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Wednesday, 12 September 2012
Page: 10336


Ms HALL (ShortlandGovernment Whip) (11:51): The member for Hinkler's contribution to this debate on the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Declared Fishing Activities) Bill 2012 was one of the most interesting I have ever heard. He put a very strong argument for endorsing the government's legislation, yet he then turned around and said he opposes it. He argued that bad fishing practices in other parts of the world—practices which have led to the depletion of fishing stocks—are a reason for Australia to have bad fishing practices as well. It was a very confused contribution. He argued against sustainable fishing whilst, on the other hand, pointing out the problems that exist. He pointed out the Margiris's enormous capacity—6,200 tonnes—and talked about the problems faced by the fishing industry in Australia. But he then said that he does not support this legislation to prevent the Margiris from fishing in Australian waters.

I come from a coastal electorate. We have had issues with fishing within the Shortland electorate. Lake Macquarie is at the heart of the Shortland electorate. Over the years, issues surrounding fishing have been very much on the table. In my electorate I have been approached by many fishers, both professional and recreational, and they have all put compelling arguments to me that we cannot allow this ship to fish in Australian waters.

Mr Baldwin: So why, yesterday, did you vote in the Senate to approve it?

Ms HALL: I hear the member for Paterson. Hopefully he is offering his support for the recreational and professional fishers in his electorate. The father of a fisher from his electorate was the first person to hit my office complaining about this ship fishing in Australian waters. If the member for Paterson were in tune with his electorate, he would know the depth of feeling fishers have towards this ship fishing in Australian waters.

Australia has a long and proud record as a leader in sustainable fishing. The legislation before us today recognises that decisions on fisheries need to be based on scientific fact, not on emotion. This legislation is about ensuring that scientific facts are collected before any decision is made. If we were not interested in the science, we would either allow fishing to continue—without having any true knowledge base—or, alternatively, we would ban it up-front. In two years, we will have that information. I am quite sure that, when that information is collected, it will lead to a ban on ships like the Margiris fishing in Australian waters.

This ship has been forced to change its name on numerous occasions in various parts of the world. It has a storage capacity of 6,200 tonnes. That means it is capable of catching 20 bus loads of fish each day. It is twice the size of any boat currently fishing in Australia, and this boat would be fishing in direct competition with Australian fishers—fishers such as those in the member for Paterson's electorate. The potential for bycatch is enormous—turtles, dolphins, seals and undersized fish. One of the key factors in fishery management is making sure that the fish caught are the correct size so as to ensure that breeding can continue.

I think the sustainability of our fishing industry is extremely important and something all members of this parliament would like to ensure. Having a sustainable fishing industry means that those of us who do not fish can continue to enjoy the fish which come from our ocean and that those who work in the industry can maintain their jobs. I want to see the professional fishers in my electorate able to continue fishing.

I mentioned Lake Macquarie earlier. Some 15 years ago, professional fishing in the lake was causing a depletion of fishing stocks and there were issues relating to bycatch. There was enormous division within the community between professional fishers and recreational fishers. The outcome was that professional fishing was banned in Lake Macquarie. We still have a strong professional fishing presence in the area—the professional fishers have moved to ocean fishing. The difference the ban has made to fishing stocks in Lake Macquarie has been enormous. Fish stocks in the lake have increased. That has helped maintain the lake as an enjoyable spot for recreational fishing. As a result, tourism to the area has increased. So there are enormous benefits from ensuring sustainable fishing.

So sustainable fishing in Lake Macquarie has gone from being on the edge of falling over, when we had professional fishers fishing in the lake, to the point now where we have a very healthy lake, with the fish stocks increasing on a daily basis. If you extend that to the fishing trawler dealt with in this legislation—which has the ability to take large stocks of fish—you can see that the impact on the sustainability of our fisheries would be enormous. What happened on that small level in Lake Macquarie will happen on a much bigger level on the Australian coastline as a whole.

So the legislation we have before us today is very important, and I am disappointed—very disappointed, actually—that the opposition are not supporting it. We on this side of the House know that the strategy of the opposition is to oppose for opposition's sake, so every time we put up a piece of legislation we are ready for them: we have the expectation, shall I say, that the opposition will oppose it. I spoke last night on the charities and not-for-profits bills, which I thought the opposition would support. But, no, it opposed them. Today I am talking about sustainable fishing, about ensuring that our fish stocks are not depleted by the Margiris coming into Australian waters. However, rather than having any vision and looking to the future, I would argue strongly that the opposition are opposing this bill for opposition's sake, and without having spoken to their communities. This bill is about assuring the community that environmental controls are in place, which reflects the community's expectations.

The bill will set up an expert panel that will assess the science to answer the very important questions being asked about this supertrawler. As legislators—I repeat, as legislators—we have the obligation to assure the communities that we represent that adequate controls are in place and that we will have sustainable fisheries into the future. I believe the legislation we have before us today will do just that.

The Margiris—or, should I say, the Abel Tasman, because it is has changed its name again—was being assessed under a 20-year-old act. Since then, of course, many changes have taken place, and so the minister needs to take into account new or different types of considerations. It is very important that we are able to look at this from a different perspective. The legislation does not say 'new fishing activities'; it says 'specified fishing activities'. That is because there may be a change in the way that a past activity is playing out.

It is really important that this legislation gets through this parliament, and quickly, because it is vital for the future. We cannot allow uncertainty about fisheries to continue, and this bill is about making certain that we will have a sustainable fishing industry into the future. We need to look at all the implications—social, environmental and economic—associated with this supertrawler operating in our waters. One of the strong points of this legislation, I think, is that both the minister for the environment and the minister for fisheries must look at imposing these conditions and there has to be agreement before we can go down this track, as there is in this case. We cannot allow uncertainty—not on issues like this.

I do not think any issue has engendered such wide-ranging debate in my electorate as this one has, given that, as I said at the beginning, it is a coastal electorate and we have had issues around fishing in the past. I can share with this House that not one person has contacted my office to say that the Abel Tasman, as it is now called, should be allowed to operate freely in Australian waters. I agree with my constituents. I think that a very, very strong case against that has been put forward, but to make sure that that case is based on scientific fact we need to go down this path.

I commend the minister for bringing this bill before the parliament to deal with an issue that is so important to the community that I represent and to the Australian community as a whole.