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Launch of the product quality standards, specifications and project quality management framework for the Australian Barramundi Farmers Association.



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Launch of the Product Quality Standards, Specifications and Project Quality Management Framework for the Australian Barramundi Farmers Association

Cris Phillips' Barramundi Farm, Innisfail, North Queensland - 18 February 2005

Thanks very much Craig, and good morning ladies and gentleman.

I am delighted to be back in north Queensland to do this very significant job this morning. I have been in Canberra for the past two weeks, and I guess anything is better then being down there. Coming back home to the North is always a pleasure for me, but it is particularly a pleasure to be able to be involved in this initiative, the 'Barra Benchmark' I call it, which you and your members have been involved in.

As a Government, we have been delighted to support, financially, some of the things you have been doing through the Fisheries Research & Development Corporation; which the industry funds and the Government matches dollar-for-dollar. We financially support Seafood Services Australia, which has been helping with the project.

I recognise Simon Bennison, who is Chief Executive Officer of the National Aquaculture Council, and he is also board member of the Fisheries Research & Development Corporation. Good to see you up our way Simon, to see what the real world is like, and to see how you really do grow fish as they do it here.

As Craig has said, it is very important for the seafood industry as a whole to build confidence in the consumer and, while today you are particularly focused on barramundi, and it is recognised as one of Australia's best eating fish, the important thing to do as part of the wider seafood industry is to get Australians to eat more fish. And they will do this if quality and standards of fish are consistent. Your organisation is really well in front of the game in putting it all together.

I have actually read this Quality Standards Manual. It is pretty simple - if a politician can read and understand it - anyone can, and it does contain a lot of very useful and practical information.

I see the huge number of meetings and gatherings your oganisation has had, to actually put this standard together, and I can well appreciate some of the intense discussions you have been involved in. I think it very significant that your industry has put this document together. You will engender the confidence that will make sure that your industry continues to expand.

As Craig has mentioned, this time last week I was in the Sydney Fish Markets launching the Australian Seafood marketing strategy. The Australian

Government gave $1.3 million to the National Aquaculture Council (NAC) for the development of the plan. Part of the way through work on this strategy, the consultants and the NAC concluded that, really, it applied as much to the wild-caught sector as it did to aquaculture.

The whole exercise revolved around trying to ensure that Australian consumers understand that Australian seafood is of a better standard and better quality. It is grown in more environmentally healthy conditions than the cheaper, imported product. Now, we will always have to import fish; we don't produce enough in Australia to meet our own market demands. Most of our wild-caught product, and some of our farmed tuna, is of course exported - we never see it in Australia. We have to rely on farmed barramundi from places like this, and some species of wild caught, but we do have to use big quantities of imported fish.

But we want the consumer to be able to know what they are buying. That is why it was one of our election commitments to establish a 1800 number (which is going to be launched in the next couple of months) whereby people who are wrongly labelling imported seafood as being Australian, or retailers who are not clearly labelling fish accurately, will be reported and dealt with by the authorities. We think it is important that people have the choice of seafood and prices, but it is essential that they know what they are buying. Your work with this initiative fits into that overall strategy.

I note that you looked long and hard at the feasibility of some sort of mark or logo or physical identification about this standard, and while I can see reasons why you haven't done that at this stage, I think this would be a good step for the future, and I would urge you to continue your consideration of a logo or some sort of mark to give consumers greater confidence. And that is what this industry standard is all about - giving confidence to consumers.

Again, I think your organisation is well ahead of the times in providing that confidence, and I do hope that you, Graham, and your association, will keep in touch with NAC and feed in your experiences. The work towards a national marketing strategy will be hard, it will be long and, ultimately, it will be expensive. It is not something the Government is going to be funding. We have already invested $3.5 million into the Aquaculture Action Agenda and, from hereon in, the industry that will have to pick it up, pay for it and run with it if it is going to happen.

I see a great future for this industry. I hope I see big profits as well. I want you all in this industry to become millionaires. We like millionaires. Millionaires expand, invest and help drive Australia and they also pay a lot of tax, and governments are always grateful for tax.

But finally, can I also thank Cris Phillips for having us here? Cris is one of the pioneers of the aquaculture industry. I don't know how well he is doing, but I hope he is a squillionaire. He will tell me he is not, and if he is not then I hope he is next week, or next month - and I hope you all are. Cris, you have done a great thing for the industry across the board. You have done a great thing for this district. I live in Ayr, and one of my passions in Federal Parliament is trying to help regional Australia to get jobs out there and stop the drift to the cities. I often tell your story in Canberra, Cris that you used to employ one and a half people here on a cane farm. Now I look through the window to your processing room and see 35 young Australians, many of them in very skilled jobs, bolstering the economy of this particular community, and providing other jobs for our young people. I think that is one of the great things about aquaculture; it not only supplies a great product but it helps with regional development, and helps keep people in the

country.

So, good luck. It is a great initiative, and it is with great pleasure that I congratulate you on this good work in developing the Association's Product Quality Standards, Specifications and Quality Management Framework. It is certainly my great honour to launch this new standard and to wish your industry well with its adoption and, importantly, its use.

Good on you, good luck and all the best.

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