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- Start of Business
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
(Ferguson, Martin, MP, Kemp, Dr David, MP)
(Pyne, Chris, MP, Costello, Peter, MP)
(Crosio, Janice, MP, Kemp, Dr David, MP)
(Marek, Paul, MP, Howard, John, MP)
(Ferguson, Martin, MP, Howard, John, MP)
(Baldwin, Bob, MP, Wooldridge, Dr Michael, MP)
(Beazley, Kim, MP, Howard, John, MP)
(Draper, Trish, MP, Costello, Peter, MP)
Goods and Sales Tax
(Evans, Gareth, MP, Howard, John, MP)
(Slipper, Peter, MP, Reith, Peter, MP)
Redundancy and Termination Entitlements
(Andren, Peter, MP, Reith, Peter, MP)
(Evans, Richard, MP, Kemp, Dr David, MP)
(Hollis, Colin, MP, Reith, Peter, MP)
Skase, Mr C.
(Wakelin, Barry, MP, Williams, Daryl, MP)
(O'Connor, Gavan, MP, Fischer, Tim, MP)
(Lloyd, Jim, MP, Wooldridge, Dr Michael, MP)
(Crean, Simon, MP, Howard, John, MP)
(Gash, Joanna, MP, Truss, Warren, MP)
(Macklin, Jenny, MP, Smith, Warwick, MP)
(Hardgrave, Gary, MP, Reith, Peter, MP)
- Small Business
- QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE: ADDITIONAL RESPONSES
- QUESTIONS TO MR SPEAKER
- PERSONAL EXPLANATIONS
- QUESTIONS TO MR SPEAKER
- MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE
- PARLIAMENTARY SERVICE BILL 1997 [No. 2]
- MATTERS REFERRED TO MAIN COMMITTEE
- AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY (PLANNING AND LAND MANAGEMENT) AMENDMENT BILL 1997
- LAW OFFICERS AMENDMENT BILL 1997
- PRIMARY INDUSTRIES AND ENERGY LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL (No. 3) 1997
QUESTIONS ON NOTICE
(Thomson, Kelvin, MP, Costello, Peter, MP)
Social Security Payments
(Thomson, Kelvin, MP, Fischer, Tim, MP)
(Jones, Barry, MP, Downer, Alexander, MP)
Sirway Asia Pacific Contract
(Bevis, Arch, MP, McLachlan, Ian, MP)
Department of Industry, Science and Tourism: Consultants
(McClelland, Robert, MP, Moore, John, MP)
- Japanese Economy
Tuesday, 10 March 1998
Mr ADAMS (9:41 PM) —The Primary Industries and Energy Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 3) 1997 relates to the statutory marketing authorities, research development corporations as well as the Fisheries Management Authority. Within the latter, the budget last year removed $3.612 million of the Commonwealth's contribution to the research and development funding component of the FRDC at a time when the fishing industry could least afford to lose that amount of money. We were told that the justification for this was that the FRDC had displayed prudent financial management and that the funds were to be used to offset expenditures elsewhere in fisheries related matters.
The original proposal was for the Minister for Resources and Energy (Senator Parer) to direct the FRDC board to hand back the funds from reserves. It was not until well after the budget that this option was found to be unacceptable. Instead, specific legislation was needed to effect a one-off cut to the FRDC's annual allocation. This is the bill that reached parliament and the government has buried a clause in this amendment bill to effect a cut in the annual allocation. This is unacceptable.
As the Deputy Chair of the House Standing Committee on Primary Industry, Resources and Rural and Regional Affairs that reported to the parliament in June 1997 in its report entitled Managing Commonwealth fisheries, I am very concerned that this goes completely against the recommendations that we brought down in that report. That was a bipartisan report and it had the full support of government and opposition members, who supported the recommendations. The government has turned turtle and is taking funding away. It is a nonsense action, particularly when the fisheries report spoke of the dwindling supplies of fish and the desperate need for information on fish stocks. The Age on 18 December last year picked this up saying it was a grim outlook for the fishing industry. It stated:
The commercial sustainability of some of Australia's most valuable and popular fish—southern blue fin tuna, school shark and gem fish is uncertain as overfishing continues to take its toll on stocks.
Not only did our report flag this problem but a Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics fisheries status report in December last year also warned that the numbers of school shark and gem fish are failing to recover from overfishing. Australia's research has shown that the bluefin tuna stocks are dangerously low, yet the Japanese are pushing for more fish and Australia knows that the continuing spawning stock are well below the safe biological limits. We still do not have the full picture. We need to know more about the fishery's capabilities. The report stated:
One of the greatest obstacles in effective fisheries management will always be the problems associated with poor knowledge about the marine environment because of the high costs of undertaking all the research that is necessary for the management of fish stocks.
We have to set priorities and we have to find ways of ensuring that they are funded. In the recommendations, the committee was clear in saying that, in order to develop a long-term research strategy, it is essential that the funding level be more stable and secure. The committee's recommendation No. 34 stipulates quite clearly that the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation receives its funding on the same basis as other industry and research and development corporations to give greater certainty of funding levels on a year-to-year basis. So the report brought down the recommendations that we should be doing more, we should stabilise research in this area, we should do more research, we should be looking after it, moving it along and making it more stable, but, of course, the government is not doing that.
Mr Laurie Ferguson —That's too logical.
Mr ADAMS —As my colleague the member for Reid said, that is too logical. One keeps looking to see what is going to happen next with this government and what next is going to come from this government. In its report, the committee was seeking to have research in the fisheries area increased. So what is the government doing? It is cutting the funds. Today I received in my mail a very nice glossy poster and pamphlet—as, probably, did most other members—from the CSIRO. The message was that 1998 is International Year of the Oceans. And what is this government doing? Cutting funding to the marine environment and to the fishing industry. And the research corporation has been cut. What will this government come up with next?
We are saying to one of Australia's major industries, `Yes, we want more research and more input from you to help in the research, but, sorry folks, your funding is cut. You will have to do it all on your own.' What right do we have to ask for information and to ask for some cooperation between fishers and government if we are not going to assist financially in that process?
The report identified some major problems in the industry. Many of the submissions to the inquiry told us of bad fishing practices and of difficulties in keeping communications going among the different groups, that is, among researchers, the fishers and the management authorities. The policy statement saw the need for fisheries managers, biologists and economists to join forces and to convey the results of research more effectively so that it goes right down to the industry. Also, we recommended that the information we get from the fishers comes upwards because the fishers know a lot about what goes on out there in the oceans and in the fishing grounds in which many of them have fished for many years—sometimes their fathers have fished there and sometimes their grandfathers have fished there. So it is about utilising the information that people have.
How is this to be achieved? If all the expense were thrown back onto the FRDC, it would be really hard to imagine how we are going to achieve many of the recommendations that came down in the report. It really is ironic and bizarre that this cut of over $3,600,000 should come about during the International Year of the Oceans. And at a time when the government is formulating its own ocean policy statement, it is cutting funding to research into the marine environment and the habitats around the coasts.
This statement is expected to focus on supporting and advancing efforts to achieve sustainable development within the marine environment—the same objectives as the FRDC program. Apart from having an immediate and significant impact on the amount of fisheries research that can be initiated over the next three years, there will be an adverse secondary impact on the amount of voluntary industry contributions in the future. Recent FRDC estimates suggest that the 60 per cent approval rate for applications for research funds will probably now drop down to around 50 per cent in this coming year because of the budget decision. There will be a lot of people not researching and not doing work they thought they were going to be doing. Of course, the fish stocks, the fishing industry and the marine environment will be the losers from this decision.
The cut is seen by industry as a willingness by the federal government to renege on its funding commitments, particularly since the bulk of this money will go into consolidated revenue as a part payment for the cut to the Department of Primary Industries and Energy appropriation. The claim that the FRDC has accumulated reserves so as to allow a reduction in this year's Commonwealth contribution is not true. In fact, the FRDC has accumulated forward commitments of $33 million. If you read page 86 of the FRDC's annual report, there are no reserves identified in its accounts. Even more crazy is the cut of $80,000 to Recfish Australia which assists 4.5 million recreational fishers in this country. There are a lot of people who fish recreationally and Recfish is a body which at least is pulling those people together, gaining information and talking to governments and research organisations.
We should encourage this process because recreational fishers have an impact on fish stocks. We need to know what sort of impact they have so that we can put that into the management tools we have for managing fish stocks. That is very rational, but this government is not rational. What will be next? They cut $80,000 from Recfish. This industry—and it is a huge industry, generating billions of dollars in the domestic market—is one of the most difficult on which to collect information. It is vitally important that these people are included in the management plans prepared for fisheries because they do, as I said, have an enormous impact on fish stocks.
No wonder Recfish are desperate to point out—as they did in a letter that I received the other day—that any claim that the Natural Heritage Trust or the oceans policy are substitutes for this funding is not acceptable in any argument that may be put forward. They are urgently arguing that the funding for the FRDC be increased, not decreased. We have here a government that puts the budget bottom line before anything else. It does not care what it does to industry or what effects there are on the long-term economic health of any industry. The government slashes and burns, as long as it saves a dollar in the budget and as long as it can use its silly black hole political arguments. The government will use anything along those lines. It does not really care what it does to the long-term viability of any industry or any environment.
This government is determined to abandon fisheries to its own devices because it does not fit into the neat little packages that the National Party has set up for the other primary producers. This one is not really in the family so it does not matter. It can be pushed out and ripped about. It is really interesting when you look at that structure. This part of the bill must be opposed and I will be opposing it.
When the committee brought down its report Managing Commonwealth fisheries: the last frontier last year, one of our many recommendations dealt with the management authority and some of the MACs—the management groups of different fisheries. We received evidence that people thought that conflicts of interest could arise. The government should act in that regard. The government or the management authority should draw up a register so that people understand who is there helping to make some of these decisions. The process should be kept transparent and people should be kept involved in the decision making so they do not become concerned and think that someone is getting an advantage over them, commercially or whatever.
I received a letter from somebody who wants to be involved in a new multi-billion dollar fishery that is being developed in the Southern Ocean, south of Tasmania. They want to be part of that, but there is nothing happening. They are concerned that licences will be issued. They are concerned that they may be left out of the decision making process because government has not acted on concerns about the conflict of interest. Some time has passed and the government has not acted, as it has not acted on many of the other recommendations that we brought down in our report.
The government should get on and do what it has been elected to do—and that is to govern. But, other than introducing bills like this one which takes research funds away from the marine environment, away from research into fish stocks, it certainly is not governing. But this is the road that this government is travelling. This government is not in there doing much leading. This government is concerned about the budget bottom line and not much else. I suppose we cannot expect much else from the government.
We must oppose this bill. The shadow minister has foreshadowed some amendments, and we should support those. The whole thing should be rejected and redrafted to increase, not decrease, the funding that will go to the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation. Although this is the International Year of the Oceans, the government is cutting funding to the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation. This is a really strange thing for a government to do, but this government has done it. I will be supporting the amendments and opposing this bill.