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Thursday, 12 September 2019
Page: 2848


Mr CHRISTENSEN (Dawson) (10:18): Last month I had the pleasure of hosting Senator the Hon. Johnathan Duniam, Assistant Minister for Forestry, Fisheries and Regional Tourism, in my electorate of Dawson. He was able to enjoy the great many things that our region has to offer—the superb weather, the green countryside, the hospitable locals and, on top of the list, the fresh seafood. Senator Duniam was also confronted with the bomb that's been dropped on the local seafood industry in the shape of the Queensland state Labor government's new fishing quotas. The senator was kind enough to meet face to face with local fishers and listen to their concerns about these new quotas. He listened to the story of a fishing family who has been shut down after 42 prosperous years in the industry. He spoke with a gentleman who was forced to close his mud-crabbing business, which had employed two families from a remote Indigenous community, because his quota had been reduced so significantly that continuing that business was simply not viable.

One fisherman, aged 69, had borrowed $150,000 to buy a boat and fishing licence specifically to catch black jewfish. Only a month later, the Queensland government reduced the annual quota for black jewfish to 20 tonnes for the entire Queensland coast. That quota was filled in just 38 days—38 days for a quota that was supposed to last a year! That fisherman is now facing mounting debts, with no way to pay them. He can't do what he's been doing for the last 50 years to pay them.

Senator Duniam couldn't understand the lack of consultation, and neither can I. The lack of respect that was shown to these people, who have put locally wild-caught seafood on our tables for decades, baffled him. It baffles me and it baffles everyone. But it's not just the lack of respect for and lack of consultation with the fishing communities; it's the complete lack of sense behind these regulations. Whilst hiding behind the shroud of sustainability, the Queensland state government has failed to acknowledge that stocks like black jewfish will be inadvertently caught in commercial fishing nets.

Unfortunately black jewfish are unable to deal with the pressure change of being pulled to the surface from beyond seven metres and in most cases will die after release. So it's a choice between fresh fish on the plate and dead fish on the surface of the ocean. The Queensland state Labor minister for fisheries, Mark Furner, and his Labor government have chosen the latter: the dead fish. They're also choosing to kill off the industry. They've put honest, hardworking Australians out of business, they're taking money out of the economy and they're taking fresh local seafood off our tables—and most disastrously they're killing off local jobs.

The Morrison Liberal-National government has a target to grow fisheries and the whole ag sector to $100 billion per annum by 2030, but the kind of legislation and approach by the Queensland Labor government is the antithesis to that target. I call on them to reverse their sustainability laws, because they are simply not sustainable for local jobs.