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Thursday, 23 September 1999
Page: 10483

Ms GAMBARO (1:15 PM) —I must congratulate the member for Isaacs for spending so much time with his son and taking him to electoral functions. It is really good to see that. I try and extend that same opportunity to my children in the short time I have with them.

I want to speak today about the seafood industry. I know that some of my colleagues always have a bit of a chuckle when I do this because they feel that I have some sort of declared self-interest in this. I am very passionate about the seafood industry not only because my family has been involved with the industry for 50 years but also because I represent the electorate of Petrie, which has 30 kilometres of peninsula extending all the way out to Moreton Bay.

We have some very rich produce in Moreton Bay and a number of seafood processors down in the Redcliffe Peninsula. But the reason for getting up today is to particularly praise a publication that has come out, called From the Antarctic to the tropics: a snapshot of the Australian fishing industry. It details the composition of the Australian seafood industry, an industry that is always widely overlooked, I feel, even though it is one of the top five export earners. Just to give the House some idea: annual exports are $1.5 billion from this industry, and they are growing at the rate of 15 per cent per annum. As I said, it is one of our top five export earners. The seafood industry is worth some $1.9 billion in total for this country. One of the good things that the report highlighted was the fact that it is a high value product and that we are also developing best practices, particularly in the areas of fisheries and farm management.

Australians are eating much more seafood these days than they ever have before and, clearly, when you look at the consumption patterns over the last 20 years, we are each now consuming some 12 kilograms of seafood a year. The report itself highlighted an increasingly valuable part of that market, the aquaculture industry—and I want to speak about that in the short time I have left.

Aquaculture in Australia yields some very high value products for domestic and world markets. Some of the products are: oysters, Atlantic salmon, Karumba prawns—which are particularly popular in our export markets of Japan—and southern bluefin tuna and pearls. Aquaculture is clearly the way of the future for this country and it is one of the highest producers. Last year the value at the farmgate was something like $500 million per annum in aquaculture. It is important to note that we have developed this industry only in the last 15 years, and we have the technology in Australia to have some of the best practices. We are also early innovators of our industry around the world.

Corporate farming is the way to go and, clearly, that is an area that many people are getting into. We need to be much more competitively focused on this area. I had the pleasure of touring the salmon factory in Tasmania, and we are producing great results in that area. But we must not overlook important things like environment and the role that that plays. Aquaculture is not a short-term thing; it has a long-term horizon, and we need to develop that vision. We also need to attract more investors to the industry. Also, consumers are much more confident about using aquaculture products. When many of you go to shop at the supermarket, you will see that much of the produce in the supermarkets will be farm produced, as well as sea caught. We must continue to encourage innovation, particularly with our scientists.

I want to pay a great tribute to the work that the Fish Research Development Corporation does, particularly the work in Deception Bay in my electorate and in areas like Townsville. It is to be absolutely congratulated for the industry. It is still in its infancy and we do have a long way to go, but we need a greater commitment from federal and state governments and we also have to ensure that we continue to develop the industry. Regardless of the risks, there are also many rewards. We need to focus as well on keeping the waters pristine and on ensuring that we have a viable aquaculture future because this is the way that we will feed our growing population. (Time expired)