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Good afternoon. Dozens of protestors

have been injured in a grenade

in Bangkok. The attack outside the have been injured in a grenade attack

prime minister's office happened as

frustration grows over the stand-off

at the city's airports. Hundreds of

demonstrators have been camping in

the terminals since Tuesday as part

on ongoing protests against the Thai

Government. 100,000 travellers

stranded, including many Australians. Government. 100,000 travellers remain

The federal Opposition says the

weekend's COAG meeting with the

states and territories is a missed

opportunity to take action on the

global financial crisis. The leaders

have signed up to a $15 billion

package of Commonwealth funding for

health and education. But the

Opposition says nothing has been

to address the economic crisis. A Opposition says nothing has been done

huge missed opportunity to do

something significant with all

governments together to unlock the something significant with all those

billions of dollars in cash that's

locked up in private equity funds.

And the man who designed the Sydney

Opera House, 90-year-old Joern Utzon

has died in Copenhagen. In 1957, Mr

Utzon won a competition to design

Sydney's new opera house, with his

radical shell-like proposal but

walked away from the project seven

years before completion. Last year

the United Nations put the opera

house on its UNESCO World Heritage

List. more news tonight.


we're heading to northern NSW, 'On today's show, to lighting cane fires, where they've put an end stored in the crops and instead are using the energy to make electricity.' is a six months operation, Whereas cane milling or electricity generation the cogeneration will be a 12 months operation. out why some many kids today 'And we go back to school to find

would rather do anything in agriculture.' but undertake a career They're put off by an image of a sunset or dying industry contribute to the economy. which doesn't have much to That is wrong. not technically modern. Of an image that is That is wrong. where the pay is low. And of an image of an industry And that is not true as well. Welcome to the Best of Landline. Hello, I'm Anne Kruger. through the video vault In coming weeks, we'll be going of the most popular stories and rebroadcasting some from the past year. we're heading into cane country And first up today, where farmers are determined near Murwillumbah, rather than start them. to put out fires in their crops clean, green energy And the result is enough to power the local sugar mills. 'For more than 125 years,

the NSW cane industry. fire has been part of and handling cane fires, There's an art to setting from one generation to the next.' knowledge that's handed down I was about five years old, I think, to my first cane fire. when my dad took me there ever since, And I've been going doing that sort of thing, so, yeah. It's a bit of a talent to it. managing fire, understanding fire. You become quite adept at We've all been doing it for years, second nature. and it sort of becomes seems relatively simple to us. What looks dangerous to other people have phased out this fiery practice, 'While their Queensland counterparts cane growers here, who face a range production challenges, of very different but to use fire have had no alternative prior to harvest. to clean up their crop nor the mills Neither the mechanical harvesters surrounding the cane, can handle the leaf matter to burn the trash off. so fire is used What's left is undamaged sugar cane. the grower does a ring-around, When a paddock is ready for harvest, and that evening, fellow growers turn up to help.' all go and help each other, 'Immediate neighbours half a dozen different guys and, quite often, you have just at the one fire. burn, sometimes we bring tractors, If it's going to be a difficult and spray pumps and things, a little gathering, sometimes.' and, yeah, it's quite helped each other out 'This summer, growers as they've always done.

were doing it for the last time.' But they knew they They might miss the social aspects, but I'm sure if you ask them, to give away cane fires, they'll be glad it's sometimes dangerous, because it's dirty work, at three o'clock in the morning, and sometimes they have to get up to have a cane fire. when the wind might be OK of them will miss it. So I don't think too many

from Grafton NSW cane country stretches north to the Tweed border. the 36,000 hectares of cane land Locals who live amongst that the fires last as long know only too well as the harvest does. ash and air pollution That means regular doses of smoke, from June to December.' have gotten used to them, I think most people get really quite irate although newcomers that they have to put up with. about this black snow discomfort to people It does cause some and those sorts of complaints. who have asthma increasingly urbanized, 'As cane country has become to stop have grown.' calls for the fires that this is a nuisance We don't resile from the fact to the local community, "When is this going to end?" and a lot of people are asking,

Oh, it gets into swimming pools, who've just washed and upsets the women washing and that sort of thing. and they get black ash on their

That will change soon. A $150 million green energy project is bringing the change. called cogeneration into two mini-power stations Two sugar mills have been turned

and heat by burning cane residue. that will produce electricity kicks off in June, When the 2008 harvest it will be cut green, cane won't be burnt, of greenhouse gasses a year. saving a massive 400,000 tonnes will be a valuable source of power.' The once worthless cane trash

industry in Australia The cane sugar milling for more than 50 years. has been self-sufficient in energy from the cane itself, the fibre, We use the residue

in our plants. to generate steam and electricity Now, there is a potential to increase the excess available for export by tenfold, if we change the process to make it more efficient, in the factory, and we collect all the available fuel to generate more power. Whereas cane milling is a six months operation, the cogeneration or electricity generation will be a 12 months operation. You see behind me about $75 million worth of new equipment which will do just that.

We'll be gathering up the fuel, stockpiling it, generating electricity both in the crushing and the slack season, and exporting it to the grid. It produces at about twice the price of normal electricity, but the, of course, you have the benefit of there are no greenhouse emissions. But having said that, the production from this renewable technology is definitely on the low end of the scale

compared to some of the alternatives, particularly some of the lower capacity wind farms, solar etc. 'There are three sugar mills in NSW. The Condong Mill on the Tweed River north of Murwillumbah, and the Broadwater Mill on the Richmond River south of Ballina have each had $75 million spent on them to convert them into cogeneration plants.'

We generate about 30 megawatts of power and, of that, we use about five megawatts to run the plant, the factory itself. So the remainder is exported into the grid. These are baseload plants, so they will operate 24 hours a day, high capacity factor, day after day, month after month, whereas a lot of the alternative renewable technologies,

such as wind and solar, are intermittent. So, they'll operate, they're on, they're off, they're on, they're off. This has a huge benefit from an electricity systems standpoint in that it is absolutely reliable. 'The cogeneration development is one of the country's biggest renewable electricity projects, and it pairs the grower's co-op with NSW power company Delta Electricity. We've been given the incentive to do so

by the Mandatory Renewable Energy Target Scheme, which provides a premium price for renewable electricity.

The scheme allows us to create certificates for every megawatt hour of renewable energy that we create, and that income stream, when partnered up

with the electricity income that we get from the project, means that we have the cash flow which then allows us to finance the projects. So, without the renewable energy target, we would not have been able to finance this project. 'Max Boyd heads up the Tweed Shire Council. He says cogeneration is a win for locals, the State's 650 cane growers, and the environment.' This is a wonderful way of converting waste into power, and to think that we can generate enough power

from that plant at Condong to serve half the needs of the whole community of the Tweed, it's pretty good. 'Farmers agree.' I think we should all hold our heads pretty high. We're doing something no-one else in the world would have a go at. Obviously there's a lot of energy released in a cane fire which would be more productively used in a power station, and potentially create profitability for everyone in the industry. It's a good feeling to know you're doing your bit for the environment, and doing something that's going to be sustainable into the future. 'Unfortunately for farmers, the equipment they use to harvest burnt cane needs replacing or modifying. The cost involved switching from burnt cane to green cane harvesting is enormous,

in some cases, hundreds of thousands of dollars.' We know it's part of the whole process we've got to go through, and this industry's been part of change, and will be part of change forever more, so it's just one of those challenges we're just going to have to address. We can't sort of walk around it or run around it, we've just got to address the issue and find the best way we can do it.

'NSW growers grow a lot of two year old cane. It's much taller and thicker than the one year old cane grown in Queensland. It's a huge challenge for the harvesting crews and one of the reason's they've had to burn. This is what they're up against - a mass of cane leaf. The fire used to take all that trash out,

and you'd have a mass of cane left there, but those days will be going, and we've got harvest that volume there, and it's all got to go to the mill, and that's where it's separated. So we're looking at future power? Future power. Green electricity to come out of that. And so that's what will test our machines and our workforce, and all the planning we've done.

But we've done so much planning, we know what's in front of us. 'The biggest change farmers will have to make on farm is in the area of planting. No more doing it by feel.

From now on, they'll be using GPS navigation systems to plant, so, come harvest time, the harvester driver can find the rows of cane amongst the mass of cane trash. It's not just farmers forking out - contractors have spent up big on new harvesters and tractors, and the co-op's bought new transport bins. 300 chaser bins, used to move the cane from the farm to the mill, have been replaced. Just upgrading the transport system has cost $20 million.' It sounds like a huge undertaking? Well, it certainly is, and it's something you can't do by half measures, unfortunately. The plant will require a lot of fuel, we have an enormous amount of fuel out there in the field, and we have the technology, we have the will, it's just a matter of getting the capital equipment out there and to get it all in. The green harvesting, and then capturing all the energy that's available in that, is definitely leading edge stuff. Yes, and we've been really pleased with what we've seen amongst the growers, just how technologically savvy they are

in their agricultural processes and also their preparedness to adapt to these sorts of things. 'During the 2007 crushing season, the Condong and Broadwater mills took their last deliveries of burnt cane. In place was millions of dollars worth of new equipment that will allow the mills to deal with the green cane that will start arriving when the 2008 crush starts in June. The old one was six foot wide, and it ran all the way to the top here. So we took that out, and we put in a nine foot wide carrier to deal with the larger volumes of whole cane. 'The Condong Mill crushed its first cane in 1880. It's boilers were well and truly due for replacement.' We have some boilers here which are approaching 100 years old, and they're not efficient and they're environmentally a bit suspect, so we have now a chance to establish brand new equipment,

very highly efficient boilers, high efficiency of turbines, and to get the maximum amount of energy out of that cane. 'Alongside some of the sugar mill's old equipment, there is now state of the art power generation technology.

Cane trash isn't all that will be burnt in the boilers. So will this. It's called begas. Begas is what's left of the cane stalk after the sugar's been extracted, and is traditionally used to power sugar mills during the crushing season. Begas and cane trash will meet all the Broadwater Mill's fuel needs, and %75 of the Condong Mill's. At Condong, the difference will be made up with forestry waste. There's even a plan to burn the hated camphor laurel tree.' There are enormous stands of camphor laurel and spreading very rapidly. We're looking for interested landholders, first of all, that have camphor available, and, secondly, we're looking to source competent contractors, to go in and bring the camphor in and prepare it as fuel. 'At both mills, millions has been spent building conveyer belts that will feed the begas and wood waste into the mill's boilers. The conveyers, which cross major roads,

will be run 12 months of the year. Stockpiling of the fuel has already begun. Cane growers have been working towards cogeneration for some years.

They've bought their GPSs, they're ready to change how they plant, and they're keen to stop burning cane. They hope all these changes will cause one more. More money in their pockets.' You looking forward to getting that cane check where it says, this is how much you get for your cane, this is how much you get for your trash, and this is your share of the power profits? Yeah, that's right. Hopefully there will be some sort of significant profit there, so, we haven't spent it yet, but we're looking forward to it in the future.

'Greg Messiter says having a stable, secondary source of income will make the industry more viable.' The farming system

appears to have an advantage of %10 in yield, and that will be additional cane and sugar for them, and, of course, we wouldn't be operating electricity generation if it wasn't for profit,

so the co-operative will have a diversified source of income and a greater profit, hopefully, if all works well,

and our farmers are shareholders in all of that. I'd love to think we'd make money out of the power. That'd be great. Electricity is not something that's going to go away, it's always in constant demand, and demand's increasing. And, of course, with the environmental pressures, green power's going to become something that's very important in the future. This was a massive road to go down for the funds needed for this, but we had Delta Electricity coming in on a 50/50 venture, and, with all the planning,

we decided it's the only way we're going to survive here, say in the next 50 years. 'The two cogeneration plants are in the commissioning phase now, and are set to fire up in a few months. When they start sending power to the grid, the two generators will supply the electricity needs of Lismore, Casino, Ballina, Byron Bay and Murwillumbah.' We are absolutely ecstatic. For Delta, this has been a big project, and it has been technically complex, and we are just so pleased we are going to be delivering on this by the end of the financial year. 'The industry will then turn its attention to the Harwood Mill and Refinery at Yamba.' If you're a betting man, how long would you say it will be

before Harwood is a co-gen plant, up and running? Three to five years. I'd sooner the three.

When Harwood is converted, not only will it be a crushing mill,

and the State's only sugar refiner, it will bring the total power produced by the three sugar mills to 100 megawatts. It will mean all the sugar produced in NSW

will be truly green. Vince Castle says until then, Clarence River growers like himself, who supply the Harwood Mill, will have to burn cane and harvest the old way.' Are your growers itching to stop burning? Yes they are. Yes. They'd like to move into this new arrangement of harvesting cane. The sooner we all get into it, the sooner we perfect it, and the sooner we move on. You looking forward to the day when the power in your house, when you go to flick a light switch on,

and you know that the cane in your paddocks has somehow contributed to the electricity in your own house? Yeah, I think that would be fantastic. It would be unreal. I hadn't thought much about that, but that will be good. Yes.

I suppose it will light the room up the same as it is now, but if I knew that, yeah, we would be proud to know that. 'Vince Castle says the last revolution in the cane industry was when mechanical harvesters replaced human cane cutters.

He says the impact of cogeneration will be just as huge. It will not only improve the industry's viability, and make it environmentally sustainable, it will finally be compatible with the people who live around it. No more smoke and ash, or what people call black, or Ballina, snow.' I'm Sean Murphy, reporting from the west coast on a crisis with crayfish.

The current problems with the industry have reopened a debate about how the fishery is managed. Historically, it's been production based,

where operators are licenced for the number of pots they can use and how many days they can fish. But there's a push now for a quota system, which supporters say would allow them to fish for the market, to catch the highest price, rather than just catch the most lobster.

'Across the country thousands of students are preparing to head to university for the first time, no doubt hoping it will lead to their dream job.' In this lot, I've put some info about your scholarship, congratulations again. Thanks very much. '17 year old Richard Porter is among them. He's enrolled in Agricultural Economics at Sydney University. The options are endless, really, like, you can work anywhere in the world. There you are. What can I get for you? 'These students, at the University of Queensland, also see a bright future in agriculture.' I've got the perfect job I've wanted for years and years, and I think most of the graduates here would say the same thing. 'They've just finished studying Agribusiness. The course recently won the $250,000 Carrick award,

which the University reckons is like winning an Oscar. It's students are cleaning up to on the job front.' For our graduates, getting a job is almost a no-brainer, almost a non-event. We have a situation now where, over the last five years, the demand for graduates is going up and up and up, and the job offers, the salaries are going up, the job prospects, the career progression is rapidly improving, and, in essence, why would you not want to be here? 'The problem is, many school leavers don't share his excitement. Enrolments in first year Agribusiness have dropped from 30 to less than 20 in the last few years.' There's definitely something going on that we don't understand and we sure don't like it because it doesn't equate with what's happening on the job front. Hey Sarge. How's it going? Yeah, good thanks. We'll do a couple of laps, this end here, just to give us room to turn,

and also at the other end, and we'll go east-west so that we're going the same direction as the air-seeder. 'It's a similar story at Adelaide University, where Andrew Sargent is studying a Bachelor of Agriculture. He says the course will give him a competitive edge as a farmer.' We learn a lot about management of farms, like, business management, the actual science that's behind producing crops or livestock, and how to maximise your profits and production, and become more efficient. 'But for many students, that's not enough. Enrolments in this course have almost halved in the last ten years. While the decline has slowed more recently, the University's Professor Phil Hynd says there are around five jobs for every graduate.' The demand is completely outstripping supply. We've got employers coming into the institution looking for students before they're finished. 'The lack of interest in agricultural courses is a national problem, and something the peak lobby group is anxious to address. It goes to the core, fundamental nature of our industry in agriculture remaining competitive in 20, 30, 50 years time. And we need to face up to that and make sure we leave no stone unturned. 'The number of students studying agriculture has dropped by around %30 across the country in the last few years. At the same time, a report by the University of Sydney says employment in this sector will grow by %36 in six years,

which could amount to an extra 123,000 jobs.' There's already a shortage at the moment of skilled people, and so you think, ten years from now it's really quite scary,

it's quite a worry, because we're going to be the ones beginning to get into the more senior positions and we're going to be the ones who are going to be dealing with that. Universities are commercial entities. We have to pay our way like any other enterprise in any other big organisation. If we don't address undergraduate enrolments, we will have to answer some pretty hard questions from the University. So I'm interested in turning this around now, before we get to that point. 'Raising the image of agriculture as a rewarding and challenging career is seen by many as the key to turning things around. Educators say the public's perception of the industry is stick in the past, and tainted by stories of suffering and hardship. They're put off by an image of a sunset or dying industry that doesn't have much to contribute to the economy. That is wrong. Of an image that is not technically modern. That is wrong. And of an image of an industry where the pay is low. And that is not true as well. We've got a field monitor fitted in the header.

It shows the moisture we've got coming in on the grain, your average yield for the paddock, the instant yield for where you're actually harvesting, as well as your total. 'Riding around in air-conditioned comfort, Andrew Sargent says modern farming is not the backbreaking work many assume it is.

With new technology, the demands have become more intellectual than physical.' In the cropping industries around the country, people are using new machinery, new techniques, satellite farming, precision agriculture, they're using integrated pest management, they're looking at new crop varieties with high-tech genetics, and in the livestock industries as well,

with the way we look at animal nutrition now, it's very, very complex.

'And while farming may be the foundation

of agriculture, educators say many people don't realise the industry stretches well beyond the farm gate.' If you run through the list of the top ten issues facing the planet, they nearly all encompass something to do with agriculture and its application to food and fibre production. Climate change, genetic modification, environmental sustainability, natural resource management, water regulation, they're all up there, and they're all agriculture. 'These students are pursuing jobs in banking, finance, marketing and human resources after studying Agribusiness at the University of Queensland for three years. The course includes an overseas research trip funded by industries. This group went to Malaysia to investigate export opportunities for lamb.' They have currently never imported lamb from Australia, they've only ever imported from New Zealand. If you're thinking about Agribusiness think of it as the international food and fibre business. Because that's what it is. It's about marketing and strategy around international food and fibre.

Australia's future strongly relies in our ability to be competitive on international markets. 'Unfortunately, when it comes to attracting the best and brightest, the agricultural industry faces some very stiff, and in some cases, very cashed up, competition in the local jobs market.' The mines have probably chewed up a lot of people. A lot of my mates from school are up in the mines now, earn big dollars while there's a lot of the rest of us that are here at uni, paying to study. 'The National Farmer's federation admits the industry can't match the resource sector when it comes to money. So, if you can't beat them, maybe join forces.' For example, because mining jobs might be two weeks on,

two weeks off, and agricultural jobs might be busy for a certain period, a certain week, while people might be mustering, perhaps people can work on the farm for a week, go off to the mining job and then come back to the farm, so that the farmer doesn't lose that labour force all together. 'While it might not be able to compete with mining companies,

educators say agriculture is not a poor industry.

The going rate for Adelaide University agricultural scientists is around $40,000 in their first year out, which is about the same as vet science graduates make after six years of studying.' Does the percentage affect what grades the grain can be sold as?

Yes. If the moisture's too high, it gets rejected. It has to be below 12.5%. 'For Queensland's Agribusiness students, the pay prospects are even better.' In 2006, the median starting salary for a business graduate across Australia was $40,000. At the moment, our graduates are starting on $50,000 to $55,000. And, more importantly, after a year or so, they're quickly going up to the 60s and 70s with cars and mobiles and laptops thrown in. However, with drought slashing farm incomes last financial year to their lowest levels since the early '90s, it's not surprising the image of an industry on the brink of bankruptcy persists.' My theory is that anything to do with agriculture has no resonance with metropolitan based young people, agri-anything to them means all of the bad messages, all of the negative messages they hear about, stories about droughts and stories about floods and the stories about the bleached bones of a dead sheep on a parched plain. If you could tell me another name for Agribusiness, I'd chose it tomorrow. 'One of Adelaide University's former students is Sam Davies, and agronomist who has set up a recruitment company. He says the drought and other environmental problems should attract students to agriculture, not turn them off.' With so much more interest in the environment from kids around the cities and around the world, I would have thought there would be more interest in agriculture as a potential career, because agriculture works with the environment, and if you want to contribute to the environment, that's the front line.

'Sam Davies thinks there should be a more global approach to attract and retain the industry's next generation. He says the career path needs to be more exciting because many young people want to travel. Mr Davies has formed a partnership with a company in Canada, where there's also a shortage of skilled workers. He finds seasonal jobs for Canadian students or graduates here, and it does the same for young Australians over there.' Typically, it's been shown we've lost a lot of people from the industry because they get sidetracked into some other job overseas, and maybe come back to that when they come back into Australia, whereas what we would like to do is provide those opportunities to stay in the field, stay in agronomy, stay in agriculture. 'Stefan Meyer from Alberta was the first to sign up,

spending six months working as a crop scout on the Yorke Peninsula in SA. Although the job wasn't the only thing the crop science graduate to head south.' According to my friends, this is a place full of beaches and girls in bikinis, so I thought I'd head down here, but another reason I came here was because a person my age,

I think should be building a global resume. I can get all the good ideas from different areas of the world and bring them back home to the operation, and then make it as successful as possible. That's the way I look at it.

'Andrew Sargent also sees the benefit

of working overseas. He's gone to Canada to finish his degree and work for a local agribusiness. 'Why not have kids from Australia go and work in Canada and learn about things like genetically modified crops and carbon trading systems that are already working in Canada? Why not learn and see some of those new things

that ultimately may play a part in Australian agriculture? International mobility is good.

I don't see it as a solution to Australia's need

for well trained agriculture graduates in the right numbers getting into the industry right now. So it may help, but it's not a solution. 'Some believe the solution lies in our schools.' While unemployment's the way it is, and with such high competition, and the resource sector the way it is, I can't see it getting better in the short term,

which is why I think we need to be a lot more proactive into the school systems,

and try and have an influence on the state curriculums to actually get agriculture or agribusiness or agrifood back on the agenda. 'The Primary Industry Centre for Science Education, or PICSE, has done just that. It runs camps and offers industry placements to try and get Year 11 and 12 science students and their teachers interested in agriculture.' Time and time again, the students will come in and say, "First of all, we don't know what agriculture is,

or we're not really interested but this sounds like a fun thing to do, this camp." At the end of the camp, the students, I guess, come up with two things. First of all, they want to go to university, and, more so, they want to get into research.

Secondly, they want to do something in the agriculture area, because they've seen the relevance of the agriculture to the future of the nation. 'David Russell, from the University of Tasmania started the program nine years ago. It's now been adopted at six Australian universities, and Mr Russell has asked the Federal Government for funding to expand it. When we started, the numbers at the School of Agriculture were relatively low, but as we've had this program going, we've increased the quality of the students and increased the numbers, and that's against the national trend. For stomachs from? A cow. Sheep. That's a sheep. A cattle one would be about ten times bigger than that. 'Adelaide University is involved in another national program promoting the science behind agriculture.'

I'd always thought that it was just on the farm, you know, helping out with the cattle, shearing sheep, but there is actually a lot of science behind it. 'The course targets younger students. Most of these guys have just finished Year 9. Professor Hynd says that it makes good sense because many students make up their mind what they want to do well before they leave school. We realised that we've really got to get the message across much earlier than that, and there's a number of aspects to that. One is to start the kids thinking about this. I mean, it doesn't even enter on their radar. And the second is to make sure they take the right subjects. Even with these sorts of programs, some say the whole approach to promoting agriculture in schools has been too ad hoc. So there are now plans to set up a company that brings together the major players - the industry, the education sector and governments. Its job will be to develop a national strategy. The teachers are involved, which is excellent. Industry is extremely keen. Of course, given the time frame, we haven't discussed the program in detail with the new government, but we intend to do so as soon as we can.

'There's nothing new about calls for a national campaign to boost the image of the industry and enrolments.' 'That it's accepted that marketers need to be brought in to convince Australia's teens that agriculture is a thriving, dynamic industry, offering a host of challenging and rewarding careers, indicates just how poorly the industry is perceived.' It's regarded by very many in our society,

in my opinion, as a peasant occupation.

'Thirteen years later, and the industry continues to counter the same outdated stereotypes. Education is clearly the key. Agriculture is still trailing other industries when it comes to comparable educational qualifications. Less than %10 of workers have graduated from university, and almost %60 have no tertiary training.'

We're not going to be able to fix it overnight. It's a long term issue, and, indeed, promoting understanding and education in the community is a generational issue, not something we'll do in one or two years. But I do think the industry as a whole is much more focused on it at the moment. 'But having said that, there is still something positive about traditional images of agriculture. For many students, like Richard Porter,

the lifestyle is a major drawcard.' You can work in the country as well, get away from the city, which is a goal of mine. I like the idea of working for myself, on my own farm, and it's just a good way to live, I reckon. I'm not too keen on the old nine to five jobs. I think everybody would love to be in a paddock and watch a paddock grow wheat and cultivate, and take some time. Agriculture's a lifestyle. A positive lifestyle, I guess. Grandfather came out from Sicily and started in the '50s, so a natural progression from Grandfather to my father and when I left school, it seemed where I wanted to be. I enjoy the lifestyle. It's good to go out on the ocean, and be nice and free out there, and to work with your family all your life is fantastic.

'Michael Brigulio and deckhands Mick Pellicioni and Jason Stott would normally be fishing for lobster off Fremantle. But for the last three years, the Onda Marina has been steaming 150km north to the outer banks off Lancelin. A combination of rising fuel, bait and labour costs, along with a surging Australian dollar, have cut margins to the bone in a largely export fishery, pegged to the falling US dollar for %90 of its market.'

For all exporters, when the dollar is so high, it really puts the crunch on a lot of our bottom line figures. Yeah, I'm making a living, I'm doing all right.

Fortunately enough, I have the back-up of my father's 40 years of experience. I'm sure that would help a lot. And that information passed down to me has enabled me to just keep my head above water.

It's nothing flash, but my head's above water. 'North of Perth, at Alchamos Reef,

researchers Mark Rosbach and Ryan Rushton are fishing for information about the future of the western rock lobster industry. Every month, they shake these artificial weeds for puerulus, juvenile lobster which drift

on the Leeuwin current and settle on weed banks and reefs. The research is an accurate measure of how abundant the fishery will be in three to four years time, when the puerulus have grown to maturity.' We've been collecting puerulus since the late '60s, so we have over 40 years of data on puerulus, all through the coast of WA where the lobster fishery operate. This year, unfortunately, has been one of lowest puerulus settlements on record, which means that in three or four years time, we could have one of our lowest catches in 40 or 50 years. 'With weakened currents due to the El Nino effect, the puerulus collection has been falling for the past few years, and from an already low 9,200 tonnes this season, the predicted catch will fall to just over 7,000 tonnes

in 2010-2011. WA fisheries is warning the industry

to expect dramatic reductions on licenced effort.' I think we've got to make a distinguishing partition between abundance and sustainability. We have a declining abundance of the available predicted catch over the next four years, but we have the management settings to adjust the effort in the fisheries so that it's still sustainable. The current problems with the industry have reopened a debate about how the fishery is managed. Historically, it's been production based, where operators are licenced for the amount of pots they can use and how many days they can fish. But there's a push now for a quota system, which supporters say would enable them to fish for the market to catch the highest price, rather than just catch the most lobster. It's not what you catch, it's how much you keep. Dollar-wise, we've got to be fishing for quality, not quantity. Hey. Larry, is it? Yep. 'Peter Glass heads a Coalition For Quotas, a group of industry veterans trying to convince operators

that a radical change is necessary.' At the moment, I don't know how you're going - Shocking. Are you, where you are, willing to have look at them?

You going to come to the meeting? Yeah. Definitely. OK. I think it's got to be better than what we've got now, cos what we've got now is not working. 'In late 2006, lobster fishers were surveyed

about changing their management from input controls to quotas. They voted overwhelmingly for the status quo, with %82 against change.

Peter Glass says things have worsened significantly since then.' It's time for the minister to act unilaterally and take matters into his own hands. There's no doubt about it. We've stuffed it up. If we haven't stuffed up, how come we're facing all these issues? It's self evident that input controls have not worked. They're destroying themselves, they're destroying fishermen, the youth's gone out of the industry, it's just endless.

The expertise, you know, maintenance crews, everybody, it's winding down, and people are finally starting to see that, but you'll only see that when it hits people in the hip pocket. And that's what's happening now.

What I'm hearing is the same arguments I've heard year in, year out. My frustration is that I can't get a common view, a consistent common view, consistently,

over the year from the industry. 'Fisheries Minister John Ford says he's prepared to listen but won't act unless there's a massive turnaround from the 2006 vote.' We had a year of consultation. We had three months to deliberate on the decision. Now, all of a sudden, things are getting a bit harder for everyone, they want to try and find an easy way out. 'Clinton Moss is a vocal opponent of the quota system, which he says will make it impossible for young fishers

to break into the industry.' At the moment, the harder you work, the more chance you've got of doing well. And the access for people to try and get a start in the fishery is very easy. You can lease a licence,

companies are willing to cash-flow you into the business, and you've got a chance to try it. In SA, with the unit prices so high, it's basically if you're in you're in, it's very hard to get in when the prices are so high. 'Supporters say quota management has been a success in New Zealand, Tasmania and SA, but critics say

they are much smaller lobster fisheries, and, in the case of SA, compliance costs were increased by %50.'

If we end up with fisherman against fisherman, we could see blood on the wharves this year. 'Keith Pierce is an industry veteran who has campaigned against management changes such as home porting, which the WA Government unsuccessfully tried to introduce in 1992.'

It doesn't particularly worry me if we do go for quotas, but we've just gone through a two and a half year debate over whether or not quotas would be beneficial to us. If we now go back through that debate for the next year or two, then we miss the opportunity to look at some of the rules in our fishery that create economic inefficiency. And what we should be doing is changing those rules so we can make more money out of what we catch.

'Quota supporters say a change would mean fewer days fished, for the same returns, as well as greater opportunities for marketing lobster when demand is highest, such as the Chinese New Year.'

I think we need, just call it a paradigm shift,

or a cultural shift in this industry, from getting people in the resource sector, who understand more of what goes on in their industry.

At the moment they are very, very, very good at catching a lobster, but I'm not too sure they know too much about what happens in the production area or the marketing area. 'Angus Callander is CEO of Vinci Seafoods, one of four processors in WA. A decade ago, the industry had 15 processors, and Mr Callander says a move to quotas could attract new investment for small processors, and more marketing and promotion. If you look at the meat and livestock industry,

they spend up to $60 million a year on promotion. I'm not suggesting for one minute we've got the funds or the resources to do that, but we need to really start changing the way we think and move our industry more to market driven industry

rather than a producer driven industry. 'The Geraldton Fishermen's Co-Operative dominates the western rock lobster industry, with %65 of supply. The company recently announced a cap on further membership, saying it was at peak efficiency. Wayne Hosking is the CEO.' Would quotas make a difference? Well, that's the big question. Certainly, it's not going to immediately fix the catch problem, it's not going to fix the exchange rate problem.

A carefully constructed quota has the ability to perhaps link in with the market a little better,

but it needs a lot of thought to how that quota is set up. And there are ways, through either the current input controls, or through quota, that we think things could be done a little better. Like what? Well, certainly we know very well our mature markets, like the back of our hands, and we know when they peak and when they don't. There are opportunities to marry up the supply patterns with the demand patterns. At the moment, they're basically offset.

We have peak supply in December, peak demand in January. There are several examples of that through each season. So, within the season we have problems, between seasons we also have problems. Just a few years ago we had a 13,000 tonne catch, now we've got a 7,000 tonne catch predicted in 2010-2011. That clearly is a very difficult marketing situation. 'Early last year, research commissioned by the Western Rock Lobster Council pointed to $40 million in savings each year, if the fishery was managed with quotas. The Council says even though the quota issue was thrown out

just 15 months ago, circumstances have changed. All the things that could possibly go wrong with a fishery

have all come together at the same time. While it might have been trending towards that 15 months ago, there was still a lot of anticipation and hope, as most primary producers are, they're pretty optimistic people. And it's not gone the right way. All those bad signs have come together.

And therefore there's no sense sitting back and saying, oh, we've done that once. Circumstances have changed. Good management says we need to reassess it. 'Any change to quota won't happen in time for next season, and the industry is facing a cut of up to %30 of effort or pots used, to maintain sustainable levels of breeding stock.

While the weak Leeuwin current during recent El Nino years is cyclical, new research suggests some worrying long term trends due to climate change.' Work done with CSIRO oceanographers over the past three or four years has identified a warming trend on the lower west coast of WA, and, usually, the warmer the temperature, the better the abundance of puerulus which settle on the coast. It also affects the size of the animals migrating into deep water. It affects the size of when they become mature in deeper water. And that increasing water temperature has affected the size at maturity and the size of the animals migrating offshore,

and, consequently, there seems to be higher abundance of undersized in deeper water, in the more recent years compared to the '60s and '70s. 'If lobster supplies are affected, aquaculture may provide some answers. At Durian Bay on the mid west coast, the publicly listed Western Kingfish Ltd is gearing up to grow yellow tailed kingfish

in a sea cage system. But the company also has a licence to collect puerulus for seven different species of lobster. It wants to conduct a trial raring western rock puerulus in tanks after collecting them from north of the existing fishery, in an area of high abundance but low recruitment. There's not really a fishery up there. The animals do exist there but in low numbers

so it's basically - the puerulus settle but then they don't enter into an adult population. In the wild, the western rock lobster takes about three to four years to reach maturity from that puerulus stage. By growing them in tanks could you speed that up? You could certainly speed it up with the right temperature and the right food, but also in aquaculture you don't need to grow it to legal size. You could sell it as a smaller animal so you could sell it in one or two years as a small animal. You're not constrained by those wild catchment limits. 'For fishers such as Michael Brigulio, the more pressing concern is landing enough lobster to keep his business afloat.

Last year he invested half a million dollars in a new boat and additional pots, an indication, he says, of his confidence in the industry.' Our industry has had its highs and had its lows. We're going through tough stages at the moment but history says that this industry rebounds after low seasonal catches. The factors which will help this industry bounce back, are factors that sometimes are out of our control and that main one is the Australian dollar. I don't really think the industry is in crisis, but the industry has been in a lot better shape, that's for sure.

We're just about out of time for this week. Next week we head to the tiny Pacific Island nation of Nauru which made and lost a fortune from fertilizer. This rusting structure dates back to the glory years of Nauru's phosphate exports. It hasn't been operating for 30 years,

and this newer structure, this newer cantilever,

looked as though it was heading for obsolescence too,

but with second reminding, there's a future here for phosphate exports, and a ship will be here in the next few days to take another load of phosphate to Australia. We are very, very lucky. We've been given a second chance. The secondary mining now has started. And what we did three years ago was to find interested investors and to help us rebuild our plant. That's one of our stories next week when the Best of Landline continues. I hope we'll see you then. Closed Captions by CSI

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