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Thursday, 27 November 2014
Page: 9470


Senator EDWARDS (South Australia) (10:08): I rise to speak against the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment Bill 2014, despite the appeals from Senator Brown on the other side. Her closing remarks, where she tried to illustrate the position of the Prime Minister, were somewhat mischievous. I know that the Prime Minister is a great supporter of commercial and recreational fishing in this country, and we have some of the most well-managed fisheries for recreational and commercial shell and fin fishers in the world.

In speaking against this bill, I am highlighting the fact that this issue continues to be a gross Labor hypocrisy. As a senator for the state of South Australia and a strong supporter of a well-managed fisheries industry, I oppose the cheap wedge politics being peddled by Senator Ludwig. As we know, Senator Ludwig had a very low point in his ministerial career, when in June 2011 he put an overnight ban on the export of live cattle. We are still feeling the reverberations economically and socially of that knee-jerk, ill-considered decision of that time. This again is populist. I suspect that the CEO of GetUp! is often on the phone telling Senator Ludwig that the funding of his next campaign is probably in peril if he does not put this back on the map. I assume Senator Ludwig is a very good industrial union lawyer and I am sure he was in the past, but in matters of primary industries and fishing he gets an 'E'.

Remember the mess Tony Burke created around the Abel Tasman and supertrawlers in the Small Pelagic Fishery Harvest Strategy? I recall there were four amendments in four days to his declared fishing activities bill. The Labor government response to the Abel Tasman—which I have been on and have toured; I will come to that later—which our party opposed at the time, has made us an international laughing stock. It has effectively tarnished the reputations of leading scientific and industry figures who have been acting in the interests of sustainability and good management of our marine natural resources.

But you do not have to take my word for it; you can read articles with headlines such as 'World mocks ban on trawler' by Philip Heyward in the Mercury, or 'Expert labels trawler ban "embarrassing"' on the ABC, or 'Opposition to the Margiris "super trawler" not evidence based' by Bob Kearney in The Conversation. Then-Minister Burke's commercial fishing policy was more shambolic than a set of tangled crab nets, and Senator Ludwig needs to withdraw this bill for fear of getting caught in the same trap. He needs to allow the correct bodies to administer fishing activities in Australia. The issue is much bigger than just the trawler; it is about how we do business in Australia and how we manage a resource in a sustainable and profitable manner.

The Labor-Green approach is dangerous to the fisheries industry, an industry which, I might add, is worth over $2 billion annually. It employs around 11,600 people—7,300 directly and 4,300 indirectly—according to figures of just a few years ago, and we know that the industry has had growth since then.

The coalition government has confidence in the Australian Fisheries Management Authority regarding the management and sustainability of fisheries. Actions taken by AFMA have already led to a reduction in bycatch and sustainable ecosystems. Catch limits based on appropriate biomass percentages mean that the fisheries industry is already appropriately managed without any unnecessary ministerial intervention.

Currently, small pelagic fishery is productive and environmentally stable. In fact during July in my home of Adelaide the Small Pelagic Fisheries Workshop, a technical workshop and stakeholder forum, was hosted by the South Australian Research and Development Institute. The forum determined that Australian fisheries science and management was the world benchmark, with policies and practices for other nations to aspire to. Dr Patrick Hone, Executive Director of the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, said at the forum:

A key finding was that the science underpinning Australian fisheries management was robust and that our harvest strategy and rules were clearly precautionary and very much in line with the best practice guidelines put forward by the Lenfest Working Group and the Marine Stewardship Council.

The harvest strategies which Dr Hone speaks of started in 2007 under Minister Abetz as Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation. These strategies outline management actions needed to achieve biological and economic objectives. With the harvest strategies in place and operating uninterrupted, the fishing industry can work with greater confidence and management decisions can be made with transparency and forewarning.

Only this government, not Labor and certainly not the Greens, understands the main factor in commercial fishing management—that the industry be economically viable as well as environmentally sustainable. Removing the sunset clause, as Senator Ludwig is attempting to do, would allow the environment minister to declare any fishing activity, requiring the establishment of an expert panel to investigate each declaration. This is dangerous to the industry and, given our best-in-practice policies, completely unnecessary for the purpose of fisheries management.

The coalition continues to do what it said it would do during the election campaign regarding commercial fishing. Our commitments were to: make decisions based on science; wait for the expert panel report on declared fishing activities before making a decision on the declaration of larger vessels; and seek more data to address criticisms regarding the age of data used to establish fish stocks. Further to that, in late October, Minister Colbeck welcomed the ABARES fishery status reports, which showed that, for the first time in eight years, no Commonwealth managed fisheries were subject to overfishing. In fact, under this coalition government, fisheries stocks are on the improve.

To return now to marine parks and a sensitive matter in my home state, I note worriedly that Labor has introduced 19 marine parks with 80 no-take zones within South Australia. These laws came into effect on 1 October this year and impact commercial and recreational anglers alike. Not only will this affect the enjoyment of our marine areas but it will hurt the fragile economy of our regions. If it were not already obvious that Labor do not understand the science behind fisheries management, it is even more evident that they do not understand their own policy. South Australian Labor spent $1.8 million filming and promoting an awareness campaign for their unwanted marine parks. In these ads, a family is seen crabbing on the Port Noarlunga jetty. If the Labor Party had half a clue, they would have known that the area depicted in that advertisement has already banned crabbing. How ironic and cruel is that?

Senator Back: Breaking the law.

Senator EDWARDS: To add insult to injury, Senator Back—I note your interest in this matter—the South Australian environment minister, Minister Hunter, proved he was nowhere near being across his brief on ABC breakfast radio on 1 October, the same day as these new laws came into effect, when he could not indicate what sanctions existed in the highly controversial Port Wakefield zone. By contrast, my state Liberal counterparts introduced an amendment bill, which sensibly proposed the reintroduction of access to 12 of those zones. The policy was supported by the commercial and recreational fishing industries and provides a sustainable base from which to fish. Just remember that none of these fishing zones is under any pressure.

The bill was defeated by one vote, the vote cast by the so-called minister for regions, Mr Geoff Brock, the member for Frome. There is a famous YouTube video of the independent member for Frome, Mr Geoff Brock, telling recreational fishers just one month prior to the March state election, 'I'm here to fight for you guys.' What a turncoat he turned out to be. He has sold his independence—he is supposed to be an independent—and his word to his electorate for a shot at the ministry which he now holds, and I think he is yet to realise the damage that he has done to the state, let alone to his career and to all those in the political environment.

South Australian fishing and aquaculture industries are worth $217 million annually and South Australia is a very big employer, with some 6,000 people in the seafood industry. If you look at all those numbers I gave you earlier, South Australia's industry represents a very large percentage of the Australian seafood output. All of this hangs in the balance with the introduction of Labor's unnecessary, overregulating policies. We have confidence in the sustainability of Australian fisheries, currently managed by AFMA and recognised as some of the best practice in the world. To reiterate, policy must be driven by sound scientific advice and not knee-jerk reactions.

I said I would refer to the time when I visited what was then known as the Abel Tasman and went on to become known as the Margiris. Some people call it the supertrawler. I visited this ship—I was invited to go and have a look at it and I did so when it was located in Port Lincoln and subjected to that controversial ban. I took up the invitation and, I must say, that ship and its equipment are world-class. Senator Back, as you well know, to put to sea on an ocean-going global fishing boat you have to be highly technically trained, and the crew were. All of the equipment was first-rate, up-to-the-minute technology. The fisheries that they were to fish are already being fished. These were not extra fish being taken; these fish are already fished by numerous other, smaller boats. Imagine 24—

Senator Whish-Wilson interjecting

Senator EDWARDS: Oh, and now we hear from the Greens. All of a sudden, we hear from the Greens. They do not want to hear the truth. They just want to perpetuate all their lies. These fish cannot be taken outside of quotas. Through you, Mr Acting Deputy President, if Senator Whish-Wilson wants to make a contribution to this, he can refute my claim. Are you suggesting that all the fish taken by any supertrawler are illegally taken, outside of a quota? All of these fish are taken within quotas. Imagine 24 small boats being put to sea with 24 crews taking the same fish that one boat would possibly take. The nets have escape hatches. Dolphins and seals can escape and do escape. This myth that all the sea is going to be vacuumed clean of all fish is hysteria peddled by those on the other side, who want to go and live in caves with no power and just wear bearskin rugs.

Senator Whish-Wilson: The coalition loves supertrawlers.

Senator EDWARDS: Mr Acting Deputy President, if you are not going to protect me from this barrage of nonsense that is coming from the Greens—

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Dastyari ): Order! The Senate will come to order!

Senator EDWARDS: This is an economical way in which to fish. It is an environmentally sensitive way in which to fish. People think that these fish are extra fish. They are not extra fish—they are already being fished. And do you know what? When they are fished by the 24 boats that put to sea, they have not got refrigeration. So that fish—the brown-fleshed fish, the pelagics—all go into a hold and do you know what they are used for? Fertiliser. Do you know what happens to the fish that are caught with these large harvest vessels? They get snap frozen and they are food grade, and they feed the nations of Africa. Mr Acting Deputy President, the Greens and Senator Whish-Wilson over there will not tell you that—

Senator Whish-Wilson interjecting

Senator EDWARDS: Yes, that's what they turn it into.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Whish-Wilson, the senator will be heard in silence.

Senator EDWARDS: That is what you have when you put to sea with 24 boats fishing for the same fish. But what happens is that we turn it into food grade—if we were to allow this. We are going to turn it into fish for human consumption. We are going to try to feed the world. We do not want to feed the cats of the world; we do not want to fertilise the gardens of the world. We want to turn this into food grade fish. If you do it on a ship of the likes of the Abel Tasman or the Margiris, because they are big enough and have freezers, you snap freeze it and it is food grade. The Greens would deny the African nations a food source, a protein source. That is okay if you live in the leafy suburbs down there in Tasmania and you drink your lattes and have your sponge cakes on a Saturday morning after a nice pleasant week in the Senate. It is nonsense.

This is not about environmental sustainability. This is about taking fish that is already taken and, quickly and efficiently, turning it into food grade. Through you, Mr Acting Deputy President, I will be very interested to hear Senator Whish-Wilson's contribution and to hear how he can refute my claims of this efficient way of gathering.

Senator Ludwig's bill is just another intervention into everybody's lives. It is an absolute irony. In South Australia we have got these protected zones now. And when you question government officials about why they are doing it, they say, 'because they are pristine environments.' What? We are putting in marine parks because they are pristine environments? Do you know why? Because they are well managed already. Recreational fishers and commercial fishers abide by the laws. But no, the dead hand of bureaucracy has to come in and lay itself over the fishing industry. Here we are: once again the Labor Party just wants to pull back all of that and get hold of it again. Just put that uncertainty into it so that the banks will not invest. You can have your livelihood taken—like you did with the live cattle export. You can have your livelihood taken away from you overnight. If you let this bill pass in this place, that is exactly what will happen. You will have another layer of uncertainty. I conclude: I support sustainable fishing industries in South Australia and I do so today by opposing this bill.