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Wednesday, 12 September 2012
Page: 10328


Mr ENTSCH (LeichhardtChief Opposition Whip) (11:06): I am somewhat taken aback by the contribution of my good friend the member for Hindmarsh. He states that the size of the catch and other issues have been raised and that there needs to be further science on the decision in relation to this large vessel that is currently moored at a port in South Australia. I find that unbelievable. Obviously, his minister is not communicating to him in any shape or form.

It was in 2009 that the minister made the statement that formally invited these people to come to Australia. They accepted that invitation. In the years since then they have gone through, backwards and forwards, working out the science, arguing on the arrangements that needed to happen. The arrangements had been totally concluded; why else would they have left their home port and steamed all the way to Australia if they were not of the understanding that they had that support from the Australian government? They were down here to catch fish and had actually been allocated a quota of some 18,000 tonnes. So there was no clandestine arrangement. The science had been done. On websites even as late as yesterday the Australian Fisheries Management Authority, AFMA, was defending the science, arguing that it was totally appropriate for this to occur. I understand that the quota was approved by the government's own caucus only yesterday: 'No problems whatsoever; let's make it all happen!' The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry has continually defended his decision as being based on science. The hypocrisy in this whole debate has been second to none.

I am one of those who have been defending the fishing industry—all aspects of the fishing industry—for many years. I have seen rights being stripped away. I have seen opportunities for commercial, sporting and recreational fishing being continually reduced. I have seen that reduction used as a basis to determine that fishing is not sustainable and for taking away those rights completely. All of this has not been based on science. There has been no scientific evidence to back robbing these small Australian family businesses of their opportunity to continue to make a living. Many of these businesses are intergenerational; they have been there for many years. AFMA, for example, has continually argued that because of its world-class management fishing was totally sustainable. But this minister and this government have continued to erode these rights. We have no better example of that than the current marine park initiative, through which we are seeing the closure of the Coral Sea because it is becoming a no-take zone for fishing. That initiative was not based on science. It was based on an e-mail campaign generated by an American organisation, which I refer to as a 'gan-green' organisation, called the Pew foundation. The Pew foundation is an oil and gas funded American conglomerate that decided to make itself a little bit respectable in the environment world, so it has gone about looking after the marine environment. It would not do it in its own unsustainable and totally depleted fisheries because it did not have the political courage to do it. Instead it travels around looking for the lowest hanging fruit and of course it found that here in Australia, where there is a government that is totally subservient to the Greens.

The Pew foundation has now come here with a campaign of some 400,000 computer generated spam emails, which frightened the living hell out of the government and pushed it into making a decision that has effectively destroyed even further the livelihoods of people who have been in the industry for a long time. An example of this is Bob Lamason, who owns Great Barrier Reef Tuna in Cairns. Bob used to pay $2,000 to $3,000 per vessel for licence fees in the 1990s for his six or seven boats—his maximum cost was about $20,000. For that he had a licence to catch a range of species, including 1,200 tonnes of tuna each year, which he sold into the prime Japanese market and got very good returns. Back then, there were no bycatch restrictions, no wire traces and no VMS, vessel monitoring systems, and he was allowed to cover a very wide area. Since then, through the pressure of green groups, he has been restricted to areas which in many cases are non-productive and in which he cannot catch target species. He is now paying an average of $40,000 per year for each of his four vessels, $160,000 a year, to fish and he is now permitted to catch only 600 tonnes of tuna a year. Unfortunately, because he is not allowed to fish in areas where the fish actually congregate, last year he managed to catch only 300 tonnes. So with his higher fuel costs, having to fish further out and being restricted to a five-hook limit it has been made almost impossible for him. He is one of those we are going to lose because of this minister's incompetent handling of this whole process.

As Bob has said, we are catching less than half of one per cent of the Western Pacific yellowfin and big eye tuna and fishers are paying $160,000 a year to do it. In the other two-thirds of the Western Pacific, which includes Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia and the Solomon Islands, they take 2.4 million tonnes. You can imagine how much difference to the environment will be made by the 300 tonnes we are stopping Bob from taking. But we are going to destroy the family business in the process.

When you look at this bill, you have to be very concerned. The amendments will create a new chapter 5B of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, which will enable the minister, with agreement from the minister for fisheries, to declare a fishing activity to be a 'declared fishing activity' on an interim basis if both ministers agree that 'there is uncertainty about the environmental, social or economic impacts of the fishing activity'. We are talking about the environment minister putting this bill up. But he is now dealing with social and economic activities as well, which means that he can shut down any activity in any Commonwealth controlled waters, if he has a desire to do so, for a maximum of two years in the first instance. That is absolutely outrageous. That is in spite of the fact that we have seen a huge amount of science go into this.

With regard to this vessel, I had objections. I have concerns about bringing a vessel of this size into our waters and allowing it to take 18,000 tonnes of quota in one area. I think that there should be move-on provisions. If they had put move-on provisions in this, which ensured that this vessel had to take certain amounts out of different areas so that it did not totally deplete the stocks, that would have made a sensible management decision.

Mr Baldwin: Good fisheries management.

Mr ENTSCH: Yes, good fisheries management, not policy on the run like we are seeing with this, in a government that, again, is being influenced by a an email campaign run by the Greens and GetUp!. That is what this is about. It is not about fishing management. It is about the Greens and GetUp! putting the pressure on. They got in a panic. Yesterday it was fine. Suddenly, today, we are going to stop it. They have even changed the name to the Abel Tasman. If there had been sensible amendments which said, 'We will restrict where we can fish with these vessels,' I would have been absolutely supportive. I hope that we can put something up of a similar nature so that we can actually get back to appropriate management of this vessel rather than this other nonsense.

The other reason I oppose this is that we were told that all the science was done on this—and everything I have seen suggests the science is there. There may be a few little tweaks that we can do in relation to move-on provisions, but the science is there to suggest that this is okay. I have been arguing now for many years about decisions that have been made in my area based on email campaigns and not on science. I have argued very strongly that we should be using science and sustainability as the only criteria in relation to management of fisheries. This emotional claptrap that is being directed here by organisations such as the Pew foundation should be totally disregarded for the spam that it is. But, unfortunately, this government are a captive of the Greens and these interest groups because they do not know how to make a decent decision.

We have already seen sovereign risk issues in relation to the mining resource tax. That had a huge negative impact on confident investment in this country. Have a look at the debacle that the minister for agriculture was involved in in relation to live cattle exports and the sovereign risk in that, a shocking decision that was again made by interest groups and an email and video campaign. We are seeing exactly the same thing now being applied to our fisheries. The minister should hang his head in shame.

I have another impact in my area which I would like to raise. In 1964, Vic Oke and his brother Gordon bought the Cairns saltwater baths and they converted it into an oceanarium. From that time, with their love of diving, they started up a business which was followed on by Vic's daughter Bev, who married Lyle Squire Sr, and then that business became the Cairns marine aquarium. It is now owned by a third generation—Lyle Jr and his brother Cadel. Between them they have six children, all with a strong interest. So there was a possibility that this business could go for four generations. They have been catching reef fish for aquariums and have been taking fish from the same reefs for three generations. It has been recognised as being absolutely world's best practice and totally sustainable. They have been taking the same species from the same area for three generations.

What has happened? First of all, they were shut down by green zones and moved from that area. They were paid $3.8 million in compensation to allow them to buy bigger vessels so that they could move out into the Coral Sea to operate and to set up infrastructure at a Cairns base. Now with the new Coral Sea marine reserve restrictions it is likely that out of the 16 operators that are currently working there only three will be able to continue. This is an organisation that is recognised as world's best practice. The casualties of these limits in the Coral Sea marine reserve will include line and trap fisherman, rock lobster and beche de mer fisheries, and one other aquarium operator. The main problem that these guys face now is that because there is 100 per cent cost recovery the total cost of managing this fishery, which is $300,000, will be spread over three people instead of 16, which means it will be totally unsustainable for them.

It is interesting because I was talking only a while ago to strategic projects manager Ryan Donnelly from the Cairns marine aquarium and he said to me, 'Warren, the funny thing about it is that the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority still holds us up as the poster child for the fishing industry in the Great Barrier Reef. These are the people who you would think would want to stop us from fishing on the reef. If we are forced out of the Coral Sea, the infrastructure, the boats, the buildings, our Stratford site and all our staff will have to go.'

These are the sorts of impacts that we are seeing from decisions being made because of populist calls by interest groups like Pew, GetUp! and the Greens. On the one hand, the government makes these decisions on the run without any consideration whatsoever of science. And then, on the other hand, they suddenly get the science and the vessel's operators make an absolute commitment over two years. They steam halfway around the world to be here to start the operation. There are 50 new jobs created et cetera. It needs some tweaking done, but then of course there is another campaign by another lot of interest groups and suddenly the government reneges on the deal. How good does that make us look? It is an absolute disgrace. The minister should hang his head in shame and those on the other side should be condemned for supporting this ridiculous legislation.