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Wednesday, 28 November 2012
Page: 13825


Mr ADAMS (Lyons) (10:15): by leave—I thank the honourable member for Hume for his good words and his good work in making sure that we got this report together; these things do not happen without a lot of work, a lot of putting-in and a lot of travel. Australia is at the cutting edge of global initiatives to meet the needs of a growing international population. Our nation's effort in developing innovative solutions, particularly in the sphere of sustainable fisheries management, is world renowned. I said that yesterday when tabling the report, and I think it is the highlight of where Australia is and we can certainly assist into the future, making sure that we help feed the world as we go to nine billion people by 2050.

Fish is the biggest traded protein in the world. I know you are probably a beef man, Mr Deputy Speaker, but fish outdoes you, and the ratio probably supports fish into the future. With the Asian century upon us, there will be a lot more fish eaten in our part of the world. Fishing is an activity of catching fish. It is an ancient practice dating back at least 40,000 years. Many species have come and gone depending on the climate and fishing habits of the time, but fish has thoroughly remained a part of our diet and will continue to into the future. There is evidence of the Basque people of Europe travelling across the Atlantic to the banks of Canada—catching those cod and taking them home to Europe from the 16th century. There have been a lot of people moving around the world., fishing for an awfully long time. Of course, we do that in a much more sophisticated way using technology we never used in the past. We need to do that sustainably and we need to do that without destroying the habitats where fish grow, come from and spend some of their life.

Aquaculture and the growing of fish in fish farms can substitute some of that protein; those processes help us meet the needs of the world. There are great opportunities for us to grow that industry in Australia. Indirect employment in the world, I understand, involves about 5 million people in the fishing industry. In 2005 a worldwide per capita of fish captured from wild fisheries was 14.4 kilos with an additional 7.4 kilos harvested from fish farms, a substantial amount of fish coming from different parts and different ways in the world. Australia is a small player globally, but fishing is still a vital part of our economy, and I am sure that if governments take up the recommendations of our report we can grow fishing even more into the future. One of our major recommendations is developing a national regional fishing policy statement for fisheries, aquaculture and recreational fishing which would allow the industry to start setting its goals for regional fishing agreements. There is a need for us to get a national overview of what we want to do with fishing and the fishing industry, and lay down some markers in that space, and then let the stakeholders have input into reaching those goals. I think we need to do that.

We have heard about statistics in fishing. We certainly do not have very good fishing statistics. ABARES have told the committee that this year they had to bring down a national report on the state of fishing in Australia. It will be very good to have that sort of report so that we can build on it. But, of course, in Australia, we need to have states and the Commonwealth working together to build that statistical base on the different species that we fish. We do not have very good statistics about aquaculture, the research that is going on or the investment in aquaculture. It would be better to have some of that as well.

There is also the issue of having the take from recreational fishing. The member for Hume mentioned this. This is becoming a much bigger issue. In Commonwealth waters, there are now very large boats of recreational fishermen that go out fishing—there might be fishing women as well—with a lot of technology on their boats, and there probably is not any record of what that take is being brought back. There may be some regulations within what can be taken but in a lot of times there would not be any records kept or recorded for future opportunities to use that in some scientific way. So we need to do that. How do we do that? Maybe some of the states have licences, therefore giving some income to be able to do some of that science work and to build knowledge in that space. We need to do that in Australia. We need to build on what is the take from recreational fishing. Whether we do that through licensing or other survey ways is up to people to work out, but there is an urgent need to do so.

The complexities of fishing in Australia need to be given some consideration. The committee has recommended that the Productivity Commission should look at this. State fishermen, or fisherwomen, may have state and federal licences; they may have to comply with regulations from both areas; quota is traded and sold; quota sometimes lies dormant for some years without being used. I do not know—and the committee could reach a conclusion on—whether the consumer of fish in Australia pays a price for that or not; whether we have an effective industry or whether we do not. That was one of the recommendations coming in relation to that.

The maritime park area was dealt with by our committee. The evidence we received was mixed, as one would expect. The overall issue was that the evidence we received was not of strong issues proving that you should not have maritime parks, but the committee came down with the proposition that we now need to make sure that we prove their worth. The monitoring and the science that is done over the next 10 years or so should bring us back some reporting on the pluses of having maritime parks—and some of the biggest maritime parks in the world. I am sure there will be a lot of work done in that space. The subject of the supertrawler became an issue while we were doing this report. That was a public debate that took place around Australia. Issues concerning guidelines for fishing and changing those guidelines because of public pressure became a discussion within the committee and we certainly gave consideration to that. However, it came back to things like a precautionary principle and trying to find certainty when you make decisions, which I do not think is possible. For some people, 'precaution' means doing nothing unless you have spent a billion dollars on science to prove that there will be no adverse reaction to what you are doing. It is really about making decisions about risk, and what risk assessment is. I write that down as letting kids climb trees or not letting kids climb trees. Kids climbing trees is probably good for the kids. If they go too high, that is a risk that you probably would not want to let them do—falling from too high would not serve them very well. So we have to make those sorts of judgements. We made recommendations in relation to getting some guidelines on what precaution means and that would be very good for people making decisions into the future.

We need to also make sure that we understand what climate change will do for fishing in Australia. We have some broader science in this area but we do not have a lot of good science on what would happen in some spaces if fish started to move because of current changes. That would certainly have a devastating effect on some communities and on the fishing industry. So we need to have work done in that space and we need to continue to look at that, gaining some preview of the future and what might happen with climate change.

Though we have some of the overall pictures, we certainly do not have them for different regions and issues like that. Our current efforts are not enough. The committee felt that having national reporting of fisheries information would be critical in order to make better decisions about where the fishing industry will go in the future. We need to build that base into the future.

This inquiry has been a good opportunity for us. I really enjoyed working on this committee. We were able to pull a lot of good information together. Because of the complexities of our Federation and the way we govern Australia, we should pull together state and Commonwealth decision makers to drive this forward. I hope that the states and the Commonwealth take up some of these recommendations to give us a direction into the future. There are great opportunities for Australia. Our sciences are so far advanced. We have very good people and good institutions. We just need to coordinate that better, not let it get siloed and make sure we work it in a direction in the interests of the nation. I am confident we can do that and I look forward to that occurring.