David Bushby said the best solution was to work diplomatically and raise local awareness to combat marine pollution.
Research by the Institute of Marine and Antarctic Science shows plastics in the marine ecosystem can kill wildlife through entanglement, ingestion and blockage, while the toxicology of microplastics and their potential harm is only just beginning to be understood.
Senator Whish-Wilson said the 2016 Senate inquiry into marine pollution received full cross-party support for its recommendations, representing the growing international awareness of the issue.
The inquiry recommended that federal government policies tackling marine plastics “be underpinned by sound, peer-reviewed research”.
He said a Marine Plastics CRC based in Hobart, with links to the University of Tasmania in Launceston, would generate world-first research that would help increase pressure on industry to change unsustainable practices.
The centre would be funded federally with funding contributed from state and local governments and industry partners.
“I want all political parties to back this proposal. I want industry to come out and back it too,” Senator Whish-Wilson said.
“This is an idea whose time has come and I’m not going to stop pushing for it until it becomes a reality.”
Liberal Senator David Bushby said it was important to note that the majority of marine plastics in Australia’s oceans came from abroad and a diplomatic approach to raise local awareness was “clearly the best approach to tackling this issue”.
Senator Bushby said the federal government invests in programs such as the Reef Trust and National Landcare Program to combat pollution.
"Furthermore, Minister Frydenberg is currently working with state jurisdictions through the Meeting of Environment Ministers, to advance a national approach to managing waste more generally,” he said.