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Wednesday, 12 September 2012
Page: 10339


Mr BALDWIN (Paterson) (12:06): I rise to speak on the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Declared Fishing Activities) Bill 2012. Hypocrisy reigns supreme in this parliament, because Minister Burke, as the minister for fisheries, in 2008 released the Australian Fisheries Management Authority discussion paper Small pelagic fishery harvest strategy. That report was revised in October 2009. The report says, on large factory freezer vessels such as the Margiris, now the Abel Tasman:

… there are considerable economies of scale in the fishery and the most efficient way to fish may include large scale factory freezer vessels.

Hypocrisy reigns supreme not just because the minister who is now moving this bill was the fisheries minister who appointed the AFMA commissioners in whom he now says he has no faith; hypocrisy reigns supreme within the Labor Party because Senator Ludwig, the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, reaffirmed the 18,000-tonne quota on 23 August, and on 10 September the Labor government voted to support the quota. Why the shift, in two days?

This bill is not based on science. It is based not on sound management nor on good governance. This bill is based on hypocrisy, because the government do not believe what they are saying; nor do they believe in what they are doing. I have concerns about this bill because it is bad policy being brought upon us by a bad government, driven by the wrong reasons. The measures in this bill, in effect, were debated in the Fisheries Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2012. I spoke to that bill on 16 August:

The amendments to the bill will allow for emergency power to be introduced to partly close or close a fishery without stakeholder consultation in case of emergency.

The minister for fisheries already has these powers—voted on, supported. Now this government wants to override the minister for fisheries, to override AFMA and to introduce new powers for the Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. I would have thought that the left hand might have spoken to the right hand, that there might have been a whole-of-government approach.

The member for Shortland raised the recreational fishing industry. I do a lot of work with the recreational fishing industry. I am part of their group. What concerns them is the ad hoc way in which this has been put together. In division 2, subdivision A, at 390SC, the bill says:

What is a declared fishing activity ?

(1) A declared fishing activity is a fishing activity that is specified in:

It goes through a range of measures and then says:

(2) A fishing activity means an activity that constitutes fishing.

Then, in subdivision B:

390SD Interim declaration

Making an interim declaration

This is the part that concerns me:

(1) The Minister may, by legislative instrument, make a declaration that a specified fishing activity is a declared fishing activity.

(2) When making an interim declaration, the Minister may identify a fishing activity by reference to all or any of the following:

(a) a method of fishing;

(b) a type of vessel used for fishing;

(c) a method of processing, carrying or transhipping of fish that have been taken;

(d) an area of waters or of seabed.

From my reading and understanding of this legislation, these measures can apply to recreational fishermen. This minister, at a whim, without any science and without any consultation can shut down entire areas, not just for commercial fishing but for recreational fishing as well. The minister will no longer be required to go through the management processes for marine parks. He can just shut down at a whim the entire Coral Sea, the entire Great Barrier Reef, all of the Commonwealth waters off New South Wales and all of the Commonwealth waters off Victoria and Tasmania. He can shut down all the waters off South Australia, off Western Australia, off the Northern Territory and off Lord Howe Island. This minister will have unfettered powers which are not restricted to commercial fishing; they can apply equally to recreational fishing.

If you want to understand how concerning this is, look at the first part of this bill, which talks about the penalties. If this minister decides that an area is to be shut down for, let us say, recreational fishing, the civil penalty is:

390SA Civil penalty—declared fishing activities

   …    …

(a) for an individual—5,000 penalty units;

and then:

390SB Offence—declared fishing activities

(1) A person commits an offence if:

(a) the person takes an action; and

(b) the action is taken in a Commonwealth marine area; and

(c) the action is a declared fishing activity.

Penalty: Imprisonment for 7 years or 420 penalty units, or both.

So now, because of the mismanagement of this government—the lack of understanding in what they have done, the failure to consult—we see a situation where recreational fishing can be captured by this bill. The members of the Labor Party talk about good fisheries management and say that they have done the science. I have concerns about the science by the independent commissioners appointed by Minister Burke and the scientists who have said that the science is correct. It has been reaffirmed this week. In fact, Minister Ludwig said in the Senate this week that the science is correct. If the science is correct and they have concerns, who will drive this legislation—which can shut down a fishery based on social concerns? It could be people such as GetUp!; it could be people such as the Pew foundation. It could be anyone who creates a social concern, which then gives the minister the leeway to shut down or declare invalid a whole fishery—not just for commercial fishing but also for recreational fishing.

People target the Margiris; I too have concerns about the size of the vessel. I would much rather that 10 smaller vessels employing 10 times the number of people worked an area. But this government and, in particular, this minister for the environment when he was minister for fisheries, sought vessels of the size of the Margiris to undertake the fishing of 18,000 tonnes of mackerel and redbait. The difference is that this capture will be used and frozen for human consumption rather than just for baitfish. If indeed they wanted to apply better fisheries management, they would have a move-on provision—in other words, they would specify that only a certain amount of the 18,000-tonne catch could come from certain areas, which would be broken up by the size of the catch. That would spread the risk of overfishing in one area across the whole of the nation.

There is no argument that the 18,000-tonne haul is a concern. People have concerns over the size of the vessel and the size of its haul, and I can understand that. The recreational fishing people have expressed that concern to me. But, in my discussions with them, people from the recreational fishing industry and the main peak bodies said to me, 'If there were move-on provisions, it would lessen the heat and the argument.' This government has not listened to the people who are affected; it has listened to the green groups, such as GetUp! and Pew. This bill gives so much potential to cause damage to an individual minister, who is irresponsible and hypocritical. As I said, this is the minister who appointed the ACMA commissioners and this is the minister who in the Small Pelagic Fishery Harvest Strategy went out and sought vessels of the size of the Margiris. He now wants to stop fishing by such vessels on the basis of social concerns. Either you base things on science and then manage the science and the expectations or you play to populist politics.

Why did none of the members here stand up before Minister Ludwig spoke in the Senate and approved this legislation on the 10th? Why did they show no concern? In fact, one of their own members, the member for Braddon, an area that is affected, said in the Advocate on 4 August:

Sometimes you've got to stick with what you believe is right when popular opinion might not agree. You have faith in your institutions and you demand they be accountable, but if through sheer populist sentiment you push your institutions aside, what hope have you got?

That statement was made by one of the parliamentary secretaries—a man who has the port of Devonport in his electorate. But hypocrisy knows no bounds, because on 11 September he put out a press release which said:

Sid Sidebottom … today welcomed the news today that the Federal Government will introduce legislation to toughen up environmental controls on vessels like the super trawler.

Mr Hartsuyker: You can count on Sid!

Mr BALDWIN: You can count on Sid! He's always there to be depended upon! So, when his own community is depending on him, what does he do? He takes an each-way bet.

What you need to consider in environmental management of fisheries is regional total allowable catches. In other words, only so much can come out of each area. That spreads the risk over a broader area. What you need to understand is that people such as the Australian Marine Alliance have problems with this draconian bill. The chief executive of the AMA, Dean Logan, said:

The explanations given by ministers Ludwig and Burke throughout a range of media interviews over their knowledge and handling of the so-called super trawler have been watched closely by all involved.

He went on to say:

The majority of comments raise very serious concerns about whether both ministers, especially Minister Burke, have actually misled the Australian community. Perhaps more on this will be exposed by a freedom of information request and almost certain court action.

What people want is good management and a solid, secure pathway. Those who invested on the basis of an express approach by Mr Burke, who wanted the ship in here in the beginning when he was fisheries minister want is low sovereign risk. This bill denies it. The recreational fishers want a realistic outcome, which can be achieved in relation to this fishery by having move-on provisions—in other words, regional total allowable catches. The recreational fishers also want exclusion from this bill. The recreational fishing industry wants not to be caught up in this form of politics. As I said at the very beginning, this minister, with an express wish, can shut down any fishing. He could shut down snapper fishing more than three miles offshore because someone says that it is socially unacceptable. He could shut down the recreational shark fishing in Victoria because somebody says, 'We don't think that's socially acceptable'. He can shut down any fishing. As I said, he can shut down the entire Great Barrier Reef for recreational fishing as well as for commercial fishing without having to go through any due process. After the minister has made a decision to do that, he has to report to a committee. But there are no guidelines in this bill as to who can be on the committee and what qualifications they must have. The committee, as I said earlier, could consist of the Greens, the GetUp! Movement, the Pew foundation or anyone who wants to get involved in the social politics.

This government needs to stand firm on its commitment and address its own bill by adding to it move-on provisions and, in particular, by amending the bill to exclude recreational fishers. I call on the government to walk in here today and move an amendment to its own bill, before we do so, to exclude recreational fishing activities from being caught up in this legislation.