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Thursday, 27 November 2014
Page: 9474


Senator SIEWERT (Western AustraliaAustralian Greens Whip) (10:28): We have just heard the coalition arguing and denigrating, instead of being able to address the science. They are denigrating the arguments by having a go at people, calling people 'latte sippers'—the usual silly attacks that the coalition make when they cannot actually argue the point. The point here is that super trawlers around the world have actually broken our oceans and broken our fisheries. The reason we are getting better at managing our fisheries now is because we are in fact putting in rules and enforcing them for effective management of our fisheries. When we did not have that, we had our oceans being overfished.

As for this ludicrous argument that we will be feeding Africa, this supertrawler has been in the seas and oceans off Africa and has raped those oceans of fish for fertiliser, the very thing he has just said that we support. That is what they have been doing with supertrawlers—taking away the fish from Africa. Now he is saying that a supertrawler has to fish in our waters so that we can feed Africa when those very same supertrawlers have been taking the fish out of the oceans and depopulating those oceans. That is a ridiculous argument to make, just so he can make people feel sorry for the Africans, when he should be arguing for better regulation of supertrawlers there too, so that African people can feed themselves from their ocean supplies, not have fish stripped out of their oceans and taken elsewhere simply for the superprofits of the supertrawlers. I might add that supertrawlers also get well subsidised and try to access every subsidy they can get around the world.

This legislation is a step, but it would not ban supertrawlers as the ALP would like to suggest, as when they brought in legislation regarding supertrawlers when they were in government. It is fallacious, as is being implied, that this legislation bans supertrawlers. This is why Senator Whish-Wilson proposes an amendment that would ban supertrawlers with a freezer capacity of over 2,000 tonnes. His amendment would actually ban those supertrawlers and strengthen and give backbone to this legislation to achieve what the ALP claim that this legislation does. This legislation was introduced by Senator Ludwig, a former minister for fisheries. The original bill that was brought in by the previous government allowed the minister to declare a prohibited fishing activity, but it had a sunset clause of 12 months.

The aim of the legislation that we are currently debating is to remove that sunset clause, meaning the environment minister's powers to respond to new fishing operations would remain in place. Of course, we are hearing that people want to have another go at letting the supertrawler slip through so it can start fishing in our waters. Currently, the government does not have powers to declare a prohibited fishing vessel and implement a review. As I said, the clauses of this legislation do not ban supertrawlers, and that is why we need to amend the bill—so that we do have the capacity to fight industrial-scale fishing, because that is what it is. This is industrial-scale fishing. There are significant problems with this legislation in that, as I have said, it does not ban the introduction of industrial-scale factory-freezer trawlers, the so-called supertrawlers, into our SPF. Labor's proposed legislation puts the discretionary powers in the hands of the Liberal-National ministers, instead of the people having a say through their representatives in parliament.

In fact, the Greens pointed out this failure to Labor in 2012, while they were in government and were claiming to be dealing with the threat of supertrawlers to our fisheries and ecosystems—because supertrawlers not only threaten our fisheries; they threaten our ecosystems. Yet Labor did not take on board our amendments when we very clearly pointed out the holes in the legislation. While Labor are now trying to fix this failure, it is misleading to say, as they have been claiming to constituents, that they are banning supertrawlers. This legislation clearly does not, unfortunately. They did not do it while they were in government and they are not doing it with this legislation—again, that is why we need the amendments that Senator Whish-Wilson has proposed, which actually do deal with it by banning trawlers with a freezer capacity of over 2,000 tonnes.

All parties at various stages have said that they support a ban on supertrawlers. Well, this is the opportunity to prove it. This is the opportunity to prove that you do actually want to ban supertrawlers, by supporting the amendments that we are putting, which fill that hole in the legislation.

Labor justified the sunset clause at the time by stating that, because the Borthwick inquiry—the so-called root-and-branch inquiry into fisheries legislation processes—was underway, it was appropriate to have a sunset clause. Senator Ludwig at the time quoted Minister Burke as saying in his speech on this bill:

By that time the root-and-branch review of the fisheries management processes should be in place, but we will have this legislation to be able to fill that gap in the interim.

Now we have the Borthwick review, a root-and-branch review, which has made a number of recommendations. The government need to implement these recommendations. They do not seem to have done anything with it. A particularly important point is that the Borthwick review has recommended a new third pillar to the legislation and management of Australia's fisheries, and that is one that directly addresses ecosystem impacts in the fisheries context. They say that for this ecosystem approach with a goal of minimising the impact of fishing effort on ecosystems, the government needs to address the balance between funding for private industry research and research for the public benefit of conserving the common and related ecosystem values. In other words, we need to include that in our legislation, and we do not at the moment and we have not seen a sign from the government of what they are going to do about it. That root-and-branch review showed that we have not quite got things right here. We do need to look at the impact on our ecosystems and at ecosystem science.

With this bill the ALP are trying to make people think that we are banning supertrawlers. As I said, supertrawlers will not be banned by this bill. While the opposition calls this tough legislation, it is not tough enough and it needs toughening up. We have heard a number of people quoting the expert panel review of the processes put in place under the previous legislation, introduced by the ALP when they were in government. I find it fascinating that the government has been quoting that review to justify their opposition to this legislation. It is really quite bizarre.

The review actually vindicates the position that the Greens, recreational fishers, environment groups and the broader Tasmanian community took when the supertrawler first appeared on our horizon a couple of years ago. The report found that, even if protective measures were put in place, the supertrawler would impact on protected species like seals, dolphins and seabirds and would potentially lead to localised depletion of fish stocks. As my colleague Senator Whish-Wilson said recently in response to the release of the expert report, the Greens have long argued that the science on the wider impacts were too uncertain for the minister to make a call on allowing this gigantic floating factory into our waters—in other words, to allow that industrial-scale fishing. We are still a long way from the point where we would be confident that industrial-scale fishing from a supertrawler would not have these impacts. That is one of the reasons that we need to amend the private member's bill before us—because we know that we need to do further work to ensure that industrial-scale fishing is not impacting on our marine ecosystems.

It is time that we acknowledged that supertrawlers are not the way to manage our oceans. The Greens have long been concerned about fisheries management. People from the government will claim that it is because we do not support fishing. That is absolute bunkum. It is simply not true. We want sustainable fisheries management because we want fish in our oceans for the future. Not only are they a critical part of our ecosystem; we know that many communities rely on fishing. But we do not want to see our oceans in a state where whole ecosystems have collapsed and we are no longer able to fish, because fisheries have collapsed.

Australia does have a proud record of good fisheries management—better than most other places in the world—but that does not say that we have it perfect. Quite clearly, the Borthwick review and the expert report show that we have not got it perfect. The Borthwick review shows that we need to change our legislation so that we do incorporate better science on ecosystems. We do need to understand the impact of fisheries better, and we do need to keep ensuring that Commonwealth managed fisheries do not go backwards. It has taken quite a lot of effort to ensure that those fisheries do not go backwards. When I first started working on fisheries management many years ago, the Commonwealth could not claim that some of those Commonwealth fisheries were not going backwards, and it has been a lot of work to get them to the point where they are starting to improve. That is not to say that we should rest on our laurels; that means that we need to keep working to make sure those fisheries are protected.

Supertrawlers have broken our oceans around the planet. We should not be supporting supertrawlers. We support legislation that bans supertrawlers so that we do not have to keep fighting this issue every couple of years. If this private member's bill is not amended along the lines proposed by Senator Whish-Wilson, we will have to keep fighting this issue every couple of years, every time a supertrawler wants to sail over our horizons to start fishing on an industrial scale in our waters. It is simply not appropriate to compare numbers of boats to a supertrawler. A supertrawler can stay out at sea for a very long time. That is why we are proposing the limit of 2,000 tonnes—so that supertrawlers cannot stay out for weeks and weeks depopulating our oceans.

One of my passions is marine protection. There have been decades of work done on the need for better marine protection. The way that the Abbott government essentially got rid of the world's leading marine parks and reserves system in this country, after over a decade of work that did all the science, was disgusting. It did all the science, it did the consultation and it put in place that world-leading system of marine protected areas. We have just had the World Parks Congress in this country, and I am so disappointed that I missed it. It only happens once every 10 years. All the leading experts on nature conservation from around the world come to one place and talk about protected areas, national parks and nature reserves around the world. I was so embarrassed that we no longer had what was, for a short length of time, the world's leading system of marine protected areas, which not only ensured biodiversity protection and ecosystem protection but fishing into the future. The science is there about the roles that marine protected areas play in protecting fish stocks and ensuring that they are there for the future. And what does this Luddite government do? One of their first actions on coming into government was to wipe that system off the face of our maps. They took away the management plans, which essentially means that now all you have is a system of lines on a map. Now the government are spending millions of dollars doing their review, when it is quite clear that the science was done and that the consultation was carried out. Because they are bowing to some of their noisy constituents who want to do whatever they want in the marine environment, they have got rid of those areas.

The support for marine protection in this country is very high. In my home state of Western Australia, surveys show that over 70 per cent of people consistently support marine protection. Those areas need to be restored. The government talks about wasting money and red tape. Well, the government are wasting money in their review of those protected areas. They are simply doing it so that they can find an excuse to wipe out those areas permanently. It is a disgrace, and how the government could show itself at that World Park Congress and pretend it is doing something about marine protection is a complete joke.

This bill needs to be strengthened. Supertrawlers will be yet another impact on our marine environment, a marine environment that is under pressure from overfishing, from extraction, from run-off from land-based sources of pollution and from climate change. We are already seeing the impact of climate change on our marine environment, and, in particular, in some of those colder water temperate marine environments that are getting warmer. This is disturbing the ecosystems around Australia, in particular, in some of the southern areas, with some of the waters warming.

You are seeing, in my home state of Western Australia, marine species turning up much further south than they have ever been before. As I have said in this place before, that means that we need to change the way we are managing our marine environment and managing our fisheries because we are getting species that have not been there before. You are seeing invasive species that have never been seen before. They are taking off and invading marine environments and having an impact there that we have not seen before. That adds to the pressures on our marine environment.

What this government obviously wants now is to enable supertrawlers to come in and add another impact to that marine environment. The science that they were using to justify the supertrawler previously—the Abel Tasman or the Margiris, whichever name you want to call it—was not done on that specific pelagic fishery. It was not done on those species. It was done on jack mackerel, and marine scientists have shown the flaws in that science. The expert panel says that there is a great degree of uncertainty there and that we should be using the precautionary principle. The Borthwick review says that we need a third arm to the research that we do, looking at ecosystem science.

It is time that we took marine protection seriously. We have a short window of time to get this right. We need a series of marine protected areas. Just restore it. The work is done. Just restore those marine parks. Change the legislation so we can have a genuine, quality look at ecosystem science when we are doing fisheries management. Build on our international reputation for good fisheries science. We are some of the world leaders in our fisheries management. We do not want to see that go backwards. We want to keep progressing. It is another area where we can help regionally as we build our scientific marine expertise on the already excellent science that we have got here and the quality of our scientists. It is excellent. We need to build on that, and we can be helping the regions.

I know some of that has been done. But as the climate impacts on our marine environment we need to make sure that we are building that science and also helping regionally because the oceans are that key thing that link us all together. So we need to be making sure that we are getting that right, that we have our science up-to-date and that we have our processes in place that protect and sustain our marine environment. The supertrawlers do not do that. They have broken the oceans elsewhere. We will not stand by and let them break our oceans. We believe this legislation needs to be improved. It needs to genuinely ban supertrawlers because it does not do that. Once this amendment is in place we would be able to support this legislation.

Debate adjourned.