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RURAL AFFAIRS AND TRANSPORT LEGISLATION COMMITTEE
AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES AND FORESTRY PORTFOLIO
Australian Fisheries Management Authority
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RURAL AFFAIRS AND TRANSPORT LEGISLATION COMMITTEE
Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
Australian Fisheries Management Authority
Senator IAN MACDONALD
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RURAL AFFAIRS AND TRANSPORT LEGISLATION COMMITTEE
(Senate-Wednesday, 20 October 2010)
AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES AND FORESTRY PORTFOLIO
Department of Climate Change
Senator IAN MACDONALD
Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics-Bureau of Rural Sciences
Senator IAN MACDONALD
Australian Fisheries Management Authority
Senator IAN MACDONALD
Biosecurity Services Group
Senator IAN MACDONALD
Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority
Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation
Meat and Livestock Australia
Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation
Grains Research and Development Corporation
- Department of Climate Change
- AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES AND FORESTRY PORTFOLIO
Content WindowRURAL AFFAIRS AND TRANSPORT LEGISLATION COMMITTEE
AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES AND FORESTRY PORTFOLIO
Australian Fisheries Management Authority
Senator IAN MACDONALD —While the change of staff is happening, could you, perhaps, Mr Thompson, on notice just indicate how many Environment staff can identifiably be allocated to Caring for our Country. Is that possible?
Mr Thompson —That is possible. We will take that on notice.
Senator IAN MACDONALD —I am really after you going back a couple of years so that I can see whether you are increasing your involvement or decreasing it, and whether Environment is doing the opposite, or whatever.
Mr Thompson —We can give you those numbers.
Senator IAN MACDONALD —Okay, thank you.
CHAIR —Right, who wants to lead the charge? Senator Colbeck?
Senator COLBECK —I just want to go back to something we touched on at the last estimates. I asked a question about staffing and resourcing. How many staff are there currently in the fisheries policy unit?
Mr Veitch —There are currently 34 staff in the branch.
Senator COLBECK —Currently 34. So that is down, I think, from 37 at the last estimate?
Mr Veitch —That is correct.
Senator COLBECK —And the reduction in numbers is due to what?
Mr Veitch —A combination of factors. We have completed a grants program and that was a terminating program. We have also had people making just normal career progression, so we have restructured some of the numbers in the branch, and we have also transferred some administrative functions to the Australian Fisheries Management Authority, particularly functions to do with Torres Strait fisheries. There were three FTEs associated with that transfer.
Senator COLBECK —So is 34 where the numbers are proposed to settle?
Mr Veitch —Yes.
Senator COLBECK —So effectively you have lost almost 20 people out of that section over the last 12 months.
Mr Veitch —Another factor going a bit further back was combining the international fisheries branch with the domestic fisheries and aquaculture branch, so that caused some of that rationalisation in gross terms, and also the structural adjustment package winding up as part of that as well.
Mr Thompson —I am not sure about the 20. Numbers go up and down a little bit as staff come and go, but my understanding is we reached a peak in fisheries combining the two areas in 2008-09 of 52, but that was when we were running a major program. Then it went to 37 and now it is 34.
Senator COLBECK —My apologies. It is an 18 person reduction. So the terminating program was the structural adjustment package that was—
Mr Thompson —The structural adjustment package and there was also recreational programs as well, all of which required considerable administrative work.
Senator COLBECK —So all the recreational programs finished as well?
Mr Thompson —No, not all of them. The ones that involved small grants have finished, but we still have some projects that we are delivering in conjunction with the Fisheries R&D Corporation in the recreational fishing. I think there are about seven or eight projects there.
Senator COLBECK —Ex-projects. Yes, I will come to that shortly. Can you give me an indication of the staffing budget for this unit. We will not go through the administrative program’s budget.
Mr Veitch —$5.16 million this year.
Senator COLBECK —How has that changed over, say, the last two years?
Mr Veitch —The previous year was roughly $4.34 million and the year before that was $6.27 million.
Senator COLBECK —That must obviously include—
Mr Thompson —That is not just staffing, because the numbers clearly do not go up and down proportional to staff numbers. That is the whole departmental appropriation so that would include travel and any sort of minor consultancy expenses that are funded from within the department. The travel can be quite variable from year to year because of the international commitments. Not all of the meetings are as long or as regular in one year versus another, so cost varies.
Senator COLBECK —Is there a delineation of staff between international duties and domestic and aquaculture?
Mr Veitch —We have a five-section structure in the branch now. One of those sections deals with the regional fisheries management organisations and another section deals with northern international fishing, particular illegal fishing to Australia’s north, so there are those two sections. We also have two sections in domestic fisheries and aquaculture, one oriented more towards environmental fisheries domestically and the other one covering some of the structural policy issues we are looking at into the future.
Senator COLBECK —So I have missed one—there is the regional one.
Mr Veitch —And the other one is the governance and legislation section.
Mr Thompson —The governance and legislation section does a lot of the legislative work and some of that can be of domestic origin, or it can be implementing in legislation obligations from international treaties.
Senator COLBECK —So the northern and international section, who looks after the issues that we have in southern waters with managing our fishing?
Mr Veitch —That is a crossover between the regional fisheries management organisation section, international fisheries section, because of the linkage there to the convention to deal with Antarctic waters, which is led by the environment department, and also the connection into the northern international fisheries because a lot of the vessels that fish down in those waters illegally land their product up into South-East Asia, so there is a crossover there.
Mr Thompson —So the split is essentially done on function. Where it is related to an international treaty it is handled by the international people, but where it relates to actually implementing the measures, it is done by the same people who work with AFMA and other people on illegal fishing operations, including in the north.
Senator COLBECK —What has the staff turnover rate been in that division over the last 12 months?
Mr Veitch —We have had people move from the branch and people come back into the branch, so in broad terms we are probably in a situation now where we consider it reasonably stable. There have been people taking up other positions elsewhere, just the normal process of career advancement moving on to other things.
Senator COLBECK —Yes, but what would be the turnover rate?
Mr Thompson —We would have to take that on notice. We do not have a calculation ready to hand on what the turnover rate is, and as Simon Veitch just said, there have been some people who left the division to broaden their experience in one year, and then having had that experience elsewhere, have come back 12 months later. Some go to the Fisheries R&D Corporation, some to AFMA, some to other departments, and then they return to Fisheries, so we can take that on notice.
Senator COLBECK —I appreciate that. If you could give me staff numbers say from 2007 through to now.
Mr Thompson —We can give you the numbers for 2007-08. I have those here. 2007-08 was 46 staff.
Senator COLBECK —We had a discussion at the last estimates about the marine bio-regional planning process that is currently being conducted by whatever the acronym is for department of environment and whoever else they are hooked into these days. Can you give me a run-down on the involvement with that process over the last six months?
Mr Thompson —Six months takes us back to earlier in the calendar year, so—
Senator COLBECK —Give us an update since budget estimates because we did talk about it fairly extensively there.
Mr Thompson —Since budget estimates we have been working with the environment department on their engagement process with regions. We did not attend every one of the stakeholder meetings. I think representatives of AFMA did. We did attend or have some special meetings up in Queensland to get some feedback from people who had been working quite closely with the environment department on a displaced effort policy and ABARE there have been working with the environment department on socio-economic—
Senator COLBECK —Mr Glyde just pricked his attention. He knew he would come back into vogue at some stage and he is at the bottom of my page too.
Mr Thompson —And since then we have been working quite closely with the environment department, engaging with them on a process whereby they could better inform the planning process and engage more closely with the stakeholders. So we are quite closely engaged and we intend to stay that way.
CHAIR —Sorry to interrupt. We are at 4 o’clock.
Senator COLBECK —Let us break and we will continue on this after.
CHAIR —We will take a 15 minute break
Proceedings suspended from 4.00 pm to 4.16 pm
CHAIR —Thank you very much. Now, in continuance, we have the Australian Fisheries Management Authority. Senator Boswell, you have the call.
Senator BOSWELL —Thank you. I am going to ask about cost recovery. There seems to be some huge increases on licences that go far beyond the CPI. Now, Cairns Marine is one of the two aquarium permits for the Coral Sea and their contribution to the AFMA is going up from $4,500 to $17,000. How do you justify that? Maybe I will give you a couple of others and you can try to justify them. Also there is one particular licence out there, Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery, whose fees have gone from $86,000 to $166,000. The beche-de-mer fishery has gone up way over CPI. Can you tell me what is happening to licences in the Coral Sea?
Dr Findlay —The cost recovery in fisheries this year has actually been kept, in toto across the industry, to the 2005-06 level. That was a commitment we made to the industry back at that stage to put a freeze on our levy increases in toto. For a number of fisheries, though, we review the cost recovery as it relates to the activities that are occurring in those fisheries and change the budgets accordingly. With the first case you have mentioned there, Cairns Marine, you are reflecting numbers which reflect a current proposal to shift the allocation of the cost recovery within the Coral Sea fishery. We have gone back and had a look at our activities across the various sectors within that fishery and what we have discovered is that some sectors have been subsidising the aquarium sector and the proposal that is currently going to the Coral Sea fishery is that we better reflect what is actually going on in terms of the true costs involved in that fishery. We have seen a large increase in the Coral Sea fishery as a result of activity on there at the moment. With regard to the ETBF numbers you have quoted, that reflects a change in a number of areas. One of them is that last year we had the lapsing of the levy subsidy. As a part of the Securing our Fishing Future package there was a three-year levy subsidy.
Senator BOSWELL —Yes, I was going to ask you that.
Dr Findlay —So that has now lapsed and we are now back to full costs recovery for our fisheries. And part of that increase you have noted there is a result of that. The remainder of that increase reflects for that company a change in the proportion of the levy that they are responsible for as a result of the allocation of statutory fishing rights. We have had in the past permit systems where all permits were charged the same amount. As part of the allocation not all permit holders got the same amount of allocation and the people now pay on the basis of their allocation and those increases are that holder’s proportion of the statutory fishing rights in the fishery.
Senator BOSWELL —These huge increases are occurring basically in the Coral Sea. It is well known that the Greens, and they do not deny it, are pushing very hard for a complete no-take zone. I hope there is no conspiracy theory in this that we are going to drive people out of the Coral Sea and charge them tremendous fees that they cannot pay and then ipso facto we do not have a fishing industry in the Coral Sea. You would deny that would ever happen or there is any pressure on you to increase the fees in the Coral Sea?
Dr Findlay —No, that is certainly not the driver in our case.
Senator BOSWELL —Okay.
Dr Findlay —We are recovering for the management costs incurred in the fishery.
Senator BOSWELL —You have already told me that you are getting no assistance from the government on the AFMA budget. Your assistance has been cut back.
Dr Findlay —We have had a $1.4 million efficiency dividend for the next three years, yes.
Senator BOSWELL —So it has not only been cut back, but you will have to find an other $1.4 million?
Dr Findlay —No, that is the cutback.
Senator COLBECK —That is for what period, sorry, Dr Findlay?
Dr Findlay —We have the deficiency dividend over the next three years as $1.4 million each year.
Senator BOSWELL —So let me get this straight: you were given some assistance to make up on the big reduction in licence fees through the buyback to give you a chance to adjust. That assistance is not forthcoming any more—is that right?
Dr Findlay —Yes, the levy subsidy ended last year.
Senator COLBECK —What was the value of that?
Dr Findlay —The levy subsidy over the three years was a total of $15 million.
Senator BOSWELL —Chair, I am having difficulty hearing.
Senator COLBECK —A similar amount each year?
Dr Findlay —There was a larger amount in the first year. I will get the numbers exactly right. I think it was seven, five and three over the three years—million dollars, that is.
Senator BOSWELL —The number of fishermen that you are now monitoring is down by 50 per cent, and there are going to be further cuts, I would imagine, with these areas of further assessment when the plan comes out. The first plan is the south-west, I understand, which will be out this year. But there will have to be, I would imagine, a reduction. When many of these plans with their no-take zones are implemented there is going to be a further loss of fishing licences, which will mean a further number of people who will not be required to monitor the fishing fleet. Are you making any necessary adjustments in the numbers in your workforce?
Dr Findlay —At this stage, like the fishing industry, we are not sure what the nature of the impacts will be with regard to the fishing effort in the Australian fisheries.
Senator BOSWELL —But the licences have already been reduced by 50, and they have got to be reduced even further. They have got to be. If these areas of further assessment go through and we are not successful in blocking them by a disallowance then there has got to be a reduction in the number of fishermen.
Dr Findlay —That is certainly true. Both through the securing of fishing future buyback and certainly through the previous south-east regional marine planning process we have seen a reduction in the number of fishers, and certainly the amount of effort they are applying, but that is not the only driver of our costs. In many cases catches have not decreased by very much and both catches and other elements continue to keep an upside.
Senator BOSWELL —But my point is if you are monitoring 50 per cent fewer fishermen then why do you require the same number of officers? Shouldn’t they be reduced also?
Dr Findlay —The monitoring component of the costs is just one part of our cost structure. A large part of our cost structure is undertaking research and stock assessments and delivering that decision-making system through to the fishers themselves. As I said, if catches have not gone down we still need to acquire the same amount of information to support decision making on sustainable catch limits, and that still costs the same amount of money regardless of whether it is 10 boats or 100 boats.
Senator BOSWELL —I will direct this question to the minister in his new position. Minister, I refer you to that map, which you have obviously seen, where all these areas of further assessment are going to take place. Within that there will be—I think it is on the record—closures and no-take zones.
Senator Ludwig —No decisions have been made.
Senator BOSWELL —So what are you saying? Are you saying that you are not going to proceed with these areas of further—
Senator Ludwig —I am saying that no decision has been made. I think that is clear. You are saying that there has been a decision made to close, but there has been no decision made.
Senator COLBECK —There will be no-take zones amongst them. We all know that—
Senator Ludwig —It is still speculative by you. There have been no—
Senator COLBECK —Not even the department of environment are telling us it is speculative.
Senator BOSWELL —Minister, with due respect—and I know that you will try and assist both the commercial and the amateurs—it is your policy that there will be closures in these areas, and Mr O’Connell is nodding his head in agreement.
Senator Ludwig —Well, (a) it is not my policy decision, (b) it is Minister Burke’s policy decision and (c) Minister Burke, as far as I can recollect, has indicated that he is looking at these particular issues, and to date I am not aware of any decision by Minister Burke in respect of it. So I would ask you not to get ahead of where we currently are.
Senator BOSWELL —Is Minister Burke contemplating overriding the previous minister?
Senator Ludwig —You might want to go to that committee and ask the question there. I cannot speak on behalf of Minister Burke. I can only indicate what I know to date.
Senator BOSWELL —Actually, I am at the right committee, because you are the person who is representing Mr Burke in this.
Senator Ludwig —No, I am representing myself.
Senator NASH —Senator Conroy is now representing Minister Burke I think, isn’t he?
Senator Ludwig —Yes, I think that is right.
Senator BOSWELL —You are representing yourself in the capacity of being responsible for these closures or whether these closures are going to take place.
Senator Ludwig —There are no closures to date. Minister Burke has the decision within his portfolio. It is certainly not within DAFF’s portfolio. We have got the rest of the week. I think that particular department was on yesterday, but you certainly can put questions on notice this week to that department.
Senator BOSWELL —I will put the question on notice now.
Senator Ludwig —No, not here; you would have to put it to the relevant committee. You could do that through your staff or through your office through to the relevant secretary of that committee.
Senator BOSWELL —Can you help me, Minister?
Senator Ludwig —I am trying to.
Senator BOSWELL —At the table are all the representatives from the Australian Fisheries Management Authority. They will have to implement this decision if it is made.
Senator Ludwig —There is no decision.
Senator BOSWELL —There is a decision, but what you are giving now is huge hope to the amateur fishermen that the decision about closures has not been made. They are going to be overjoyed—
Senator Ludwig —I think you are spreading the misinformation at this point in time.
Senator BOSWELL —No, I am not. You just said it. You said not decision has been made. There was a decision that there would be no-take zones, and now you are saying there may not be. When that gets out—
Dr O'Connell —It is my understanding that there has been no decision by Minister Burke or his predecessors on specific closures. There are areas which are being assessed for potential protected areas, but there has been no decision made, either in the large scale or down specifically to what would be the particular classification under the reserve scheme. So it is premature to be talking about decisions.
Senator BOSWELL —There has been no specific decision made as to where the closures will be in these areas of further assessment, but there has been a decision that there will be closures. They have not been designated.
Senator Ludwig —Could you point to that?
Senator BOSWELL —I probably can point to it.
Senator Ludwig —It would be helpful for the committee. You say something that we seem to contest, and we contest on the basis that you are asking the wrong department. But, substantively, if you have a decision that you are relying on, I think it would be helpful if you made it available to the committee.
Senator BOSWELL —I certainly will make it available. My office will be monitoring this committee hearing, and I hope that they will get it up to me. Let must just continue. What I am going to ask you, leaving that aside, is: are you finding, Mr O’Connell, that people are finding it hard to meet these increased fees? Dr Findlay is perhaps the man to ask.
Dr Findlay —Yes, we have. We have had eight concession holders surrender their licences this year for a range of reasons, among those quoting the increase in fees this year. On the issue of fees, I should point out that I mentioned right at the start that we are under a fixed cap and, while some individuals had their fees increased, there is a commensurate number of individuals also seeing their fees go down this year as part of making sure that people are paying for what they are getting.
Senator BOSWELL —So you have already had people turn their licences in, saying, ‘We cannot meet the cost.’
Dr Findlay —That is one of the reasons they are providing, yes.
Senator BOSWELL —Are you giving them any leniency in saying, ‘Well, look, 10 per cent down or 20 per cent now,’ in paying?
Dr Findlay —Yes, we enter into arrangements to pay and we have quite a flexible arrangement in terms of how people can pay their levies over the year. If people can indicate to us their willingness to pay, we are quite willing to enter into agreements to pay over an extended period, in some cases into the following financial year, to give people more time to get the money together.
Senator BOSWELL —Are there any other instances, in the Commonwealth Fisheries, where increases—and I have nominated a few—are clearly above CPI?
Dr Findlay —I am not aware of anything. That is outside my area.
Senator BOSWELL —Well, whose area is it in? The question is relatively simple. I have given you some instances in the Coral Sea where the fisheries have gone well above the CPI. Now, I am asking you: have you got any other instances where the CPI has been exceeded?
Dr Findlay —Could I just get clarification? Are you talking about fisheries or more broadly?
Senator BOSWELL —Yes, I am talking about Commonwealth fisheries.
Dr Findlay —We have had a number of Commonwealth fisheries where there have been increases in the levy this year.
Senator BOSWELL —Above CPI?
Dr Findlay —Above CPI, yes.
Senator BOSWELL —You probably would not be able to give them to me now.
Dr Findlay —We might be able to.
Senator BOSWELL —Would you?
Dr Findlay —I will just check with my colleagues.
Mr Perrott —If we are referring to the 2009-10 financial year, which saw the lapse in the levy subsidy, that meant there were a number of increases across fisheries that financial year. There were some increases above CPI. I can read through them if you like.
Senator BOSWELL —Good, thank you.
Mr Perrott —The Small Pelagic Fishery increased by 28 per cent; the Coral Sea Fishery by 16 per cent; East Coast Deepwater Trawl 31 per cent; gillnet, hook and trap sector of assessed fisheries, 57 per cent; the Commonwealth Victorian shore trawl was 248 per cent; South East Trawl sector 12 per cent; Heard and McDonald Islands 72 per cent; Macquarie Island 93 per cent; Bass Strait Central Zone Scallop Fishery 178 per cent; Northern Prawn Fishery 54 per cent; North West Slope Trawl Fishery 30 per cent; Southern Squid Jig Fishery 61 per cent; Southern Bluefin Tuna—
Senator COLBECK —Is there a chart or something that you could provide to us so that we could see this, rather than—I mean, it would be valuable information for us to be able to sit down and have a look at, at some point in time. So if you were able to provide that, I would appreciate it. I do not know whether Senator Boswell is after it, but it was something I was going to come to later. I would appreciate that.
Mr Perrott —I do have the detailed calculations that show all the different movements and the costs between the two financial years.
Senator BOSWELL —Thank you for that. And I would like to get that policy position where the government has made the announcement that there will be no-take zones in the vast networks of marine reserves now being planned right around the country. The minister has challenged me to produce it. I will go and get it, and I would like the opportunity to present it to the committee.
Senator COLBECK —On the three-year levy subsidy: that came in, in 2007?
Mr Perrott —The 2006-07 financial year, Senator.
Senator COLBECK —Yes, so that came in as a result of a specific restructure process?
Dr Findlay —Yes, as part of the $220 million Securing our Fishing Future package.
Senator COLBECK —So that was applied nationally and the result of removing that is—so what was the impact on fees at the time that that package was brought into place? Was there a commensurate reduction in fees at that point in time?
Dr Findlay —The $15 million over three years was used to offset what would otherwise have been charged to the industry, in recognition of the fact that there fewer fishers to pay. Part of the intent of the Securing our Fishing Future package was to deliver a higher profitability for those fishers that remained, but that was not going to happen overnight. And so their ability to pay was constrained in the short term, but they were told right upfront that the Securing our Fishing Future package levy subsidy had a limited life of three years.
Senator COLBECK —You say that the levies are paid on the basis of allocations; so, based on how much quota, effectively, that they are allocated—that is correct?
Dr Findlay —Yes, in those fisheries where we have statutory fishing rights, the fees are calculated on the percentage holding of the statutory fishing rights within each company. I mean, other fisheries—
Senator COLBECK —So, effectively, you work out what the overall statutory fishing right is, and then divide it by the—
Dr Findlay —The bill.
Senator COLBECK —various percentage. So you work out what your costs are for that fishery, to administer it. And that includes research and stock assessment?
Dr Findlay —That is right—among other things, yes.
Senator COLBECK —And then they pay a fee to hold that licence, regardless of their return.
Dr Findlay —That is right. So it is not linked to profits.
Senator COLBECK —It is not linked to profits; okay. And of course, the other problem that you face is that, in the circumstances where someone has returned a licence, one of the reasons for which might be that they are unable to meet the fees—one of the reasons—that reduces the number of people again in the pool, and their expenses increase proportionately because of the one that has dropped out.
Dr Findlay —That is right.
Senator COLBECK —What happens to the resource on the licence that might have been returned?
Dr Findlay —The TAC for the future year would be divided by a smaller number of statutory fishing rights—sorry, total allowable catch limit—
Senator COLBECK —I understand.
Dr Findlay —would be divided by a smaller number of holdings, so they would each get a commensurate increase. Where a permit has been issued and then subsequently handed back, there is no reallocation of the permit in most cases.
Senator COLBECK —So where there is a statutory fishing right it will be reallocated, but where it is merely a permit it will not.
Dr Findlay —No, the statutory fishing right will, essentially, be wiped off the books, and the remaining fishing right holders will get a proportional increase in their share of the TAC.
Senator COLBECK —So that particular entity which is the statutory fishing right expires, disappears, and the proportion of the catch that is allowed will be proportionally divided amongst—based on an effort over a period of time.
Dr Findlay —No. For example, if there were 1,000 statutory fishing rights in the fishery and there were 1,000 tonnes of fish, and each statutory fishing right was previously worth one tonne, if 100 of those were subsequently handed in, the 1,000 tonnes would now be divided by 900. So each of the statutory fishing rights would get that much more next year.
Senator COLBECK —Yes, but that does not quite go—all the statutory fishing rights are not the same, though, are they? Or are they based on units?
Dr Findlay —They are based on units.
Senator COLBECK —So if you hold five units, you get that proportion.
Dr Findlay —That is right, and you pay that share.
Senator COLBECK —So that deals with the effort proposal; okay. So, effectively, in regard to the efficiency dividend, your revenue is decreasing by $1.4 million every year.
Dr Findlay —$1.4 million each year for the next three years.
Senator COLBECK —So it progressively goes down by $1.4 million. I assume there is a policy process that has been gone through at some stage where you are 100 per cent cost recovered. What time does that date back to?
Dr Findlay —We have a cost recovery impact statement which we are required to review every five years. Actually, the minister signed off on the revised CRIS—the cost recovery impact statement—on 30 September. As part of that process, we go through a review of the services we provide and, within that, what should be paid for by government and what should be paid for by the industry underneath the broader cost recovery requirements of the act. That material is also submitted via Finance, following quite a detailed consultation with industry, before finalising the actual position on the CRIS.
Senator COLBECK —So we are, effectively, starting a review of that cost recovery process with the signing off of the cost recovery impact statement by the minister?
Dr Findlay —Well, that ended the five-year review, the—
Senator COLBECK —That ended the process?
Dr Findlay —Yes.
Senator COLBECK —Was there any change in that process to the proportion of your costs that were funded by government?
Dr Findlay —Yes, there were. There are changes in a number of areas. In total, the change—
Senator COLBECK —Positive or negative is the critical thing, I presume?
Dr Findlay —In total, had we applied the previous CRIS to the upcoming—we are going through the levy setting process at the moment. The new levies will be set in December this year, we hope. Had we applied the old cost recovery impact statement, the bill to industry in toto would have been $550,000 more than underneath the new CRIS signed by the minister.
Senator COLBECK —How much more is the bill to industry under the new CRIS than it was under the old one?
Dr Findlay —Sorry, how much more?
Senator COLBECK —Yes.
Dr Findlay —No, it has actually reduced.
Senator COLBECK —Okay. That is a real good answer. By how much? You do not know yet?
Dr Findlay —By $550,000.
Senator COLBECK —So the total take from industry will be reducing by $550,000 from what it was in the previous—
Dr Findlay —No, the total collection from industry this year is capped to the 2005-06 level plus CPI. Had we applied the previous calculation—
Senator COLBECK —That is what I was trying to get at—
Dr Findlay —the bill would be more than that.
Senator COLBECK —Were the fees still going north or south, effectively? They are still going north but capped at CPI—
Dr Findlay —CPI, yes.
Senator COLBECK —from 2005-06. That is cumulative CPI from 2005-06?
Dr Findlay —No. We have been frozen for the last few years. This is the first year that we have actually now implemented the CPI increase, so for the last two years we were fixed and this is now the first year we will see an increase to CPI.
Senator COLBECK —So what you do is you calculate the increase in the CPI since 2005-06? From last year?
Dr Findlay —No, from this year’s rates; just CPI for this year.
Senator COLBECK —Okay. I just want to make sure I get the terminology squared off.
Dr Findlay —Sorry.
Senator COLBECK —So from the 2009-10 year to the 2010-11 year, it will be CPI?
Dr Findlay —That is right.
Senator COLBECK —What functions will be supported by government that were not supported by government previously?
Dr Findlay —Sorry, what was that question again?
Senator COLBECK —What functions of AFMA will be supported by government that were not supported by government previously?
Dr Findlay —I will just have to pull up the changes in the CRIS. It is quite a detailed on and off type calculation. The key changes are in a number of areas, the first being compliance. The previous CRIS—the compliance activities were split 50/50 between government industry. That has now moved to 100 per cent government.
Senator COLBECK —Okay.
Dr Findlay —The other changes: compliance data collection was previously 50/50 between industry and government; it has now moved to 100 per cent industry. The cost of delivery of observer services was previously 20 per cent government, 80 per cent industry; it is now 100 per cent industry.
Senator COLBECK —It was not all wins for industry. They now pay 100 per cent of observers?
Dr Findlay —Observers; that is right. The cost of resource assessment groups was previously 75 per cent government, 25 per cent industry. It is now 20 per cent government, 80 per cent industry. The cost of fisheries independent surveys was previously 20 per cent government and 80 per cent industry, and now 100 per cent industry.
Senator COLBECK —What do you mean by the surveys?
Dr Findlay —We run fisheries independent surveys to assist us to undertake stock assessments. One of the lessons we have learnt from around the world is that if you rely solely on catch information or other information collected directly from the industry itself is that the information you have available to undertake an assessment is limited. Through the use of structured surveys we can collect more detailed information and therefore be better informed about decision making to set TACs for the following year.
Senator COLBECK —Given the concern about food security, broader concern about fish stocks, the environment, the process that Senator Boswell has been talking about maintaining fish stocks, the research that our friends at ABARE-BRS are conducting—sorry, Mr Glyde, to make you nervous again. How is it reasonable that 100 per cent of that effort goes to industry?
Dr Findlay —We have each year quite a detailed conversation with industry about how you make decisions about who is the beneficiary. There are a range of views, of course, about what the government should pay for, what the public should pay for in terms of that access—
Senator COLBECK —I am sure there are.
Dr Findlay —and industry obviously has a strong view in that equation as to other stakeholders. At the end of the day it ends up being a bit of a balancing act about some of these causes. Some of them are a little bit grey, and I have just out some very definitive numbers there but, with any particular project or any particular issue along the lines you are talking about in terms of this increasing public interest, there are always judgment calls to be made. One of the fundamental drivers that we obviously come back to is that in the absence of fishing you would not need to make some of these decisions about how to assess the impact of fishing on some of these attributes, and at the end of the day it is a public loaned resource.
Senator COLBECK —Yes, that is true but I recently saw a statistic whereby if you took away the protein provided to mankind from fishing and replaced it with pasture-grown protein you would have to clear the world’s rainforests 22 times over, so there is clearly a public interest in having access to this significant protein source which provides 25 per cent of the protein provided for human consumption globally. Obviously, there is a public interest in that particular matter. For industry to be providing all of the data—yes, they have access to the resource but they are not using it all themselves. It does go to a purpose and that is to provide protein for human consumption.
Dr Findlay —Just to be clear on the figures, I suppose one of the issues here is that the government contribution through appropriations to AFMA still is nearly double what we collect through industry levies, so there is a significant government appropriation contribution here in terms of representing that public good.
Senator COLBECK —I understand that. I am just trying to get a sense of the balance. Is the CRIS a public document?
Dr Findlay —Yes, it is.
Senator COLBECK —Okay. I will have to go back and have a look at that and get some of that more detailed information. You say, I think fairly, it is a balancing act. Are we balancing it to an outcome or to what is reasonably a contribution by government or a contribution by industry? Are we saying that we will balance this so that we only increase fees by CPI from last year or are we actually doing it in a more strategic way than that? I suppose it is a five-year process.
Dr Findlay —Yes. We go through quite a detailed conversation about making those decisions but at the same time we are quite aware of the fact that we do not want to be seeing large increases and decreases in fees. That obviously makes things very difficult for industry to plan their businesses and manage their cashflow, so we certainly, when we are making decisions, are quite aware of the need to minimise change to the greatest extent possible both in total and within the sectors, but sometimes that is hard to do.
Senator COLBECK —You indicated in your answers to Senator Boswell that there was some cross-subsidisation between fisheries in the Coral Sea and that was one of the reasons for the change in the structure for one in particular. Does that mean that there are some in another fishery in that zone that would have seen relatively substantial reductions in their fees?
Dr Findlay —Across the board, we—
Senator COLBECK —Is that right or am I getting to excited?
Dr Findlay —No, not necessarily in the Coral Sea. We have had significant increase across the board in the Coral Se, and so there has been a compounding factor of effort overall in the Coral Sea going up which has driven costs up, but within that we have also looked at the—
Senator COLBECK —Sorry to interrupt.
Dr Findlay —No. I am not helping, I am sorry.
Senator COLBECK —No, you have actually completely distracted me. We will come back to it. I just want to clarify the effort that you were talking about in the Coral Sea: did you say an increase in effort in the Coral Sea.
Dr Findlay —Increase in our management focus in the Coral Sea, yes.
Senator COLBECK —Your management focus in the Coral Sea?
Dr Findlay —Yes.
Senator COLBECK —What was the basis of the management focus in the Coral Sea? What was the driver for that? The licences in that area have been frozen for at least 12 months, so why an increased focus in that area?
Dr Findlay —For a long period of time the Coral Sea was managed on almost a set-and-forget type strategy whereby we had very low levels of effort in a very large area and, on that basis, there was a view taken—
Senator COLBECK —You mean fishing effort?
Dr Findlay —Fishing effort was very low. On that basis, there was a view taken that the risks were very low and, therefore, the management effort required to manage those risks was correspondingly low.
Senator COLBECK —Okay.
Dr Findlay —Over the last number of years we have seen an increase in people’s interest in that area, both—
Senator COLBECK —There are only about nine licences out there at the moment.
Dr Findlay —That is right, it is still very small, and we still have a view that that is certainly a sustainably managed fishery with a very low risk level, but having to demonstrate that to others and collect better data through the fishery—this is a fishery where we did not always collect incredibly detailed data—we are now.
Senator BOSWELL —Which others do you have to offer excuses to?
Dr Findlay —In terms of our processes, these are export fisheries.
Senator BOSWELL —Who are you justifying your decision to—I think you said—
Senator COLBECK —The department of environment would be one, I would presume.
Dr Findlay —Absolutely; the department of environment is certainly one of them.
Senator BOSWELL —Wouldn’t you think they ought to pick up the jack and jill if they want a bit more information? Why inflict that on the fishermen?
Dr Findlay —The public has a right to set expectations through legislation. The expectations were set through the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, which set certain standards that needed to be met in terms of demonstrating the sustainability of fisheries, and that is what we needed to meet.
Senator COLBECK —So effectively what you are doing is raising the monitoring standard that you were applying to that fishery. How do you determine what the level is? Based on the information that you require to meet certain reporting requirements?
Dr Findlay —Essentially, it is based on a broad risk assessment process that looks at the various components of the fishery and says: ‘What are the risks we are facing here? What do we need to know about them to assess that risk and therefore implement management arrangements?’
Senator IAN MACDONALD —Don’t we have to get further details of the base there or tonnages caught in the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery, which is basically the Coral Sea area?
Dr Findlay —There are a number of fisheries which operate in the Coral Sea region, one of them the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery. In this case, I thought we were talking about the Coral Sea Fishery—capital F fishery—one of our defined fisheries.
Senator IAN MACDONALD —But, apart from the aquarium trade, who fishes that area?
Senator COLBECK —There are nine commercial licences out there. There are some shark and there are a number of other species out there.
Dr Findlay —Yes. There is a line fishery, there is also a hand-collectable fishery as well as the actual aquarium fishery, and beche-de-mere.
Senator IAN MACDONALD —Do you know where those boats are based?
Dr Findlay —Yes, we do.
Senator IAN MACDONALD —Can you tell us?
Dr Findlay —Mostly in North Queensland, and mostly in Cairns.
Senator COLBECK —There are some out of Mooloolaba.
Senator IAN MACDONALD —Can you also on notice just update the licences, boats and the tonnages caught in that section of the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery that relates to the Coral Sea? Is that you or AFMA?
Dr Findlay —That is us—we are AFMA.
Senator IAN MACDONALD —You are AFMA?
Dr Findlay —We are happy to do that. We have provided that in the past and we are happy to do that again.
Senator IAN MACDONALD —I knew Professor Hurry had gone. I had not realised you had taken over, Dr Findlay, in an acting capacity at least.
Dr Findlay —That is right.
Senator IAN MACDONALD —Congratulations.
Senator BOSWELL —Dr Findlay, you said you had to justify your decisions on monitoring the Coral Sea, and that you had what I think you said was a ‘set and forget’—is that the correct term, set and forget?
Dr Findlay —That was a summary of how we were managing it on—
Senator BOSWELL —Now you say you have got to monitor it further and you have got to justify your position to some people. Would those people include Pew?
Dr Findlay —We have had data requests from Pew, yes.
Senator BOSWELL —With due respect, if Pew want information, how about telling them to pay for it. They are a bunch of parasites and they should be able to—if they want you to inflict a cost to get information, then it should be exactly what you term for the fishermen total cost recovery. If they want information, you give them the bill. You do not pass the information or the cost on to fishermen. That is totally unreasonable.
Dr Findlay —I probably do not disagree with you in principle. We do have a public accountability requirement under the Fisheries Management Act and we take that public accountability quite seriously. Part of providing that sort of information is about meeting that public accountability, and so for some information—
Senator BOSWELL —This is the death to the fishing industry, a death by a thousand cuts. If Pew do not get them, the environment department get them, and it just goes on and on. You have just had these people. They are so despondent. They are just so depressed. All they want to do is sell out. This has been going around and around in circles for years and now we find Pew is inflicting more costs on them because they want some information. Have you ever thought one way for Pew to break these fishermen is to just inflict more and more costs on them?
Dr Findlay —I should say that the costs—
Senator COLBECK —Actually that is a tactic of the environment movement to do that
Dr Findlay —In this case, the cost of delivering that information is very small, and we often make judgments that the cost of recovering that cost exceeds the amount that we would charge.
Senator COLBECK —Can you give us a sense of the change in your activities that would have occurred through the increased information gathering in that particular fishery? You said it was basically a set-and-forget. So you would have been basically taking catch data and locational data from the fishermen under the previous settings. Under the new settings you would require monitors on vessels and a whole range of other things? What would be the change in the settings that you would require for the higher level of monitoring?
Dr Findlay —Part of the cost driver is the additional data collection itself and the entry of that data—so breaking it down: in the past we had groups of species, whereas now we collect information on an individual species basis. We have had to undertake a number of risk assessments for key species.
Senator COLBECK —But that sort of information would feed into the fishstocks report that ABARE-BRS would do to give an annual update on where each of the particular fisheries is at.
Dr Findlay —Yes, among other things, including our own ecological risk assessment process for all Commonwealth fisheries. I should point out that this is a fishery where, even though the volumes are low, they do take a number of high-profile species which have certainly come under significant pressure elsewhere in the world, and a number of CITES listed species—species listed under the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species. While at this stage we do not have concerns about our activities, that does set quite a high bar about ensuring that, when we are exporting those species, we can meet that test to say that ours are sustainably harvested.
Senator COLBECK —So it goes into the export process test as much as it does anything that might apply in the domestic market?
Dr Findlay —That is right.
Senator COLBECK —Okay. So a lot of the work is actually in the level of definition of the data, so you are getting higher definition data which allows you to break it down in a more detailed way, but then doing all that work is obviously more expensive.
Dr Findlay —That is right. And in this fishery we had very low budgets. I think that is the other issue to remember here. There are a relatively small number of holders. If you multiply it by the numbers that we have mentioned earlier on, this is still a very small budget and therefore things like even a minor observer program to go and get validated data on what is going on in the fishery does result in significant increases in costs. So the actual total cost is still quite small, but the percentage increase is large.
Senator COLBECK —Okay. While we are on observers, let’s go to the camera process that you have got into place. Can you give us a sense on the durability of that and the capacity of that to actually mitigate costs in the fishery through observers?
Dr Findlay —We have had a camera program now running as a trial in the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery, which was one of the ones mentioned earlier in terms of where we are seeing increased costs. We are also seeing some initial rollout in the Northern Prawn Fishery and also the Gillnet Fishery in South Australia for sharks. We have a draft cost-benefit analysis looking at the impact of cameras versus observers. At this stage, it is looking very promising. In broad terms, it looks like, for the data that is suitable to be collected by camera, it results in about 25 per cent of the costs that it would take for an observer to collect the same information, which we are very encouraged by.
Senator COLBECK —So a reduction of 75 per cent?
Dr Findlay —A 75 per cent reduction—that is right.
Senator BOSWELL —That is encouraging.
Dr Findlay —That is very encouraging. This is one of a range of methods that we are looking at to improve the cost structures for the industry, including AFMA’s own costs. We are looking at things like leasing out our level 3 shared services with DAFF and at a number of other measures. One is moving to e-logs—instead of using paper logs, where we were punching data, getting fishers to move to an e-logs program—and a number of other measures where we are quite keen to get the cost down for industry. So we are working in this space and the Commonwealth Fisheries Association is working very closely with us. Obviously it is a major issue for them, as it is for us. So we are working in this space, but things take time.
Senator COLBECK —Senator Boswell is right; there has been a significant reduction in the number of fishers. There are 150 to 180 operators’ licences left at the moment.
Dr Findlay —We are looking at about 360 boats.
Senator BOSWELL —Down from what?
Dr Findlay —We can get you those details.
Senator BOSWELL —Thank you. I would appreciate it.
Senator COLBECK —But then that effort, if you like, is spread more heavily on each of those, although a lot of those boats have higher TACs or unit values to actually access.
Dr Findlay —That is right. So one of the intentions of the Securing our Fishing Future package was for those fishers who are left to see a more profitable future and we are seeing that now. Even with the early results coming through, the ABARE statistics are seeing increases in profitability in the fishery. Catches are not down by the same amount. Even though we have got fewer boats they are still taking similar levels of catch to what we saw in the past and, in fact, in some cases where we have seen increased docks the TACs are now going up. So the boats are more profitable. They are catching fish sustainably. Unfortunately, some of them are having to wear a bigger share of the bill, but we are trying to keep those costs down as much as we can.
Senator BOSWELL —Have you ever heard of Professor Starke? I think he is from Townsville university.
Dr Findlay —Yes.
Senator BOSWELL —He has a different view on what is acceptable on take. Have you ever looked at his figures?
Dr Findlay —Yes, Professor Starke has provided us with a number of reports over the years and a number of comments. He has done a number of comparisons between Australian fisheries and other fisheries elsewhere in the world.
Senator BOSWELL —Is it good research?
Dr Findlay —It is a useful comparison. We undertake quite a detailed assessment. Often Professor Starke’s work looks in the broad and points out the fact that we do not harvest our fisheries at the rate that some other parts of the world do.
Senator BOSWELL —Professor Starke’s figures show that we have the lowest take of any country in the world. I am just going from memory.
Dr Findlay —We have the third-largest exclusive economic zone in the world and we rate about 53rd in world fisheries production in terms of volume. But it is not the lowest. The ratio is certainly low.
Senator BOSWELL —East Timor would have less or something like that. There was an interesting article in the Australian magazine that you would have seen this weekend. It virtually said we are pushing our imports into countries like Thailand which have a terrible record of fish management, terrible record of crew, and by closing our fishing down—and we are closing it down—we are then importing our fish from countries like Thailand, which do not have what we would consider acceptable fish harvesting criteria. Would you like to comment on that?
Dr Findlay —Back on the broader point, you have made the comment that fisheries management in Thailand and some other countries probably is not where we would want it to be for future sustainability and certainly not what Australia would run. I should also make a comment about the productivity of Australian waters. It is somewhat misleading to compare straight-out productivity of our waters versus the area of waters and some of the other analyses that Professor Starke has done. We do not have enormously productive fisheries on a world scale. That is just by virtue of the fact of our location and the nature of our waters. We became a net importer of seafood by volume for the first time last year and that is certainly something we are interested in.
I mentioned earlier one of the parts of the Securing our Fishing Future package was trying to improve the sustainability and the profitability of our fisheries. A key part of that was the introduction of a harvest strategy policy, which is actually bringing about the recovery of Australia’s fisheries populations and actually increasing our harvest over time. That will take some time, but we are seeing the early results of that already.
Senator BOSWELL —So you are suggesting that we increase our harvest?
Dr Findlay —Where we can increase our harvest as a result of the recovery of previously overfished stocks, absolutely.
Senator BOSWELL —I will just make the quick observation, before I turn to the minister, that you have got to be a very, very wealthy person now to eat our premium fish. You are putting the consumption up in a range where it’s only available to people on over $100,000 a year. This was brought about by the closures and the diminishing of the fishing licences, and it is something that we should be taking on board. Minister, if I can refer back to you, you said there were not necessarily going to be any closures.
Senator Ludwig —No, I said no decision had been made. I think I said that three times.
Senator BOSWELL —Okay. I refer you to a fact sheet entitled Marine bioregional planning: the process from the Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts.
Senator Ludwig —You might want to table it so that we have it available to us.
Senator BOSWELL —I will read it first:
The network of new marine reserves will be designed to provide for a balance between multiple use and highly protected areas. Some areas within the future marine reserve will be highly protected, or so-called “no take” areas.
The fishing community will be overjoyed to know that there is no decision being made, because they actually thought a decision was going to be made where there would be ‘no take’ zones in these areas of further assessment. If I can put out a press release and say no decision has been made, that would be absolutely wonderful because they believe the department of environment’s fact sheet, which said there would be.
Senator Ludwig —As I said, I would want to have a look at what that fact sheet says. What I understand is the marine biological planning process is principally, as I indicated earlier, a matter for the environment portfolio and I did indicate that clearly that you should put the questions there. Under the Environmental Protection Biodiversity Conservation Act the department will be guided by the government policy, which is a healthy environment, which was put out during the election. And we did announce, as part of our election commitment, that the Gillard government would consult closely with fishing and coastal communities, recreational and commercial fishers, marine and tourist businesses and environmental groups to reach the right balance to ensure our marine regions remain sustainable into the future. Firstly, whatever you put out is a matter for you. You have to put your name to it. Secondly, what I would not mind having a look at is what document you have. What I have said is DAFF does not make the decision.
Senator BOSWELL —I read it out.
Senator Ludwig —I am not sure where you read it from.
Senator BOSWELL —I will show you that. It is very clear.
CHAIR —Are you tabling the document?
Senator Ludwig —It is much better if it is tabled before it is on the record.
Senator BOSWELL —Minister, I am very pleased to note that you are going to have heavy consultation. This was promised before these areas of further assessment were designated and it was not—
Senator Ludwig —As I said, it is not me who has the consultation. It is the Gillard government through the relevant and appropriate department. I am merely trying to correct the record so that the record is not incorrect.
Senator BOSWELL —I have read it out in clear English and I have tabled it.
Senator Ludwig —And I am now waiting to see what the front cover says.
Senator BOSWELL —What it says will be what I said. I hope you are not calling me a liar.
Senator Ludwig —No, I am merely holding my decision until I see what the document says.
Senator BOSWELL —Because I completely read it out and it says some areas will be designated as ‘no take’ zones.
Senator Ludwig —That is not the question I am raising. I want to know what the cover says. I want to know what the document actually is.
CHAIR —I think in all fairness, to assist you, Senator Boswell, that is more than fair from the minister. You have tabled it.
Senator BOSWELL —I have tabled it.
CHAIR —For the purposes of time, do you want to move on to some other questions or do you want to pass on to your colleagues and then come back when the minister has had a chance to look at it.
Senator BOSWELL —I will pass on to my colleagues until the minister reads it, because there is a huge expectation out there that there is going to be closures. The minister has said there is no decision being made. He has clearly said that. I have read out the document. He will, no doubt, read it himself. But what he is saying is going to hugely excite everyone that has got an outboard motor and a 16-foot boat that fishes in these areas of further assessment. If, as he says, there is no decision being made, that will be fantastic.
Senator LUDWIG —Yes. I would rather you not verbal me. You should go and have a look at the transcript. What I have said time and time again is that it is not a DAFF decision. There has been no decision made by DAFF—
Senator BOSWELL —I know you are saying there is no—
Senator LUDWIG —and I have indicated a number of times that this is the wrong committee to be asking those questions.
Senator BOSWELL —No, you are saying—
Senator LUDWIG —I have indicated to you—
Senator BOSWELL —No, you are—
Senator IAN MACDONALD —I would not do that because when you said no decision has been made, that is today. There will be a decision made next week to shut them down.
Senator BOSWELL —I know that but at least there are a lot of fishing people watching this Senate on the internet and a lot of the fishing clubs are being represented—a lot of people that fish. Once you put up, it is like a drumbeat. Once you tell someone that something is going to happen in the Senate it goes through like wildfire and—
Senator IAN MACDONALD —What I am saying is that you would not trust the Labor government to shut them down.
Senator BOSWELL —I know, but I am not saying—
CHAIR —Senator Macdonald, I do not think that is called for.
Senator BOSWELL —The minister has made a statement and the record will show what he has clearly said, and I understand it.
CHAIR —I withdraw the interjection myself. Sorry, Senator Boswell, you have the call.
Senator BOSWELL —Dr Findlay revealed something that I think. Dr Findlay, the costs of monitoring this fishing—I have another one here; I could table this one too if you like. I will just read this one out, too. This one is also from the fact sheet, Marine bioregional planning—the process. I have not read this so I will just read it out:
The network of new marine reserves will be designed to provide for a balance between multiple use and highly protected areas.
It is exactly the same as the one I read. I am just getting it from a different source, so the source is the same. Let us get back to Dr Findlay. Dr Findlay, I am concerned that some environmental people that want information from your department are inflicting a higher cost on the fishing industry so they can get their information. You have said Pew have asked for information. Have any other environmental groups asked for information that has incurred a cost?
Dr Findlay —We provide information on request to any number of groups.
Senator BOSWELL —I am very glad you do and I think that is your role as public servants and in fish management, but what I am asking is what groups have asked, which has incurred a cost to the fishing industry?
Dr Findlay —I would probably need to come back to you in terms of which groups have asked and, as I said, we get any number of requests each year, but I do not have those—
Senator BOSWELL —I would appreciate that being taken on notice.
Dr Findlay —Yes. Happy to take it on notice.
Senator COLBECK —I want to ask a question on this data collection. Is there anyone else collecting this data on these regions? Effectively, the only data that gets collected on, say, the Coral Sea would be the information that comes back and is disseminated by the fisherman; is it not, effectively?
Dr Findlay —It is just a question of clarification there. It depends on what sort of information you are interested in. If you are after fisheries information, of course we collect that from the fishing industry, but if it is about issues with the Great Barrier Reef more broadly, or by physical attributes, there is a whole scientific program.
Senator COLBECK —No, I am talking the Coral Sea further out. What other programs are actually looking at these areas that you are aware of? Senator Boswell, I think, implied that the fishing community are paying significant fees, they are providing all this data, and then this data is then being used, as they see it, against them in access to their fishery, particularly with organisations who have a philosophical view of the world that they should not be there anyway, and they find that a huge frustration.
Dr Findlay —There are any number of research programs that collect information and are not run by AFMA as it relates to the marine habitat of the Coral Sea. We collect information as it relates to the impact of fisheries, and people are interested in that information as it relates to helping them to make their own assessments about the likely risks from fishing.
Senator COLBECK —In respect of the marine bioregional planning process, you are obviously fairly significantly engaged with the department of environment in that process?
Dr Findlay —At the moment we have a source of data through ABARE-BRS to assist them with their planning process as it relates to looking at the places that people fish in and what they catch when they are there. Other than that, we are playing a role and assisting our stakeholders to be informed about what the bioregional marine planning process means for them, but we are not involved day-to-day in terms of the bioregional marine planning process.
Senator COLBECK —Effectively, your involvement is on a data provision basis.
Dr Findlay —Data provision and communication with stakeholders.
Senator COLBECK —What about advice on impact on fisheries with potential spatial closures, notwithstanding any of the conversation that has just occurred between Senator Boswell and the minister.
Dr O’Connell —Senator, I think ABARE and BRS have done some work for DEWHA on looking at those issues in relation to options—
Senator COLBECK —I knew that Mr Glyde would come in handy at some point in time.
Dr O’Connell —Come in handy some time, yes.
Senator COLBECK —From ABARE. He has left us. If there is anyone here that can give us a hand on that sort of work—I see some nodding heads, which is great news. Dr Findlay, would you have any informational sense on what the impact on a fishery might be by a particular spatial closure?
Dr Findlay —We do not have any further information that is not in the public domain about where the areas may or may not be and what the decisions are likely to be, so not at this stage—
Senator COLBECK —You are not involved in any conversation that might be occurring about what a particular spatial closure might be?
Dr Findlay —Not at this stage. We have been involved in the broader fishing-gear risk assessments. One of the issues is how to assist the impact of different fishing gear. We certainly have been involved in that, insisting DEWHA has an understanding of those issues, but not at the moment in terms of particular closures and their likely impact.
Senator COLBECK —As a fisheries manager you would have some reasonable sense of the impact of a removal of a certain spatial closure from the fishery in terms of its impact on the sustainability of the fishery?
Dr Findlay —We undertake significant amounts of spatial management within the Australian Fisheries Management Authority. Spatial management is a very useful tool within our toolbox and so we certainly could help in that space, yes.
Senator COLBECK —If a spatial closure were to take out, say, 30 per cent of a fishery you would have a sense on what the sustainability of that entire fishery would be with the loss of that proportion of the zone.
Dr Findlay —Yes, we would have to assess the impact of that in terms of what it means for our fisheries management.
Senator COLBECK —But you have not been asked to do any of that work at this point in time?
Dr Findlay —Not at this stage.
Senator COLBECK —Which I find interesting, given some answers I heard yesterday. Mr Morris, I want to get some sense of the work and where it is at in relation to the work you are doing for the department of environment on the areas for further assessment in the various regions.
Mr Morris —Perhaps I will start off and I will hand over to Dr Begg if you want to get into further detail. At this time we have been contracted by the department of environment to look at the four areas which are potentially slated for the establishment of Marine Reserve Networks. We are looking at the south-west, the north, the north-west and the east areas. I think it is fair to say that what we have been asked to do is like an initial desktop study using existing data and information in order to provide a base of information which can then be later used for community consultation and other discussions further down the track.
So we have not done the full-blown—‘Let’s get out there with the communities and find out all the detailed information from them.’ Rather, it is a sort of gathering of the information, what is available at the moment in each of those regions, and determining what we can on the basis of that existing data.
More specifically, we have been asked to look at the gross value of commercial fisheries production in that area, and that is one area where obviously there is some quite good information, including on where the fishing is actually occurring. What we cannot tell, though, of course, is whether, if you close off certain areas, you can move to other areas within those zones.
Senator COLBECK —And that goes back to the conversation I was just having with Dr Findlay.
Mr Morris —Yes. So clearly that would be an area that would require further work down the track. We have also been asked to have a look at the recreational, Indigenous and charter fishers as well as the fishing communities, but all we can do at this stage, on the basis of a desktop type analysis, is a limited qualitative analysis on information that is readily available. Again, we see that as an area that would require a lot more community consultation and further development if the government decided to proceed further down that track.
Senator COLBECK —What do you mean by a ‘qualitative’ assessment of data that is already available? One of the concerns that have been expressed by, say, the recreational sector is the reach into particularly the regional coastal communities, and obviously similar circumstances exist with the commercial fishing. But you are saying that the resolution of your data would not be suitable to actually get a really good handle on that—you are just using some broader stuff?
Mr Morris —It is using what is available. So, obviously, it is identifying the key fishing communities within the regions that we are talking about, the ones that are likely to be affected, as well as key areas of Indigenous activity, and identifying recreational and charter operations in those regions. So it is really doing a somewhat rough cut, I suppose, of what information is readily available so that further detailed discussion and consultation with community can then occur.
Senator COLBECK —How complete do you think your data is on identifying the players?
Mr Morris —I think it is something that really needs to be tested. For three of the regions anyway, we have done as good a job as we can in collecting that information, and I would regard it as something that needs to be tested out in the community now. On the fourth area, which is the east, we are still waiting for further information on the definite boundaries and things like that so that we can undertake that analysis. So we have three that are pretty well advanced and one that is yet to kick off.
Senator COLBECK —In each of the zones that you are looking at, are you dealing with definite scenarios or a number of scenarios?
Dr Dickson —I think we can say that this is work that has been going on now for quite some time—
Senator COLBECK —I understand that. We are regular visitors on this.
Dr Dickson —and these are just preliminary scenarios that have been asked to be tested at this stage.
Senator COLBECK —We did have—and have been having over a period of time—a relatively detailed discussion with our friends in environment about this. I got the sense, talking to the officials there earlier in the week, that, particularly in the south-west—which is the closest to being released—there were a number of options that were being considered there. Obviously none of them are final because, as the minister has correctly said, a decision has not been made yet, but there are options that are being considered. So what you have done is some broader modelling on the potential impacts of those options.
Mr Morris —Not so much modelling but rather the collection of information and data that would support discussion and future decision making. So it is very much an initial piece of work, I suppose you would say, in terms of providing the detailed information—or some information, anyway—that would be required to assist in further work in consultation.
Senator COLBECK —So, for example, in the development of a displacement policy, how would that work that you have done assist with that process?
Mr Morris —It identifies where the fishing activity is occurring at the moment. So that would assist, I presume, once the areas that might be subject to various conditions are established. It would enable a bit of an idea as to where fishing activity currently is. But, as I mentioned earlier, one issue that I think requires a bit of further examination is: is there scope for fishers to operate in a slightly different area within that region? So there are issues like that which would require further discussion with the industry and further analysis. I think it is fair to say that it is really a gathering together of the base information that is readily available in those regions—information from AFMA, from our surveys and from other sources—as a basis for the database to move forward.
Senator COLBECK —I the context of the government releasing a displacement policy—which it has committed to do prior to the releasing of the first drafts for the south-east—I am trying to get a sense of how, with the current resolution of data that you have, you can effectively design a policy that is going to—
Dr Dickson —It is probably fair to say the displacement policy which is being considered by—
Senator COLBECK —It is being developed in the other agency too.
Dr Dickson —Yes.
Senator COLBECK —I am trying to get a sense of the interaction of the work because the work BRS in particular was doing was quite important to that policy.
Dr O'Connell —I think probably the displaced policy—the policy around displaced fisheries as a result of conservation measures—is less to do with specific areas and the production elements, which is the kind of work that Mr Morris is talking about, and more to do with the principles on which there could or would be government intervention in the event of—
Senator COLBECK —Yes, I think that is a fair comment.
Dr O'Connell —But I have got to say that that is all happening in the other portfolio—both that and also the potential for putting out draft areas.
Senator COLBECK —Yes, but what we are being told in the other portfolio—and I am not trying to verbal anybody here—is that there is a lot of work that is happening, particularly out of ABARE and BRS. That is why we have got a list of questions here—to try and get assessment of how that—
Senator Ludwig —Senator, I think it is fair that you ask questions around what their responsibility is.
Senator COLBECK —That is what I am trying to get a sense of—what work they are doing. That is all I am trying to do and I will try and draw the strings together.
Senator Ludwig —The difficulty, which has now happened twice, is that the fact sheet Fact sheet: marine bioregional planning: the process was issued by the Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. The statements I have made obviously relate to DAFF. If you want to ask questions in respect of their regional marine bioregional planning process, the appropriate place is to question that department when it is at estimates and not try to—
Senator COLBECK —I am not questioning that at all.
Senator Ludwig —I am answering both you and Senator Boswell, and the same applies for this: the displaced fishing policy if from the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. It has provided the draft copy of its displaced activities policy framework to the Australian government agencies, including us, but it is ultimately their draft copy of their displaced activity policy framework. So, to the extent that both—
Senator COLBECK —What I am trying to determine is what influence this department is having on that policy. That is an important issue, because it is this agency in particular that is going to have to deal with the commercial fishery management issues on one side and, potentially, some of the impacts—not all, but some—from the recreational fishing.
Senator Ludwig —And I accept that, where we can help you, we will.
Dr O'Connell —Certainly, Senator Colbeck, what I wanted to do was distinguish the work that ABARE-BRS is doing, which is essentially just quantitative work on what is occurring in the areas that are being dealt with generally with the issues of policy. ABARE-BRS is not dealing with the policy issues at all in that area—
Senator COLBECK —No, they are providing inputs to the policy.
Dr O'Connell —They are just simply providing analytical work. Policy issues are separate and will go through the department in the normal way, but also then to ministers in order to be signed off. Equivalently, with the potential suggestions around what marine protected areas may or may not look like coming out of this, these really end up having to go to the minister—the other minister in the other portfolio—for assessment, to my knowledge. And I stand to be corrected, but to my knowledge, that has not yet happened.
Senator COLBECK —No, that is right. There has been nothing released yet, and south-west is not due for release until early December. I understand that the displacement policy is due between now and that date. I understand that. But I am just trying to get a sense of the work and the resolution of the work that is being done by ABARE-BRS and an understanding of—
Senator Ludwig —Yes. So we will not interrupt you if you ask away.
Senator COLBECK —So that is effectively where we are.
Senator BOSWELL —Doctor, you told the committee that you had to take a special look at the Coral Sea. They might not have been your exact words. Is that correct?
Dr Findlay —We have seen more activity in terms of management practices in the last few years, yes.
Senator BOSWELL —When did you start to apply the new activity? When did you start to monitor the Coral Sea?
Dr Findlay —We have always been monitoring the Coral Sea. What I have said is that we have seen an increase in the level of monitoring going on in that fishery in the last few years. That is varied by fishery. I would have to get you details on the exact—
Senator BOSWELL —When did the increased monitoring take place?
Dr Findlay —I would have to take that on notice in terms of which activities.
Senator BOSWELL —I will just refer again to the minister. Minister, you have made it clear, in this committee and in other places, that you are going to have consultation—strong consultation.
Senator Ludwig —I will say again that it is not within this department. That is a matter for the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. Your questions should be directed there.
Senator BOSWELL —But didn’t you—
Senator Ludwig —No, I did not do what you think I did.
Senator BOSWELL —I think you did, but I am not going to challenge you. I know that outside you have displayed sympathy for the fishing industry—
Senator Ludwig —If the record shows that I have made an error, then I will correct it now by saying quite clearly that these matters fall within the responsibility of the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. The questions in relation to the marine bioregional planning and the questions in relation to the displaced fishing policy rest with the responsibility of Minister Burke, not DAFF. Those questions should be directed to that committee, and they are in a position to be able to respond to you. I understand the committee, as I think I mentioned, met yesterday, but I am sure you can still continue to put your questions on notice this week to the secretary of that committee, not in this committee. If there is any doubt about what I might have said or what I said before, that is the correct statement.
Senator BOSWELL —Obviously I have not got the Hansard in front of me, but I believe you came in here and said there will be monitoring and consultation with all the people involved. I will not hold you to it, because I am going from memory, but that is what I believe you did say.
Senator Ludwig —What I said was—
Senator BOSWELL —Because you got caught red-handed by the last one, you may be backtracking now. He got caught absolutely red-handed.
Senator Ludwig —What I said was the Gillard—
Senator BOSWELL —He is not being as gung-ho now.
Senator Ludwig —What I said was the Gillard government announced, as part of its election commitment, that it would consult closely with fishing and coastal communities. That remains a fact. That was an election commitment that was made. That is what I said. If you go back and look at the transcript, that is what it will show I said.
Senator BOSWELL —That is exactly what I am asking.
Senator COLBECK —He is reading—
Senator Ludwig —Yes, I know what I have read, and I have read it again twice.
Senator BOSWELL —You have just said it. There will be close consultation.
Senator Ludwig —Yes, but you put a different—
Senator BOSWELL —You said there will be close consultation.
Senator Ludwig —Unfortunately, the difficulty is you put a different spin on the words I used. You are entitled to take your own meaning from that, but I am ensuring that there is no dispute from my side of the table. If you misheard me or if you take a different interpretation, that is a matter for you.
Senator BOSWELL —I did not mishear you. I said that you said exactly what you—
Senator Ludwig —Now you are verballing me, I think.
Senator BOSWELL —You said exactly what you just read out: there would be consultation. You said that. The consultation that has been involved around areas of further assessment has been appalling. It has been one guy running up and down Queensland, having a cup of tea with fishermen.
CHAIR —I think, Senator Boswell, that is an opinion.
Senator BOSWELL —No, it is not an opinion.
CHAIR —Do you have any further questions? Senator, do you have any further questions?
Senator BOSWELL —No.
CHAIR —I know Senator Colbeck still has a couple.
Senator COLBECK —Can I just go back to ABARE-BRS. Where are we at as far as the contractual relationship with the department of the environment goes? Are we part-way through the process, based on the various stages of each of the marine bioregions?
Dr Begg —Yes. We are currently nearing the completion of three of the regions. That is the south-west, the north and the north-west. We are currently in negotiations in terms of further work beyond that.
Senator COLBECK —So that is for the east coast?
Dr Begg —Yes.
Senator COLBECK —And Coral Sea. So, for the three that you have almost finished, you would have received draft options for you to do work on, and then you have provided your calculations based on that information that you have received from the department of the environment. As I think Mr Morris said, you have not yet received any draft designs for the east coast?
Dr Begg —That is correct.
Senator COLBECK —How many options did you receive for each of the three that you have done?
Dr Begg —It has been an iterative process. It is hard to put a number on that, and it has varied between the regions. We are still working with the department of the environment on that.
Senator COLBECK —Is there more than one option still alive?
Dr Begg —I do not think any of the options have been decided yet.
Senator COLBECK —So none of the options are dead?
Dr Begg —Again, that would be a question for the department of the environment.
Senator COLBECK —Okay. I thought you might say that, but I thought I would try.
Dr O'Connell —I think, Senator, there is a serious—
Senator COLBECK —No, it is a good answer.
Dr O'Connell —I think they will not know, basically, what is alive and what is dead.
Senator COLBECK —I am not going to push. It was an attempt to get something that I did not get the opportunity or time to ask at the other hearing. We will leave that there. I will let you go until we run into you again.
CHAIR —Do we have any further questions of AFMA before—
Senator COLBECK —Yes. Do not get too excited. It is just ABARE-BRS who are escaping.
Senator BOSWELL —Mr Perrott, have you got a copy of that schedule of increased costs that you were reading out?
CHAIR —He has agreed to table it.
Senator BOSWELL —Can I get a copy of it? Can you table it and I get a copy of it, please?
Senator Ludwig —We have agreed to table it, and the secretariat should have a copy for you. They will probably take some time to photocopy it and provide another one.
Senator BOSWELL —Okay.
Senator COLBECK —I want to ask about the recreational fishing ministerial roundtable. Your predecessor, Minister, agreed to the establishment of the recreational fishing roundtable. There was a meeting organised for 19 July, but, unfortunately, Minister Burke and Minister Garrett found themselves unavoidably detained on that day and did not turn up. Is it your intention to continue with the recreational fishing ministerial roundtable, and is Mr Burke, in his new guise, prepared to involve himself in that too?
Senator Ludwig —I am not sure I have turned my mind to it at this point in time, but I will get back to you on it.
Senator COLBECK —Well, I am only too pleased to help.
Senator Ludwig —I will take it on notice and get back to you. The recreational fishers do play an important part in the fishing industry. More broadly, I have spoken to a range of groups—the Fishing Industry Alliance, if I have their name correct, and in the West I spoke to fishing industry persons. I want to take it on notice because Mike Kelly is responsible for fisheries; I want to ensure what his intentions are in respect of this—rather than commit him to something.
Senator COLBECK —I think I recall some of the recreational fisher representatives saying that they have spoken to Mike.
Senator Ludwig —Yes, so he may have already provided some feedback as to how he intends to progress, and I do not want to cut across his ability to be able to undertake the work.
Senator COLBECK —I understand that. It is, though, something that was crossing departments, so you might tell me I need to go and put that question through to Mr Burke. But it was an initiative instigated at the request of the recreational fishing sector to Minister Burke in his previous role as Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.
Senator Ludwig —No, it is a fair question. I just want to take the opportunity to check with Parliamentary Secretary Kelly, and then I will get back to you. If I can get back to you this evening, I will. If not, I will provide an answer prior to or at the time they are due, which is—
CHAIR —10 December, I think.
Senator COLBECK —They are all coming to town next week, so I am sure they will be very keen to know, so if you can provide me before that, they will be interested in knowing the outcome then too—just a warning.
Senator Ludwig —Have they contacted Mike Kelly’s office to see if they can arrange a meeting?
CHAIR —I am sure they have. In fact, they have probably invited you to come to a function with them next Wednesday night.
Senator Ludwig —All right, just check that they have.
CHAIR —And if they have not, I might have inadvertently invited you.
Senator COLBECK —Recreational Fishing Advisory Committee, can you give us some information on the status of that group?
Mr Thompson —The Recreational Fishing Advisory Committee is still operating, chaired by Mr Llewellyn, as was the case earlier this year. It has still got work to do in the recreational fishing strategy area.
Senator COLBECK —Are we talking about the round table or the advisory committee?
Mr Thompson —There are two bodies. The round table was the meeting organised by Ministers Burke and Garrett before the election, and that has a range of people who participate. At that meeting that was held in July, David Llewellyn chaired it on behalf of the Minister, which has caused a little bit of confusion, I think. David Llewellyn also—
Senator COLBECK —Not just confusion—angst, I think, is probably another word that would fit nicely.
Mr Thompson —David Llewellyn is the chair of the Recreational Fishing—
Senator COLBECK —When was he appointed to that body? Was he in that role prior to leaving the Tasmanian parliament?
Mr Thompson —It was after he left Tasmanian parliament, is my understanding.
Senator COLBECK —So it is since March this year?
Mr Thompson —Yes. The original chair of the Recreational Fishing Advisory Council was Chris Natt from the Northern Territory and he resigned in March this year, and the minister appointed David Llewellyn. The primary piece of work that that body is doing is developing the recreational fishing industry development strategy, and they have released the discussion paper on recreational fishing. They have undertaken consultation on that, and work to pull that together is still continuing.
Senator COLBECK —What is the status of the discussion paper?
Mr Thompson —The discussion paper has been out there for some time for public comment. A lot of comment has been received, and the advisory council is now consolidating that comment into a report that we expect them to put to government shortly.
Senator COLBECK —What is the timeframe for that?
Mr Thompson —I do not have the precise timeframe on that. We would expect it over the next two months or something around then.
Senator COLBECK —Can you advise us of the status of the funds that were remaining from that? I think we agreed last time there was about $1.3 million remaining from the strategy. Can you tell us what the status of that funding is?
Mr Thompson —There are eight projects that we are implementing to a sum of $1.6 million from that. $500,000 is for a recreational fishing data collection project.
Senator COLBECK —Has that been publicly announced?
Mr Thompson —I believe it has. There was an earlier one some years ago.
Senator COLBECK —I thought there was a project out on that.
Mr Thompson —All of these have been publicly announced.
Senator COLBECK —When was the decision made to go ahead with this project?
Mr Thompson —I do not have the exact date. It was somewhere around May, June or July this calendar year.
Senator COLBECK —Can you just run through the seven projects?
Mr Thompson —There is actually eight, but one is not quite a project. It is a consultation process: $500,000 for recreational fishing data collection; $100,000 to look at the health and wellbeing of recreational fishing—the contribution it makes to health and wellbeing; $400,000 towards a national recreational fishing education program; $100,000 for a climate change implications paper to understand the implications for recreational fishers of climate change; $100,000 to expand the current Angel Rings project—the rescue rings at rock fishing sites; $100,000 for a national recreational fishing conference; and $50,000 for improving consultations between government and the recreational sector. There is also $250,000 to expand the participation in the future leaders program.
Senator COLBECK —What is the proposal for the recreational conference?
Mr Thompson —All of these projects are being worked on with the Fisheries R&D Corporation. The proposal there is to hold a national conference to bring relevant recreational fishing people together to discuss issues of importance. Each of these areas of activity were ones that were high priority activities identified in the discussion paper and the feedback to date. And for each of those activities, with ourselves and FRDC, we are looking to work with relevant leaders from the recreational fishing sector. And some meetings were held last week with various people from the recreational fishing sector to develop the detail of those proposals and what sort of outcomes would meet both our objectives and their objectives. The conference would be the speakers, the programs and the outcomes—that sort of thing.
Senator COLBECK —Why weren’t all these decisions made public?
Mr Thompson —Some of them have been made public. I do not think there is any secret about them. The recreational fishing sector is certainly aware of them all.
Senator COLBECK —I have had a number of conversations with them about what is going on, and not all of them are aware of it.
Mr Thompson —That could be—for instance, I was at a meeting with them last week where we were talking about how we might do these, and they seemed to be—
Senator COLBECK —When was the announcement made? When were they made public? We have looked for this information because, at the last estimates, we agreed that there was $1.3 million remaining. When did the minister sign off on all this?
Mr Thompson —I would have to take the exact date on notice, but I believe it was in June or July. I do not have with me the timing of what announcements about these were made.
Senator COLBECK —Where will I go for public information—on a DAFF website or an FRDC website? Where would I find this information if I was looking for it?
Mr Thompson —I am not sure whether they are on the website. Normally, these get listed on the website when contracts are finalised. They are not there yet. We will follow up.
Senator COLBECK —I think you are demonstrating why I have been having trouble finding out this information; it is not as if we have not looked for it. We will just wait for that to come in on notice. I have some questions on consultations with NHMRC on the national diet proposals that they had. We did talk about it at the last estimates. Have we had any discussions with them about that? Have they been to—sorry to mention ABARE-BRS again—for a copy of the fish stocks report, for example, to give them a demonstration of the sustainability of our fisheries? Have we posted them a copy?
Mr Thompson —I believe there were some consultations with them about the status of Australian fish stocks, and material of that sort was made available. I am not aware of any more detailed discussions.
Senator COLBECK —Was it made directly to NHMRC or their consultants that are doing the work?
Mr Thompson —I am not sure what the nature of the further discussions or information provision were.
Senator COLBECK —Could you investigate that for me and, perhaps, provide me that information on notice as to what your communications have been with NHMRC since the last estimates and whether they have been provided a copy of what is a very good document and provides some very encouraging news about the state of our fish stocks?
Mr Thompson —Yes, Senator.
Senator COLBECK —Thank you. I want to go on to the Sea Lion Management plan that is proposed in South Australia. Can you give us some update on the current status of that?
Dr Findlay —The Sea Lion Management Strategy was implemented on 30 June. We had a number of actions underneath that strategy including: significant increases in observer coverage; 6,700 square kilometres of area closures in areas of high risk of interaction with sea lions; and the implementation of a number of gear trials to look at ways to reduce the likelihood of interactions between seals and the gear. We have been reasonably encouraged by progress to date. We have had only one sea lion mortality reported. We have exceeded our observer coverage target of 11 per cent. We actually delivered 15 per cent observer coverage over this first quarter. The fishery people, while not happy about the implementation of the strategy, understand the need for it and are moving along with us in a cooperative way.
Senator COLBECK —My understanding is that it has displaced about 30 per cent of the fishing effort. Is that correct?
Dr Findlay —The closures did have a significant impact on where fishers used to fish. They have moved their fishing effort outside those areas, so it is not that that fishing effort is gone. It has now moved away from areas immediately adjacent to sea lion colonies.
Senator COLBECK —Was there any socioeconomic modelling or cost impacts done on the proposal?
Dr Findlay —We did look at the amount of catch taken in the areas proposed to be closed. I cannot remember that figure off the top of my head, but that was essentially the limit of the socioeconomic impact assessment.
Senator COLBECK —Which would be, effectively, the displaced fishing effort?
Dr Findlay —That is right.
Senator COLBECK —The figure I have is 30 per cent.
Dr Findlay —I cannot remember it off the top of my head, from the analysis. I can certainly take it on notice.
Senator COLBECK —Was there any assistance given to the businesses as a result of the process? I am assuming because there are under a higher level of scrutiny, as we discussed in the Coral Sea, they have got a proportional increase in their costs.
Dr Findlay —Yes, they have. They have got now an observer bill which has increased as a result of the increased coverage to monitor—
Senator COLBECK —What is the quantum of that?
Dr Findlay —It is about 120 days of coverage was the likely target.
Senator COLBECK —What is the dollar amount?
Dr Findlay —I should take that on notice—the exact dollars. We are looking at about $1,100 a day for observer coverage in the fishery.
Senator BOSWELL —What fishery is this that you are talking about?
Dr Findlay —The fishery here is the gillnet hook and trap sector of the South-East Scalefish and Shark Fishery. It would appear on the first page of the table that you are looking at there, Senator. It says ‘g-net hook and trap sector’.
Senator COLBECK —The observer rate is for a single observer?
Dr Findlay —That is for per boat day per observer.
Senator COLBECK —Effectively, I can say $1,100 per day for 120 days and that will give me the quantum of the cost to the fishery.
Dr Findlay —There or thereabouts, yes.
Senator COLBECK —I am sure they are not happy about that. Is there a particular time period for that process to occur? Do we get to the stage where we say we have collected a certain amount of data on that and we have reviewed that amount of coverage?
Dr Findlay —Yes. We have a quarterly review process involving fishers and conservation NGOs and marine mammal scientists and other experts to review that on an ongoing basis. Our hope is that we actually get the information we need to demonstrate that the fishery is not impacting the sea lions in the way that some people might think and that we can pull that coverage level back. To assist the industry Minister Burke also agreed to provide $300,000 worth of funding to implement the camera trial for this fishery.
Senator COLBECK —They have got observers plus the cameras?
Dr Findlay —Plus cameras, that is right.
Senator COLBECK —So the $300,000, is that a capital provision for installation of the equipment on the boats?
Dr Findlay —It covers the installation of the equipment on the boats and the data collection analysis for the first year of the work, yes.
Senator COLBECK —That covers the entire fleet for installations and data collection for the fleet?
Dr Findlay —That is right. We are hoping to roll out as many cameras as we can get on boats at this stage. We would hope to get eight cameras out if we have eight boats take up the opportunity. At the moment we have installed successfully and run the first trip with one camera and are likely to have two additional camera systems installed in the next week or so.
Senator BOSWELL —I am reading this schedule and I cannot see where the Torres Strait prawn fishery is. Is that under something else? I understand their fees have gone up considerably. It is a different fishery from the northern prawn fishery, isn’t it?
Mr Perrott —Yes. Senator, these were the calculations used. There are eleven regulations.
Senator BOSWELL —I am told that the number of Torres Strait licences has gone down and the cost is now being passed onto the few remaining people that are there and the cost has gone up.
Mr Perrott —Could we take that on notice, because that was prepared under a different regulation?
Senator BOSWELL —We will put it on notice. I thought this was a comprehensive list that was given to us. Now I have asked one question and I am told that it is not included in this list. How many other fisheries that have gone up are not included on this list?
Mr Perrott —The Torres Strait prawn fishery is the only fishery missing from that list.
Senator BOSWELL —Have you got the figures there?
Dr Findlay —Just a correction: none of the Torres Strait fisheries appear on that list.
Mr Perrott —That is right. Torres Strait prawn fishery is the only fishery where the costs are accounted for.
Senator BOSWELL —How much has that gone up?
Mr Perrott —In the 2009-10 financial year the cost actually went down by 23 per cent.
Senator BOSWELL —That is good news. So the cost of those licences has been reduced by 23 per cent.
Dr Findlay —That is the total levy collection from the Torres Strait Prawn Fishery has gone down by 23 per cent. We have agreed to take on notice the impact on individual holdings, because as you say some fishers may have left the fishery and so some may have seen an increase. But the total—it is down 23 per cent.
Senator BOSWELL —It is down because there is no-one up there fishing—or very few people up there fishing.
Dr Findlay —If it is down in the fishery there certainly has been a reduction in the monitoring costs.
Senator BOSWELL —The effort is down in the fishery. But what I am asking is how much have the individual licences increased?
Dr Findlay —We have said we will take that on notice and come back to you. We have not got that information with us.
Senator BOSWELL —Would that apply to a lot of other fisheries—the number of licences has been reduced but the cost has been increased to the number of people that are left?
Mr Perrott —It is possible.
Senator BOSWELL —You see, that is what we would like to know. What is the cost increase? It is all very well to say, ‘Yes, the cost has been reduced,’ or, ‘We have held it at the same level.’ But you have held it at the same level because there is a number of fishermen who got out. So it is a bit, if I might say, Mr Perrott, of the thimble and the pea trick. How much has the cost increased on the remaining fishermen?
Dr Findlay —I think I touched on this earlier. I do not think that is a fair reflection. The calculation is not based on the number of fishers; it is based on a whole range of factors, including the risks involved in a particular fishery.
Senator BOSWELL —You are being very helpful, Dr Findlay, and I appreciate it. But what I am saying now is that I am getting these vibes back that these fishermen are paying more for their licences. You are telling, ‘No. It has gone down 23 per cent.’ We then find out it has gone down 23 per cent because it is only seven or eight fishermen fishing.
Dr Findlay —I commented earlier that there have been winners and losers through the process, and obviously the winners probably are not phoning you up and talking about how much better off they are.
Senator BOSWELL —No, that is right.
Dr Findlay —So I should point that: it is not all downside here but you are hearing from the people who have seen a downside.
Senator BOSWELL —Yes. But when I look at this schedule I see that they have gone up hugely in some areas. I am just wondering whether the Torres Strait Islands prawn fishing is an example of fewer fishermen paying more money.
Dr Findlay —We will come back to you on the Coral Sea issue.
Senator BOSWELL —Could you come back to us with a more general approach, because it may not only be happening in the Torres Strait. It may be happening everywhere where people say, ‘My licence has gone up but there are less people to share the cost.’
Dr Findlay —At the last estimates hearing we had similar questions on the eastern tuna and billfish fishery and I think, on notice, have now provided information on the per-company splits. The questions you are asking I think are very valid ones and certainly we are hearing these sorts of issues very directly from our industry, but the sorts of calculations you are asking for are actually very difficult to do, given the nature of holdings in businesses, and within companies how they structure themselves is actually quite complex. So we can—
Senator BOSWELL —I will have a look at this and may put some questions on notice.
Dr Findlay —Thank you. Can I draw your attention in particular to column D in that table. That emphasises the issue here about the impact of the removal of the levy subsidy. What you will see in column D there is actually the fact that when you put aside the impact of the levy subsidy a lot of our budgets have gone down, and we have actually been working very hard with the industry to drive that. The real impact has been as a result of the removal of levy subsidy, and when you—
Senator BOSWELL —You did tell me, but how much was the levy subsidy?
Dr Findlay —It is $15 million over three years: $7,250,000 in the first year, $5,250,000 in the second year and $3 million in the last year. When you add the $3 million in, to a total cost recovery of $13 million, that is about a 25 per cent increase just as a result of the levy subsidy. That is not a small increase and that is what people are obviously feeling now.
Senator COLBECK —Can I find from your financials the percentage cost recovered of fees and percentage government provided?
Dr Findlay —Yes.
Senator COLBECK —I just want to know if I can go to a document that provides that to me in your financials, rather than spend time doing it now. I do not want to do it now but—
Mr Perrott —The portfolio budget statements—
Senator COLBECK —I will look in the PBS. Thanks. That is all I want to know. So just going back to the sea lions, so that is $1,100 a day over 120 days is $134,400. Is that divided evenly across the boats or divided based on effort again?
Dr Findlay —No. It is divided directly on effort. They are charged, in round numbers, about $100 a day for every day they operate in the area where we are concerned about sea lions to just make sure that the cost of—
Senator COLBECK —That is $1,100 a day.
Dr Findlay —Sorry. The cost of delivering an observer on a boat is about $1,100 a day. We are aiming for about 11 per cent coverage.
Senator COLBECK —Okay. So you smooth that across all days of effort.
Dr Findlay —That is right, and we also try not to penalise those who agree to take observers at the advantage of those who—
Senator COLBECK —So everyone is paying the bill?
Dr Findlay —Everyone is paying to fish in that area of the fishery.
Senator COLBECK —But based on their proportion of effort; is that right?
Dr Findlay —That is right.
Senator COLBECK —Okay. I get that. And there are eight boats in the fishery, roughly.
Dr Findlay —Thereabouts at the moment, yes.
Senator COLBECK —At the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna meeting in Taipei last week who was the lucky attendee and what happened?
Dr Dickson —I was the head of the Australian delegation to Taiwan last week. I think the reports probably are now public up on the CCSBT website. If they are not, we can certainly provide it to you. The commission did not adopt a management procedure, which was one of the key things for the meeting. They did not adopt it at this meeting. They agreed some of the parameters but they have agreed on a series of meetings next year to work through some of the issues that members raised. Some of the issues were that a couple of members wanted to wait until they got next year’s stock assessment and saw what impact that might have on the management procedure before making a decision. Other members wanted to look at the impact of making more drastic cuts before you implement a management procedure. So there are meetings next year that are going to be looking at that work.
Senator COLBECK —So we go around the cycle again until next year and look—
Dr Dickson —Next year was the year when the management procedure would need to be adopted and future TAC decisions made.
Senator COLBECK —And the TAC decisions happen every second year, as I understand it?
Dr Dickson —One of the things the commission did agree was that the decisions would be made for three years.
Senator COLBECK —Okay.
Dr Dickson —So it gives some stability for the industry.
Senator COLBECK —The decision made last year was made for a period of two years and the industry decided how they would impact the catch and spread the cut over the catch.
Dr Dickson —That is right. In fact, our industry I think is coming on pretty much even this year. Even or fifty-fifty for both years. But for the future when management procedure is adopted, and the date for that is next year, future TACs will be for three years, based on the management procedure and three years—every time there will be another decision in three years. They will review it and look at the stock assessment at that point.
Senator COLBECK —So is the driver for putting the decision on the management plan out a year based on, or was one of the elements of that, the aerial survey report and the reporting information from industry that came in that was providing a more encouraging outlook? I do not think we will be able to extrapolate it any more than that, but it was an encouraging outlook.
Dr Dickson —Yes, there were some encouraging indications. But there is quite a long time, obviously, between the increase in juvenile stock and the impact on the spawning stock.
Senator COLBECK —Yes.
Dr Dickson —But there was, in fact, a number of members who wanted to wait for that information. I cannot speculate on the detail of the reasons why they wanted to wait. Australia played an active role in trying to progress decision on the management procedure at this current meeting.
Senator COLBECK —So our position going in was to put a management plan in place?
Dr Dickson —That is right.
Senator COLBECK —Okay.
Dr Dickson —Next year is going to be a very busy year with agreeing on the proportional rules of allocation, which is going to be a difficult one for us, as well as agreeing on the TAC and a number of other issues. So our view was to try and make this decision at this meeting which would put us in a better position next year.
Senator COLBECK —When do the penalties on the Japanese expire? Do they expire in conjunction with this and that is one of the things that places the pressures?
Dr Dickson —That is correct. The penalty is up for review next year as to whether or not it will expire.
Senator COLBECK —I turn now to the seafood marketing levy. My understanding is the government has been in discussions for some time with industry reps about the establishment of a seafood marketing levy. Do we have any advice on where that particular matter might be at?
Mr Thompson —Towards the end of the financial year the minister wrote to all the industry bodies, indicating whether they wanted a marketing levy and giving a bit of an indication about the sort of steps that might need to be put in place to put a marketing levy in place. We are still getting comments back on that proposal—some for, some against and some partly in favour.
Senator COLBECK —As you do.
Mr Thompson —As you do on levies, and what we are proposing to do—when we get more of that comment back—is to hold a meeting with the industry bodies to discuss a way forward on a marketing and promotion levy.
Senator COLBECK —So what would be required for that to come into place, apart from agreement from the industry? Would FRDC be a body that might conduct that with an appropriate change in their statutory funding agreement?
Mr Thompson —Yes, that was one of the proposals. It is not just a change in the statutory funding agreement; it would require amendment to the legislation to enable either the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, or R&D corporations more generally to be able to undertake marketing and promotion activities. Under the current act research has a broad definition but it does not go so broad as to pick up marketing and promotion.
Senator COLBECK —So how does MLA and AWI do their marketing then?
Mr Thompson —They are not a statutory R&D corporation—
Senator COLBECK —They are a private organisation.
Mr Thompson —They are a private organisation.
Senator COLBECK —So if FRDC became a private organisation, such as Dairy Australia, AWI, MLA and those that are, they could operate in a different circumstance.
Mr Thompson —They could operate in a different circumstance and then it would only be a matter of changing the statutory funding agreement. But then it raises the other issue that there are different governance arrangements around an R&D corporation versus a private sector organisation.
Senator COLBECK —Yes, which we probably will explore later in the evening, I assume. So there are a number of options at play obviously and discussions continue.
Mr Thompson —Yes.
Senator COLBECK —Is there a timeframe put on that?
Mr Thompson —We have not settled a timeframe for that as yet.
Senator COLBECK —Just a final question on the Bass Strait central zone scallop fishery, is there any concern about the level of effort that plays in that as it stands at the moment? I have had some contact regarding the potential to buy out further players in that zone and I know that they were eligible for the south-east region buy-out back in 2005-06 that Senator Macdonald put into place.
Mr Thompson —They were eligible for the buy-out in the structural adjustment package. There was not a high level of take-up on that.
Senator COLBECK —Senator Sterle gets a lot of correspondence from a particular constituent in that fishery.
CHAIR —Yes, I must share more with you.
Mr Thompson —There was not a great deal of take-up by that scallop fishery in the buyback package. At the present time the department is not working on any further buyback packages and Dr Findlay can provide more advice on the current status of the fishery, but it had been closed for a few years and it was opened—
Senator COLBECK —Last year, I think, wasn’t it?
Dr Findlay —That is right.
Mr Thompson —So following two years of closure the fishery opened last year and we had a very, very good year.
Senator COLBECK —It was a season early, I think, wasn’t it? The closure was initially for a longer period than the two years.
Dr Findlay —That is right, but a survey showed that we had quite healthy stocks of scallops and we set a reasonably conservative TAC, which was caught last year. It was a very successful season and boats made a lot of money. This year the initial survey showed that we were looking forward to a similarly good year, but, for whatever reason—we are not sure whether it is environmental conditions—this year we have had a problem with the quality of the scallops. It now looks like we might have a die-off event going on through the fishery and we are actually—
Senator COLBECK —Sorry?
Dr Findlay —It looks like the scallops might be dying off in the fishery, which is not unusual for a scallop fishery. These things happen on natural cycles. We are actually quite rapidly at the moment moving with industry to adjust our spatial management to adjust to that to make sure that they can maintain economically viable harvest areas as this event goes on. So we are unlikely to take the full TAC this year and we are looking at our harvest strategy for next year around what it means in terms of future production.
CHAIR —There being no further questions of AFMA I now call Trade and Market Access. I do not believe there are a lot of questions.
Senator Ludwig —Just before we move to that area, just in response to Senator Colbeck in relation to the round table questions, I have not had the opportunity of confirming with Dr Kelly whether or not he would chair the next round table. Can I put it on the record in this way then: there will be, we will continue to have, quarterly meetings with the rec fishers. No time has yet been finalised in respect of the next one, however the process is in train and my office has already spoken to Mr Llewellyn. It will either then be Dr Kelly or myself who will chair the next round table.
Senator BACK —I just wanted to focus for a few minutes on the meat trade of exports from Australia to India. Up until 2002, I think, we were developing a lucrative trade with India and then it stopped. I am just wondering if the department can give us some advice as to what caused that trade to cease.
Mr Ross —I must confess I am not familiar with those reasons. Are you talking about beef trade, or is it sheep meat?
Senator BACK —Sheep meat principally.
Mr Ross —Sorry, I am not familiar with the reasons around the cessation of the trade. I am familiar with the industry’s interest in seeing that trade resume, and we have been pursuing some efforts in that regard. At the moment AQIS is developing a revised protocol to put to the Indians to see whether that is acceptable, and it may lead to a resumption of trade.
Senator BACK —Can you give us some indication as to what that round of discussions has been, or what sort of parameters you are putting together to go to the Indians?
Mr Ross —Again, I do not have that detail, but one of my colleagues could assist. We have had a recent visit, just in the last couple of weeks, from the head of the animal husbandry department in India and there were discussions held with him during the visit. Following on from that we have undertaken to provide further information to them.
Dr O’Connell —We just might be able to help you a little bit more, Senator.
Mr Schipp —Although we did have some hospitality trade in sheep meat to India, we do not have an open trade due to the health requirements on the attestations for the health certificates to India. They require us to certify for a number of diseases that are present both in India and Australia, and we are not able to issue that attestation.
Senator BACK —Can you tell me what those diseases are, by any chance?
Mr Schipp —Black leg and a number of common endemic diseases in both Australia and India. I could, on notice, give you that list. Off the top of my head there were a number of diseases that we routinely vaccinate against in Australia, and we do not have a farm freedom program so would not be able to issue those certifications.
Senator BACK —And the meeting with India’s head of animal husbandry, can you tell me how recently that took place?
Mr Schipp —Yes, it was the week before last.
Senator BACK —And so the action is now with your department.
Mr Schipp —We are looking to follow up on the visit, yes. We have an agricultural counsellor based in our high commission in New Delhi and he will be undertaking further consultations in New Delhi.
Senator BACK —So would producers have an expectation of some feedback on this, this year, do you think?, or is it more likely to be longer than that?
Mr Schipp —That is hard to say.
Senator BACK —I know from personal experience that at the top of the restaurant trade, in particular, in Mumbai, I can speak of—and in New Delhi it is the same—the restaurants do actually advertise Australian sheep meat on their menus. Where would that Australian sheep meat come from?
Mr Schipp —There is a grey trade that is common, not only in that market but in a number of markets. There are avenues into the country that are unofficial.
Senator BACK —Do you mean through third countries?
Mr Schipp —Yes.
Senator BACK —And what, if any, control does Australia have over that trade?
Mr Schipp —We certify the product into the country of initial export, but if it is then moved from that country into a third country we have no control.
Senator BACK —So in the event of there being some inferior quality sheep meat, would that be likely to compromise Australia’s standing at all with the Indian government?
Mr Schipp —Well, the concern is that there may be substitution of product—that if there is product that is represented as Australian product but is not Australian product then, because we do not have official access, it is very difficult to take action against that type of activity.
Senator BACK —What capacity would your department have? Would you have officers overseas in countries through which this meat might be being channelled?
Mr Schipp —We have, in the past, conducted joint investigations with third countries to say, ‘Our evidence is that there is substitution, relabelling or recertification occurring in your country and this is of concern.’ So we have done that in the past by cooperating with counterpart agencies.
Senator BACK —Can I ask whether this particular aspect of trade was raised at all with or by the head of the Indian department of animal husbandry? Did it come up in discussions?
Mr Schipp —Not to my knowledge.
Senator BACK —I would also, of course, lead towards a concern that this trade may in some way compromise, delay or negate the good work that your organisation might do in terms of trying to reopen this trade.
Mr Schipp —We would have to accept that a grey trade, particularly if it is occurring or if there is a substitution of product, is only going to be deleterious to formal access, yes.
Senator BACK —It would be deleterious.
Mr Schipp —Yes.
Senator BACK —So there is no effort that can be taken from Australia’s end to try and identify it and put a stop to it?
Mr Schipp —No evidence has been presented to AQIS of such a trade occurring at this time.
Senator BACK —Good, thank you.
Senator NASH —Gentlemen, how many people are actually working in the area of trade and market access in the department?
Mr Glyde —What we might be able to do is give you the number of people that work in the Trade and Market Access Division. There is a number of people in the biosecurity services group that are also fundamentally involved in trade issues—
Senator NASH —That would be useful, thank you.
Mr Glyde —which would might take us a little bit longer to get, but we can start with—
Senator NASH —Does somebody want to just have a bit of a dig around and see if we can do that.
Mr Glyde —Yes.
Senator NASH —That would be great. I just wanted to ask you about the Prime Minister’s recent trip to Brussels for the ASEM meeting. What sort of implication did that have for any trade discussions, or were there any trade discussions around that or market access discussions?
Dr O’Connell —I think you probably need to just take that up—and I hate to say this—with the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet in terms of what precisely went through with the Prime Minister’s visit. Certainly, I am not aware of anything, but that does not necessarily mean—
Senator NASH —All right. Well, on something of that nature, though, if there were trade discussions or market access discussions, would there not be some sort of process whereby you would be informed if there were any of those discussions undertaken?
Ms Anderson —Yes, we would. I think, to answer your question, there was a visit from Prime Minister Gillard as well, and there was general discussion about—
Senator NASH —Sorry, didn’t I say Prime Minister?
Ms Anderson —Sorry, yes. I thought you were talking about the foreign minister. He has recently been as well, but, yes, there was discussion with departments before the Prime Minister left about raising some trade issues with the European Union, and that was done, I understand. DAFF was part of that discussion between departments and was involved in commenting on the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Prime Minister and Cabinet’s briefing on that matter.
Senator NASH —Okay. So what sort of areas of trade policy were discussed?
Ms Anderson —As far as I understand, there was a discussion of a potential treaty-level arrangement with the European Union on a range of areas. We have currently a framework partnership with Europe that covers some agricultural actions as well, so just cooperation generally on a number of areas.
Mr Glyde —I think it is probably best if we leave it to the PM&C to answer those questions about the specifics of it.
Senator NASH —I love watching that pass down the table. I could have put you out of your misery, but I just thought I would let it go and see what actually stopped. It was a bit like a Chinese whisper.
Mr Glyde —It is about being complete because we see part of the request. We see part of it. We do not see all of it, and I would hate to mislead you in relation to the nature of the discussion.
Senator NASH —I am sure.
Dr O’Connell —Quite specifically, you are asking about what arose as a result of the Prime Minister’s visit. Now, what we certainly do know about it is the kind of conversations that happened beforehand in terms of preparing for a visit, and that is normal sort of business that happens. I could not tell you what the specific representations were that were made. That would be something that you would have to talk with the Prime Minister’s department or, potentially, the foreign minister’s department.
Senator NASH —No, I understand all that, and thank you very much.
Dr O’Connell —Otherwise, we could potentially mislead you.
Senator NASH —No, I understand that completely. Thanks, Dr O’Connell. But surely, there would have been some correspondence back to you, having been involved in all that preparation before the Prime Minister went—surely there would be some communication back to you afterwards as a result of any meetings that took place. Wouldn’t you need to know?
Senator Ludwig —It has only just occurred and, of course, the EU is one of our most significant trading blocs and it is very important to us. But if there matters that were to be communicated back, I am not sure at this point in time we would be discussing them here.
Senator NASH —That is perfectly understandable. Thank you very much, Minister. Perhaps, Dr O’Connell, if there is a point at which the committee could be informed of what was discussed and reported back to you at that meeting, that would be quite useful, I think, for the committee to have.
Senator Ludwig —I will take it on notice. And if there are matters that we can report back to the committee then I will undertake to do so by the relevant date.
Senator NASH —Thank you, that would be very much appreciated. I just want to ask, the trade minister recently expressed some concern about that Europe may want to punish nations not prepared to tax carbon. I might just give you the quote out of the release. It might just put it in a bit more context for you. It was actually just out of a press story, on 3 October. The trade minister was quoted:
Emerson also warned that Canberra would not tolerate the resurrection of European trade barriers under the “green cloak” of punishing nations not prepared to tax carbon.
… … …
“There is a very clear European protectionist instinct, old protectionist instinct, under this green cloak of respectability and we won’t cop it.”
Can you just, perhaps, enlighten the committee if that is matter for trade.
Senator Ludwig —That is a matter for Trade. If Minister Emerson made those comments, I am quite happy for you to ask in that committee what that means.
Senator NASH —That would be good. Seeing this is Trade and Market Access, can I ask more broadly, then—if you cannot respond to what the Minister has said; and, fine, I understand that—is this an issue for the trade and market access area: this potential difficulty with trade which has been flagged, potentially creating some difficulties, if we are not a country taxing carbon? Is it something that is being discussed within the department?
Senator Ludwig —It does sound very hypothetical at this point in time.
Senator NASH —It may be hypothetical but it is certainly something that has been raised in a very practical sense.
Senator Ludlam —Dr O’Connell might be able to enlighten us.
Dr O’Connell —I will not comment on the specifics about carbon but there is a broader issue which you have raised which is notionally the trade and environment discussion. I guess at that stage our interest is in ensuring that any constraints on trade that are due to environmental matters of any description are essentially WTO compliant, and we will look to ensure that that is what we will pursue. I am not looking there at all at the border adjustments for carbon because that is an issue which would be dealt with by other departments at the moment.
Mr Glyde —One example, Senator Nash, that might help out is what we might consider to be subsidies for biofuel production in Europe and the US—those countries see it as an important energy efficiency measure; so we are always on the lookout because they actually end up being subsidies for agricultural production—and higher levels of production than what would otherwise be the case. The jury is out on whether or not they are agricultural subsidies or subsidies to encourage a move to a lower-carbon economy. It is sometimes difficult to sort through those issues but, as Dr O’Connell says, our job is to try and make sure that there are not those distortions in markets and that the food flows to where it needs to go.
Senator NASH —Is it something that has been a concern to date in any kind of practical conversations you have been having? Obviously you have just indicated that it is something you are aware of as a potential issue but is there any current reality around any discussions?
Dr O’Connell —Trade and environment discussions of a variety of sorts have been going on for years and have been a feature of the discussions between countries and us for a long time. There is nothing particularly new. I guess part of what the quotation was alluding to was that there is a history of issues around the environment and trade, so environmental constraints on trade ensuring that those are legitimate are not excessively trade-distorting based on strong science and that sort of area. This is not just related to the carbon issue; it has really had a long history. And that is what I was saying: that this is actually a well-trodden turf in terms of the sorts of discussions that occur between countries in a variety of international forum.
Senator COLBECK —New Zealand are appealing the WTO position, as I understand it. Where is that at and what is the time frame?
Ms Cowan —We have appealed the WTO panel’s ruling. The appeal was held on 11 and 12 October—last week. The appellant body has ordinarily a maximum of 90 days to make its decision and, after that, we expect that the appellant body’s decision will be adopted by the dispute settlement body within 30 days. After the adoption by the dispute settlement body we have 30 days to advise the dispute settlement body on how we intend to implement the findings and—
Senator COLBECK —Do we have a choice?
Ms Cowan —No, we have to advise them how we intend to implement the findings and, after that we have a maximum of 15 months to implement those findings. But it could be a shorter period.
Senator COLBECK —Who sets the 15 months? Is that a set thing?
Ms Cowan —That is a set period, a maximum.
Senator COLBECK —If it is quicker that that, that is up to us?
Ms Cowan —No. The dispute settlement body will determine a reasonable period for implementation.
Senator COLBECK —Did we do well?
Dr O’Connell —We did our best and certainly with a very serious representation, including the—
Ms Cowan —Yes, indeed. Our delegation was led by the Solicitor-General and supported by DFAT, Attorney-General’s and DAFF.
Senator COLBECK —Was there any industry involvement in that process or it was purely and simply at government level?
Ms Cowan —Industry was involved in consultations. Industry was advised of the grounds of the appeal. Industry was invited to come to Geneva but chose not to. Industry will be participating in a teleconference tomorrow morning with the departments that were involved.
Senator COLBECK —Effectively a debrief of the process?
Ms Cowan —Yes.
Senator COLBECK —Okay. Is there anything that you can share with us, or do you want to talk to them first?
Ms Cowan —I do not think there is anything that I can share with you. I was not actually at the appeal. But I do know that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade advised their committee earlier this week that, as Dr O’Connell said, we did our best and we hope we were persuasive, but that is probably as far as we can go.
Senator COLBECK —Perhaps the committee might be able to seek a private briefing down the track.
Senator NASH —That is a very good suggestion, Senator Colbeck.
Senator COLBECK —I do not know which can of worms to open now. We finish in a couple of minutes. I will not go down the FTA thing.
Senator Ludwig —Chair, if you are contemplating a private briefing, it would be with DFAT, but I am sure the DAFF officials would be happy to go along to assist.
CHAIR —Yes. Thank you, Minister.
Senator COLBECK —It would certainly be something, based on my experience, that the committee would be very, very interested in.
Senator Ludwig —I am not offering it. I am just saying if you decide.
CHAIR —Yes, thank you.
Dr O’Connell —We can give you the information on the sheep diseases that was being asked for. I am not sure if it was—
Senator COLBECK —It was Senator Back.
Dr O’Connell —Maybe when he gets back—
Senator COLBECK —If he has left, he does not deserve to get it.
Dr O’Connell —Can I keep that?
Senator COLBECK —I will open up another can of worms. The issue is the importation of agricultural products into New Zealand for processing in New Zealand and then sending to Australia labelled as ‘made in New Zealand’. I should say it comes from third-party nations, it is imported into New Zealand and then it comes here as New Zealand product. Do we have any way of measuring that, or how we can potentially manage that? I know that it is a function of the bilateral arrangement that we have with New Zealand—I understand that—but we are seeing a number of our food processors move into New Zealand. McCains made a decision in April to move all their vegetable processing to New Zealand, so effectively McCains do not grow a pea in Australia—or will not after this season. Potentially, the peas could come from anywhere and be labelled as coming from New Zealand.
Dr O’Connell —I think we will have to take that on notice. I understand the issue you are raising but we just might have to take on notice the degree to which we can be specific about—
Mr Glyde —Is that in the context of the food labelling review that is going on?
Dr O’Connell —Definitely, yes.
Mr Glyde —It is probably a question about which we can talk with you further when the Agricultural Productivity Division comes up later on this evening. What I can tell you at the moment though is that there has been an amendment to the Australian Consumer Law, which comes into effect on 1 January next year, which includes a provision that would allow for a ‘grown in’ claim to be made.
Senator COLBECK —Yes, I saw that.
Mr Glyde —You are aware of that, but I think the question you are asking is about statistics and how we might—
Senator COLBECK —Yes. The real concern is the potential undermining of our processing sector and loss of that base to lower-cost jurisdictions who then—
Mr Glyde —Yes.
Senator COLBECK —New Zealand has a great reputation, and deservedly so, but product coming into Australia labelled as coming from New Zealand—and I will not say ‘product of New Zealand’ because I know it is not; it is made in New Zealand, but its obvious origin is a third-party nation—is a major concern for a lot of people in our food processing sector. And it certainly would be a feed-in to the labelling process that is going on at the moment through the ministerial council.
Mr Glyde —The broad review, yes.
Senator COLBECK —The broader review, but I am just trying to get a sense of where things might be moving on that.
Mr Glyde —Yes. As I said, I think the people who actually work on that issue are with the Agricultural Productivity Division, so we could probably pick that up. I am not sure that we would be able to have those statistics either but we can probably confirm that this evening as well.
Senator COLBECK —Okay.
CHAIR —The good news is for the officers of Trade and Market Access: go home and enjoy your tea. How are we going with beef into Russia and kangaroos into Russia?
Senator COLBECK —No, you cannot go home and enjoy your tea. Hang on. I did write it down but we have still got 10 minutes to go. Can we do that in a couple of minutes? Are we kicking any goals there?
Mr Pearson —In relation to beef, things are on the up. The progressive trade to date is over 100 per cent better than for this period last year. Exports to date are approximately 22,000 tonnes. Last year we shipped 15,000 tonnes.
Senator COLBECK —What was it at its peak?
Mr Pearson —It was probably at its peak in 2008, when we had about 70,000 tonnes. So we have a long way to claw back.
Senator COLBECK —Yes, but it is coming back?
Mr Pearson —It is coming back and the industry remains quite optimistic. We have through the quota available to other countries, which includes Australia, a potential to ship an ever-increasing share of 448,300 tonnes, so we are in a position, if we can maintain our competitiveness, to keep on pursuing access into Russia.
Senator COLBECK —Okay. And kangaroos are—
Mr Pearson —Unfortunately, we still have not been able to get a lifting of the suspension of 1 August 2009. The latest progress on that is that a revised submission was submitted just last week to the Russian veterinary authorities and we will be pursuing extremely vigorously an early positive response to that submission.
Senator COLBECK —Okay. Thank you.
CHAIR —Thanks, Senator Colbeck. To the officials of Trade and Market Access, thank you kindly. You can go home for tea. We will take an hour’s break and be back at 7.45.
Proceedings suspended from 6.44 pm to 7.45 pm