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Tuesday, 11 September 2012
Page: 10179


Ms PARKE (Fremantle) (14:18): My question is to the Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. Will the minister update the House on the latest information concerning the super trawler recently renamed the FV Abel Tasman? How will the government act to protect our marine life and fishing resources?

Mr BURKE (WatsonMinister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities) (14:19): This government is very proud of its record in protecting our oceans. This government is very proud that we take a cautious approach to the management of our oceans. I want to acknowledge the member for Fremantle as one of the many members of the back bench—as well as members of the front bench—who have taken an active interest in making sure that any fishing activity is sustainable and that the scientific basis of any fishing activity is completely up to date.

One of the concerns that have arisen with the development of the super trawler previously called the Margiris, now renamed the Abel Tasman, is that, unlike other vessels, it is able to remain in the one location for an extended period of time, which throws up some significant environmental issues that have not been contemplated previously within fisheries management. We must make sure that we properly maintain the protection of the ocean that we need, for the fish stocks themselves but also for the significant issue of bycatch, whether it be dolphins, seals, sea lions or seabirds.

Making sure that the correct protections are put in place was the reason that, some weeks ago, I asked my department for advice on the limits of my legal powers at the moment to be able to take a highly precautionary approach to this issue. That advice came back last Monday—and members would be aware that I put some extra conditions in place—but the legal powers fell well short of where I had hoped they would be. But, when the law falls short, you change the law. That is why I announced that we will be changing the law and moving legislation in this parliament today to be able to provide extended powers over this particular vessel.

There has been a huge outcry about the public interest in all this. People can see the dangers if something goes wrong, whether it be people with environmental concerns or the huge recreational fishing community that has been concerned about making sure that its fish stocks remain in place.

Opposition members interjecting

Mr BURKE: I hear people opposite calling out 'risk', but you will never hear them call out 'environmental risk'! You will never hear them care for a moment about that. And I do not know what their problem is with the oceans. Why is it that when we try to protect the oceans, as in this case, they are against it; when we put in national parks, they are against it; when we fight with Campbell Newman over protecting the Great Barrier Reef, they are against it? You need to have a cautious approach. You need to adopt a precautionary principle in dealing with the oceans; otherwise, we will end up with decisions that are not science based. We are not willing to rush into decisions when the underpinning information is not yet before us. In this way, there will be a pause on different operations legally available while the expert work is done.