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Wednesday, 12 September 2012
Page: 10428


Mr BRIGGS (Mayo) (17:54): I concur with much of what the member for Lyne has just contributed in this debate on the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Declared Fishing Activities) Bill 2012. He made a couple of worthwhile points. One of those was that we in this place should be looking to pass sensible, considered laws. How could this bill, on such a difficult and science based topic, possibly be thought sensible and considered when it has been introduced 24 hours after the Labor backbench brought it up in caucus, for some of the reasons that the member for Mitchell outlined in his contribution? The laws cannot possibly be quality. We know that, because the government has already tabled a page of amendments. We know that, because member for Dobell is intending to table some amendments. We know that, because we have amendments. We know that, because nearly every recreational fishing and commercial fishing agency is saying today that this is absurd law. How could this possibly be in the best interests of our country? Or is it simply about covering-over a political problem that the Australian Labor Party has found itself in with its bedfellows the Australian Greens, for whom, we know, no quota is too small when it comes to this debate?

The Australian Greens, the member for Denison and some of those in the Labor Party on the Left want to shut down commercial fishing in Australia. That is the intention, ultimate aim, of what they are trying to do—make no mistake. That is the campaign that GetUp! and some of these raving left-wing groups are trying to pursue in this place. As much as we have heard the two wise men—the two government whips, the members for Hunter and Chifley—sitting in the back corner complaining about the influence of the Australian Greens recently, through newspapers and so forth, we know that what is happening is that this policy is driven purely by the Australian Greens. I suggest that those two in the back corner stop this lunacy before it goes too far.

Madam Deputy Speaker Rishworth, as you know, fishing is a huge and vital part of many of the communities in my electorate. It is economically vital to Kangaroo Island, Victor Harbor, Normanville and the Fleurieu Peninsula. It provides recreation for many thousands of people in my electorate, and, indeed, Madam Deputy Speaker, I will go so far as to say in your electorate and many other electorates in South Australia. It is a very much loved pastime of many of our constituents.

With that in mind, when this boat first appeared I had some concerns about its size and its potential impact on fish stocks. I raised with the shadow minister some issues in that respect. Thankfully, in my electorate I have many people who are very wise when it comes to these matters. First among them is Mr David Hall, who was formerly the director general of fisheries in South Australia and in the Northern Territory. He is a marine scientist by training and he runs the world's largest fish tag business, out of Victor Harbor. So he knows a fair bit about these issues. He certainly knows a bit more than the two wise whips at the back. He certainly knows more than the member for Denison, the member for Melbourne and, I dare say, the minister for the environment. While he might not be able to fish as well as I can he is certainly passionate about it. He and I have been in contact about this issue for some time. Initially, it is fair to say, David had some concerns, as many recreational and commercial fishers in my electorate have, about this boat. I will read what David sent me in an email me this morning, because I think it is instructive to this debate. He wrote:

The issue that I see with this supertrawler is not that the impact of such a wide net on non-target species of wildlife in our Southern Ocean ecosystem are unknown. This can only be found out by conducting trials. Given the boat is here anyway, they should at least enable some experimental trials so they are in a better position to assess it. No government inquiry will come up with the answer. It could well be a trawler of this size is the only economically viable means to harvest the substantial redbait and jack mackerel quota of 18,000 tonnes, and it may even have a lower bycatch than 15 smaller vessels taking the same catch, given the exclusion devices, sophisticated electronics and 24/7 monitored plans.

One thing I can say is that nothing is certain when it comes to catching, managing and assessing the state of our fisheries resource. Adaptive fishery management is a contemporary approach. This involves an understanding based on measuring the impact of fishing in real time and making the necessary fishing effort adjustments.

The opposition to the trawler—and you should note this, Member for Hunter—has nothing to do with economic opportunism and ecological soundness. It is purely a knee-jerk response to the lack of political palatability and social acceptability of a big fishing boat. Nobody complains about small boats taking 40 tonnes per year of more vulnerable pilchards in SA waters, that were not taken 15 years ago by anyone, because they are taken by a dozen or so smaller boats across a whole year. If we enshrine social acceptability—read 'political palatability'—as a key component of the fisheries management formula, we will move towards emotive rather than science based management of our fishery resources and there will be a substantial loss of seafood production. We are seeing the influence of sociological influences now through the marine park program, which has correctly been called a giant confidence trick cooked up by the extreme left groups.

In other words, the bill before the House has nothing to do with appropriate and science based fishery management. It is purely about placating a campaign by the Greens and GetUp! We have in South Australia seen the marine park debacle that the state government has embarked upon—again, based completely outside of science—to the point where my fishermen off Cape Jervis, where the first plan was announced some 18 months ago, are going to lose some 84 per cent of their fishing areas after they told the department two years before in the consultation where their fishing areas were. They took them into their confidence, handed over their marks and then they found in the plan released by the South Australian department of the environment that those very areas were being locked out for fishing. So it is fair to say that recreational fishers and commercial fishers have lost a fair bit of trust in the processes these governments go through, particularly when it is more about the Labor Party at the state level and federal level trying to placate the mad green extreme elements in this country. That is all this bill is designed to do.

Today we have seen the Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities move a bill in this place that should frighten anyone who enjoys fishing and anyone who earns a living from fishing. He is trying to hand himself the most extreme powers the parliament has seen when it comes to the environment and fishing. He is trying to hand himself the power to ban fishing activities on a whim. It is not just me asserting that; the Australian Marine Alliance said in a release they put out today:

The more immediate concern is the bill to be debated in parliament today that has been hastily drafted by Minister Burke and that will give the minister for the environment and his department almost unfettered authority over all forms of fishing.

This legislation is not about dealing with the super trawler; it is about dealing with a Greens campaign. It is to give cover for a Greens campaign, to give the minister for the environment more power than he has ever had before and to start the process the member for Melbourne and the member for Denison really want, which is a continued crackdown on commercial and recreational fishing in Australia. That is the ultimate aim of the Greens and their fellow travellers.

This is ironic. It is ironic for the Labor government to stand in this place every day and claim that their carbon tax is all about addressing the science of climate change and that you must listen to the majority of scientists when it comes to climate change when the majority of scientists have a very firm view about Australia's fish stock management. By the way, Australia's fish stock management is the best in the world. Our waters are well stocked with fish and well managed. You do not hear the same endorsement of the majority view of scientists when it comes to fish stock management. In fact, you hear the opposite. We have heard the opposite today and we have seen the opposite with this legislation. It has the complete opposite effect, which is that the government, rather than backing the scientific view, as they would demand people do when it comes to climate change, when it comes to fish management, have decided, 'We don't want the best science; we want to come up with our own power in legislation to override what is good, science based legislation because it is ultimately popular.'

'Top scientist slams the trawler ban' was a heading in the Australian Financial Review today. That scientist was Professor Colin Buxton. The article said:

"It is a sad day for Australia when a green campaign has shut down a fishery which was based on a sound scientific footing," Professor Buxton told The Australian Financial Review. "Anyone who says there is no science behind this quota is talking complete nonsense. There are 50-odd papers out there anybody can read. I understand that is politics but it is a slap in the face for the scientific community."

So let us not have any of this, 'This is about science and protecting fisheries in this country.' It is about politics. It is about ensuring that the Greens and the GetUp! campaign stops flooding electorate offices. I think what should now happen is that recreational fishers and commercial fishers should start there own campaign. Just as they did in South Australia with the marine park network that was not based on science, they should start one on this ill-conceived, rushed law that is not based on any sound scientific footing, where we are chucking out what has been very successful management of Australian fisheries over a very long period of time all for the reason that this boat seems too big. There is no scientific reason, as the member for Lyne just rightly outlined. There is no scientific basis behind it. Within a 24-hour period we are presented with legislation in this parliament which will completely overturn what has been a very successful management of Australian fisheries for a very long time.

I, like the member for Lyne, enjoy going fishing from time to time. I want to see more fish. One great thing about being in Australia is that we have great oceans and well-stocked waters—although sometimes not as well stocked as we would hope. But ultimately this is not about protecting the marine environment; this is about protecting the rear end of the Australian Labor Party. This is about making sure that the GetUp! campaign stops today and that they get back their preferences.

Again, I quote from an authoritative source who said this in recent days in the Australian Senate:

This disallowance motion is a message that the Greens political party do not support sustainable catch limits based on science. It is a message that says the Greens want fisheries managed by politics, not qualified fisheries managers. And it says that the Greens do not support the commercial operators who fish in some of the world's best managed fisheries. That message should be well understood, because I have no doubt that the same disregard for the science and management of our commercial fisheries will be extended to the legitimate pursuit of recreational fishing … I will not allow the emotive politics of the Greens political party to run fisheries management policy in this country. We will ensure that the Australian Fisheries Management Authority is independent, that it makes independent decisions based on the science through its expert commissioners and on the facts that are presented to them. They will continue to make decisions based on sound judgement to ensure that fisheries are sustainable and meet all the ecological requirements—and, moreover, predicated on the precautionary principle so often espoused by the Greens. Why? Because AFMA will continue to apply sound policy to ensure that we will have sustainable fisheries now and into the future.

No coalition member and no-one from the crossbenches made those comments in the Australian Senate; that was Senator Joe Ludwig, the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, just two days ago.

So what has happened in the last 48 hours which has made that side lose touch with its convictions on this issue that the minister for fisheries so well outlined? What has happened in the last 48 hours? Well, there has been an email campaign run through social media. It reflects on the current state of the Australian Labor Party that its policy positions can be influenced so quickly and so pathetically within a 48-hour period that its own minister for fisheries can be hung out to dry by an email campaign organised by the Greens and by GetUp!. Who will pay? The Australian fishers will pay—that is who, and for no good purpose, for no good outcome.

This is a policy based on the best scientific research in the world about the best managed fish stocks in the world. Yet GetUp! come along with a campaign that influences the Australian Labor Party, the Australian Greens come along with a campaign that influences the Australian Labor Party, the member for Denison comes along and does the same, and these people buckle. They should be ashamed. The member for Hunter, the member for Chifley and their fellow travellers are right. If they want to see what the problem with the modern Australian Labor Party is and why you are giving up to the Greens, look no further than the minister for the environment. He is pathetic. This is a pathetic piece of legislation. It cannot be amended into any decent form. It should be opposed at all forms in this House and in the Australian Senate.