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Thursday, 25 February 2010
Page: 1979

Mr BURKE (Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) (11:52 AM) —May I thank all members who have contributed to this debate on the Fisheries Legislation Amendment Bill 2009. It has been a productive and positive discussion, not simply because the amendments we are dealing with are non-controversial, but also because there is a common theme of wanting to support regional jobs and helping to build regional economies. That is precisely what the different elements of the fishing industry do. That actually applies whether you are talking about commercial fishing or recreational fishing. Just as commercial fishing in the most obvious way underpins regional economies, in many ways so too does recreational fishing. The commercial outcomes of recreational fishing—whether it be anything from the more obvious elements of the charter businesses, tackle shops or tourism that comes along with it—have an important economic role, which all too often does not get included in debates when we are dealing with the economic outcomes of fishing. I think that has been an important part of the debate that we have had on this bill. There are a number of issues that have been raised. I was not able to be in the chamber for the entirety of the debate, but there have been a number of issues raised while I have been here or raised in good faith, some of which I will follow up on subsequently.

I will refer to concerns raised by the member for Gippsland with respect to the seafood hotline. I will reply directly to his correspondence, but, given that it has been raised in the House, I will also reply here. My understanding is that that role, while not being performed by my department at the moment, is being performed by Seafood Experience Australia. Whether that is being performed to the complete satisfaction of people who had previously dealt with the hotline through my department is something I am very open to receiving information on. But Seafood Experience Australia is performing that role.

On the issue of fish names, for many years, in both Australia and the rest of the world, fish names have been a mess. There can be seven different descriptions for the exact same species, and some of those descriptions will come down to completely different species as well. There has been some good work done. I have previously referred, by media release, to some websites that confine and come to an agreement on what particular species will be called. I think that takes us a long way to resolving some of the issues that were raised by the member for Gippsland.

The area where he said there is no easy answer—and I agree wholeheartedly with him—is with respect to oil and gas and exclusion zones. We often deal with conflicts between primary industries and the resources industries about access to land. We have had a very public discussion, largely involving the New South Wales government but which has come up in the federal parliament as well, with respect to the Liverpool Plains. The challenges in the ocean are actually no different from the challenges on the land. That is something which will be in part resolved through the involvement of different levels of government but largely will be resolved through sensible negotiation between the industry players themselves.

You can absolutely kill any level of interest in a speech in parliament by describing amendments as technical, so I will dodge that—even though it is probably true. The amendments that are before us hit three key themes which determine the future of the fishing industry in Australia. It is an industry that needs to be sustainable, needs to eliminate red tape and needs to combat illegal fishing. The amendments before us touch on all three themes. The amendments with respect to quotas in the Torres Strait are there to ensure that the industry remains sustainable. The amendments on e-licensing and doing something about some of the current overly burdensome rules on fish receivers licences are there to find a way towards eliminating red tape. Also, the amendments in the bill which deal particularly with defensive equipment are there to make sure that those involved on the front line, in incredibly difficult circumstances, combating illegal fishing, are able to get ready access to the defensive equipment that they require.

All of this is important in an industry which, as I say, plays a critical role in supporting regional jobs and helping to build regional economies. I am grateful for the bipartisan nature of the debate which has taken place. Before he walks out the door, I add my voice to those who participated in the debate in congratulating David Elder on the opportunities which are given as opportunities to him but are in fact opportunities for us. Congratulations, David. I commend the bill to the House.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.

Ordered that this bill be reported to the House without amendment.