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STANDING COMMITTEE ON RURAL AND REGIONAL AFFAIRS AND TRANSPORT
19/02/2008
AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES AND FORESTRY PORTFOLIO
Fisheries and Forestry (including Australian Fisheries Management Authority)

CHAIR —Welcome. Mr Hurry, do you wish to make an opening statement?

Mr Hurry —No, thank you, Senator. We are happy to take questions.

Senator ABETZ —Mr Hurry, the most important question first: why is it that you have not been given the privilege of a printed name tag?

Mr Hurry —I had one, Senator. This is part of our cost-cutting exercise. We are trying to reduce the cost on industry.

Senator ABETZ —Part of the two per cent dividend, is it? Very good. I have a number of questions. Have we sold the Taruman yet?

Mr Hurry —We had an offer on the Taruman. We have not sold it. We are considering our options. We have another party looking at it on Thursday. They have a board meeting in Tasmania on that day and we will make a decision post that whether we allow them to take it or whether we consider them in part of a further tender.

Senator ABETZ —This is proof positive that when I was minister I did not involve myself in the tender process.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —It was caught when I was minister, I think.

Senator ABETZ —That is right. The tender process threw up somebody. Has that now defaulted?

Mr Hurry —Yes, it has. The party involved did not come forward with bonding arrangements that the Commonwealth expects on all illegal vessels.

Senator ABETZ —Did you reopen the tenders?

Mr Hurry —No. We have closed the tender off but, as we were about to consider retendering, we got a phone call from a party saying that they may be interested. We invited them to inspect the vessel, which they have subsequently done. They have brought their engineers across to have a look at it and, as I said, they have got a board meeting in Hobart on Thursday and they are prepared to come back, if they are interested at that point in time, and make an offer. Whether we accept the offer or not depends on our procurement and contracting arrangements, and we want to make sure that whatever we do is above board. If they come forward with an offer, we can consider it, but we may go back to tender and make sure that everybody who was in the original bid feels as though they have had an opportunity.

Senator ABETZ —That is what I am wondering about. There were others that had initially tendered and missed out. Have they been allowed back in the mix?

Mr Hurry —Not until I know what happens on Thursday, because the other tenders in that bid cost the government money for the destruction of the vessel. So it depends on what this party comes back with by way of a—

Senator ABETZ —Without saying too much, we can read between the lines that this offer would actually be paying some money?

Mr Hurry —We do not know yet but that would be our expectation, yes.

Senator ABETZ —If they do not pay money, you will be putting it to all the other tenderers as well?

Mr Hurry —We will probably have to, because I want to make sure that it is all above board.

Senator ABETZ —Given the effluxion of time, it might be appropriate that others may want to reconsider the original tender.

Mr Hurry —Yes; that is right.

Senator ABETZ —How much is it costing us to have her tied up at the Hobart wharf per month, per week? Do you know?

Mr Hurry —One thousand dollars a week.

Senator ABETZ —The delay with that first tender offer has been an expensive exercise.

Mr Hurry —Yes.

Senator ABETZ —Are you able to tell us about the illegal fishing operations in our northern waters and, in particular, sighting levels since I stopped getting them?

Mr Hurry —We certainly can. Mr Peter Venslovas, the manager of our Darwin office, is here and I will get him to run through all those figures for you.

Senator ABETZ —Thanks. It is good to see Mr Venslovas in a suit. He is usually in uniform, doing very good work in Darwin, and I commend him and his team.

Mr Venslovas —In terms of illegal foreign fishing activity in Australian northern waters, we have experienced a further decline in the numbers of sightings; in particular, between the years 2005-06 and 2006-07. There has been a reduction of about 58 per cent. For the first six months of 2007-08, there has been a reduction of close to 90 per cent in terms of the number of boats sighted compared to the previous year. In terms of apprehensions, there has also been a commensurate decline in the number of apprehensions, obviously because the number of apprehensions is directly related to the number of sightings.

Senator ABETZ —What about percentage of apprehensions in relation to sightings?

Mr Venslovas —They fluctuate on a month-to-month basis.

Senator ABETZ —Of course they do. Can you provide us, on notice if you do not have them, the number of sightings per month, the number of apprehensions per month—if you have them available, of course, I would be delighted to have them now—and the number of legislative forfeitures.

Mr Venslovas —I would have to take that on notice.

Senator ABETZ —All right. How are our friends in Papua New Guinea going with their banana boats?

Senator McLucas —Senator Abetz, over what period of time do you want that material?

Senator ABETZ —I thought we were talking about the last six months.

Senator McLucas —Okay, that is fine.

Senator ABETZ —But we could get, say, from 1 July 2007 through to 31 December 2007, plus the month of January 2008—and, by the time you get around to giving the answer, I am sure you will have the figures for February and March as well. Would that be a fair guess, or not? So please give us from 1 July 2007 up to date, as far as you can take us.

Senator McLucas —Thank you.

Senator ABETZ —Thanks for that clarification, Minister.

Mr A Grant —I can give you a bit more information. In the six months between 1 July 2007 and 31 December 2007, there were 81 apprehensions—

Senator ABETZ —That is good.

Mr A Grant —and 451 sightings. That was an 86 per cent decrease over the same six-month period in 2006-07. I do not have the monthly figures.

Senator ABETZ —Who is good at maths? How many apprehensions?

Mr A Grant —Eighty-one.

Senator ABETZ —Out of 400 and something. Is that about 20 per cent?

Mr A Grant —There were 451 sightings.

Senator ABETZ —So a bit less. That is apprehensions?

Mr A Grant —Yes.

Senator ABETZ —Any legislative forfeitures? I assume we do not have banana boats in those figures emanating from Papua New Guinea.

Mr Hurry —Those figures should include banana boat apprehensions.

Senator ABETZ —They will?

Mr Hurry —They should, yes.

Senator ABETZ —All right. How many banana boats? I understand there was a bit of increased activity coming out of Papua New Guinea into the Torres Strait islands area.

Mr Venslovas —In 2007-08 there were six legislative forfeitures. I will have to take on notice how many of those were actually banana boats, but I can recall at least two. More recently there has been some activity in the Torres Strait, in particular on Warrior Reef, with PNG boats—or banana boats—targeting trepang, and there have been three apprehensions of banana boats.

Senator ABETZ —What have we done with their vessels? We have apprehended them? We have kept them thus far?

Mr Venslovas —Under the provisions of the Torres Strait act, we have forfeited or seized the boats and, in keeping with the spirit of the Torres Strait treaty, the PNG nationals have been repatriated back to PNG for dealing under the PNG national laws.

Senator ABETZ —What is our advice in relation to how seriously our brothers in Papua New Guinea are taking these incursions into our waters when we repatriate them? Are they being prosecuted? Are they being dealt with? Do we have any follow-up?

Mr Hurry —I met with the director of prosecutions from PNG in Brisbane last week. They are concerned. The line we have been running with them is that we do not want this to become an issue with our islanders up there, because there is some sensitivity between the Yam Islanders and Warrior Reef because they are not fishing on it, and perhaps the Papua New Guineans are coming across and fishing there. But I do not have any evidence that there has been any prosecution activity taken against the Papuans that we have repatriated.

Mr Venslovas —From an operational level, we have gained cooperation from the PNG fisheries authorities. They have been very cooperative in meeting us at the 12-nautical-mile limit to take custody of the fishers that have been apprehended and returned to PNG. So certainly at that level we are enjoying a high level of cooperation.

Senator ABETZ —Thank you for that. Have there been any apprehensions in the MOU box? Are we still patrolling that area?

Mr Venslovas —That area is patrolled as part of the civil coastal surveillance program under the Border Protection Command. It is designated as a risk area for fisheries matters, in particular Ashmore Reef and so forth, in terms of vessels that are not operating under the framework of the MOU box treaty or arrangements or agreement. In terms of targeting trepang, especially in the Ashmore Reef National Nature Reserve, there have been instances where boats have been picked up. Last year there were 53 fishers who were targeting trepang picked up on Ashmore Reef in one operation.

Senator ABETZ —Was the Triton involved in that one?

Mr Venslovas —Yes.

Mr Hurry —To add to that, Senator, we have recently appointed Jim Prescott from the Torres Strait to Peter’s office in Darwin as manager of the MOU box area to try and get some management arrangements in place with the Indonesians and begin to get some proper science and management over that area.

Senator ABETZ —I did not think Mr Prescott could leave AFMA.

Mr Hurry —No, and we are pleased to have him here. I think he will do an excellent job.

Senator ABETZ —That is good.

Mr Hurry —A good blend of science and management. We will be usefully building relationships with the Indonesians as well, so we are looking forward to a fairly positive outcome from that.

Senator ABETZ —All the best with that.

Mr A Grant —We are also working with the Indonesians on the policy side to develop arrangements for the MOU box. We have established a workshop, which will be held within the next month, I think, to work with the Indonesians about trying to get some better capacity, some better training and some better advice about how we might manage that sensitive issue more directly.

Senator ABETZ —How are we going on the international front with the body that Minister Numberi and I co-chaired? Has there been any further development on that front, getting our regional partners cooperating on the fight against illegal fishing?

Mr A Grant —The regional plan of action for responsible fisheries management?

Senator ABETZ —That is the one.

Mr A Grant —Yes. We have made some good progress on that. We had a meeting of the coordination committee in Malaysia about five or six months ago and we agreed on a series of workshops for parties to start building capacity, particularly in the monitoring controlled surveillance area. We held the first of those workshops in Bangkok about two months ago. It was quite successful. We involved AFMA to help us run those workshops, and we have targeted a series of further workshops over the next few months. There will be another formal meeting of the coordination committee—I think it is in the Philippines—in April.

Senator ABETZ —That all sounds good. How many countries were involved in those workshops?

Mr A Grant —I think there were 13 countries in all.

Senator ABETZ —That was the number we got to Bali at the time, wasn’t it?

Mr Hurry —Twelve originally, I think.

Mr A Grant —We had them all involved.

Senator ABETZ —Who has come on board?

Mr A Grant —We have not had any more on board. We had all the countries involved who were part of the original signatories, so Mr Hurry is probably right with 12.

Senator ABETZ —So it is 12 rather than 13?

Mr A Grant —Yes.

Senator ABETZ —Then we also have illegal fishing issues with the Japanese with tuna. There were certain protocols that were to be developed under the CCSBT. Dr Kalish can let us know—and I do not need to know the details—whether things are progressing well and whether we are satisfied that the Japanese are taking the issue seriously.

Dr Kalish —Certainly it has been a very difficult negotiation with the Japanese and other members of the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna, but we are making significant progress in relation to one of our principal objectives, which is to establish a catch documentation scheme so that we can track the movement of individual fish as they are caught and moved into the marketplace.

We have had some agreement that there is a need for this catch documentation scheme, and there are a series of negotiations in the CCSBT and also through what is called the Kobe process, which is a process of all RFMOs—regional fisheries management organisations—involved with tuna, and they are in agreement that high-value tunas like bluefin, including Atlantic bluefin and southern bluefin, require catch documentation schemes. Both Japan and Australia will be trialling catch documentation schemes this year and we will report on the results of those trials at the upcoming meeting, looking towards implementation of a common system in the future, so there is progress.

Senator ABETZ —If you have trouble negotiating with the Japanese, I am sure Mr Glenn Hurry would be happy to use his expertise in that area. Can I put on record once again what a great job he did.

Now in the southern waters, can I ask about our Southern Ocean activities and the relationship with the French still on board. We have a treaty that we would cooperate with each other. Is there anything out of the ordinary? All I want is an update. If there is nothing to report that you think is worthy, I am willing to accept your word for that.

Mr Venslovas —The joint surveillance arrangements under that treaty are continuing.

Senator ABETZ —How are we going with South Africa? Whatever the preliminary signing was that I did, has that since developed into a full-blown treaty?

Dr Kalish —That is yet to be finalised.

Senator ABETZ —When do we anticipate that to be finalised?

Dr Kalish —We have been in communication with South Africa, but we have not received any detailed response recently.

Senator ABETZ —Can I go back to the northern waters. Take this on notice, please. Have the hours of the coastal surveillance flights been maintained? If you could give me the month-by-month figure for the actual hours flown, that would be very helpful. Is the Commonwealth giving any serious consideration to the offer made by the Western Australian Minister for Fisheries to take over management of the MOU box? I see some smiles.

Mr A Grant —We are not aware that a formal offer has been made, Minister.

Senator ABETZ —So it was just grandstanding in the media by Mr Jon Ford? That would not be surprising. Can you indicate to us that no letter has been forwarded by the Western Australian minister to the Commonwealth suggesting that Western Australia take over the management of the MOU box?

Mr A Grant —I am not aware of any such letter.

Senator ABETZ —Thank you for that. That is very helpful.

Mr A Grant —Can I clarify one answer that I gave you which was a little bit confusing, Senator. There were 10 countries that were involved in the regional plan of action, but there were three non-government organisations who we also involved, so 13 was the correct number of participants.

Senator ABETZ —That is fine. The fact that it is going ahead with so many countries, even if it is not all of them, I think is a great step forward.

Back into the southern oceans, we have the Oceanic Viking. To your knowledge, has every patrol that has been undertaken by the Oceanic Viking had AFMA officers on board?

Mr Hurry —That is correct.

Senator ABETZ —Has AFMA been involved in assisting, as a minimum, with where the patrols ought to go and what the patrol ought be doing and undertaking?

Mr Venslovas —There is a committee in Canberra called the Operational Advisory Group which consists of members from the various portfolio agencies that have an interest in patrol activity. Customs chair that committee. As part of that committee’s business, agencies that have an interest in the operations of the Oceanic Viking, in particular fisheries or AFMA, have an input to the patrol activity, particularly on the deployment of officers on patrols that are predominantly targeted at fishing operations.

Senator ABETZ —To your knowledge, there has been no fishing patrol undertaken without an AFMA officer on board?

Mr Venslovas —Not on the Oceanic Viking.

Senator ABETZ —Did AFMA incur any costs in the diversion of the Oceanic Viking to the whale watch expedition?

Mr Hurry —Not that I am aware of. We had two officers ready to embark from Darwin, but we cancelled that, so I do not think there is any direct cost.

Senator ABETZ —How much notice were you given that the plans had changed for the Oceanic Viking?

Mr Venslovas —It would be about a week, from memory.

Senator ABETZ —Normally, how long is the Oceanic Viking tied up for revictualling, resupplying or whatever before she goes out on a patrol again?

Mr Venslovas —I am not aware of those figures. That is something that Customs would be more suitable to answer. In terms of the actual patrol activity, in terms of deployment of officers, those patrols are in the vicinity of 40 days.

Senator ABETZ —Where did the officers originate from who were going to be on the Oceanic Viking for the normal patrol?

Mr Venslovas —They would be based in Darwin.

Senator ABETZ —So you would have had the cost of flying them down to Perth?

Mr Venslovas —We were given notice before they embarked their flights.

Mr Hurry —They did not leave Darwin.

Senator ABETZ —So you did not have any costs at all?

Mr Venslovas —No.

Senator ABETZ —There were no AFMA officers on board the Oceanic Viking?

Mr Venslovas —No.

Senator ABETZ —And you are aware of all fishing patrols that the Oceanic Viking has undertaken?

Mr Venslovas —Yes.

Senator ABETZ —On all those patrols, you have had AFMA officers?

Mr Venslovas —That is correct.

Senator ABETZ —So, if it were suggested that the Oceanic Viking was in fact undertaking a fishing patrol as we speak, you would know nothing of it?

Mr Venslovas —In relation to the current patrol, there were arrangements in place that, if the vessel were to be redeployed on a fisheries patrol and it came across issues of a fisheries nature, then AFMA would be notified of any contacts of IUU vessels and so forth, so that we could feed into the system so that any action, if that were required, could be undertaken under the management of AFMA in terms of any apprehension activity and so forth, or inspection activity.

Senator ABETZ —Are you of the understanding that the Oceanic Viking is currently steaming back to port?

Mr Venslovas —That is our understanding, yes.

Senator ABETZ —That is, via a direct route from the whale watch exercise?

Mr Hurry —We are not sure of the route, but the last information we had was that it was returning to the port in Australia.

Senator ABETZ —By a relatively direct route? You do not know?

Mr Hurry —No, I do not know.

Senator ABETZ —When the Oceanic Viking is out on patrol in the southern waters, is the gun—for want of a better term—usually kept below deck or is it mounted in case you have contact?

Mr Venslovas —You would have to direct that question to Customs. AFMA officers are not involved in the operation of the weaponry. That is predominantly the purview of the Customs crew on board the boat. I do not have any information as to how they manage their weapons.

Senator ABETZ —All right, understood.

CHAIR —Senator Abetz, if I may—sorry to interrupt—I would like to personally thank the department for coming back tonight to give us this opportunity. We were looking at a spillover for 2½ hours on Friday but we have had a windfall because we now have the department for 3½ hours. I know there will be a host of questions. I am sure Senator Macdonald will have some on fisheries and I know Senator Brown will have some on forests, as you may well.

Senator ABETZ —As I may well do, yes.

CHAIR —If we could be mindful of time and split it if possible—45 minutes for fisheries and 45 minutes for forests—it would be advantageous. So if there are double-ups on questions or one more important than others, perhaps you could keep that in mind.

Senator ABETZ —All right.

CHAIR —Thank you, Senator Abetz.

Senator ABETZ —That is fine. Can we just deal with all fisheries matters together, Chair?

CHAIR —Go for it.

Senator ABETZ —I note that the recreational fishing grants is having $1.5 million clawed back out. Is that correct?

Mr A Grant —No, that is not correct. I assume, Senator, you are referring to table 1.11?

Senator ABETZ —You are exactly right—on page 25.

Mr A Grant —The change between the budget estimate and the revised estimate is that we rephased $1.5 million into 2008-09 to cater for payments of a progressive nature through the projects.

Senator ABETZ —So the total $15 million will be spent?

Mr A Grant —Correct.

Senator ABETZ —That is reassuring. I hope you have similar good news in relation to the Securing our Fishing Future funding where, on page 11 in table 1.2, we are told, ‘Onshore assistance of fisheries adjustment package—saving’. That does not make me confident that it is just being spun out into another year; $5.5 million.

Mr A Grant —The saving that is identified there comes about because of the government’s election commitment to fully fund the buyout of the Torres Strait fin fish fishery. In the election they identified that they would use savings from the Securing our Fishing Future program to make those payments to the Torres Strait fin fish fishery buyout. As it turned out, the amounts that were required to buy out the Torres Strait fin fishery were already sitting in the contingency reserve in the budget.

Senator ABETZ —Exactly. That is what I was going to ask.

Mr A Grant —So the full amount of the fin fish buyout was not required from the Securing our Fishing Future package, and the government therefore decided to use that unspent money as a saving.

Senator ABETZ —The government tried to announce this as an election commitment that had already been delivered just a few days or weeks after having been elected to office. Can you confirm to me that, before the change of government, over 90 per cent—I think there were only two fin fishing licences outstanding that had not signed up to the previous government’s offer of a buyout.

Mr A Grant —I do not have the exact timing of when the final negotiations were done with all fishers but certainly they were started in the time of the previous government and were completed in the time of the current government.

Senator ABETZ —Can I ask you to take on notice when the last fin fishing licence was signed up for the total buyout. Let us backtrack. Can you confirm that every fin fish licence in the Torres Strait has now signed up for the buyout?

Mr A Grant —Yes, I can confirm that, Senator.

Senator ABETZ —The overwhelming majority of those were signed up prior to the election being called?

Mr A Grant —Not technically.

Senator ABETZ —Sorry, not the election being called; the election being held.

Mr A Grant —Not technically, Senator, because the way that the buyout for that particular fishery was negotiated is that the fishers themselves asked the Queensland Seafood Industry Association to negotiate on their behalf.

Senator ABETZ —That is right.

Mr A Grant —The department and the QSIA negotiated an outcome, which we then put back to the individual fishers, and the individual fishers signed on to that agreement, probably in November and December, through the formal process of writing to the department saying they accepted the offer and would surrender their licences.

Senator ABETZ —Can you indicate, without identifying who, how many of those signed up on what particular dates in the months of November and December and what dates of those months? Are you with me on that?

Mr A Grant —I understand, but I will have to take that on notice.

Senator ABETZ —Because there are only, how many, 19 licences?

Mr A Grant —Yes, around 19 to 21 or so, something of that order.

Senator ABETZ —Yes, so it should not be an excessive burden to the department to do that, because the advice I have from a whole range of sources is that, prior to the official change of government after 24 November, the overwhelming majority had in fact signed up on terms of the previous government and with the money made available by the previous government. Therefore, this $5.5 million was not needed for Labor’s policy, was it, because the money was there?

Mr A Grant —Correct, Senator. The money was in the contingency reserve for that particular expenditure.

Senator ABETZ —So having found there was all the money that was necessary for the Torres Strait fin fish buyout, the government said: ‘Well, we promised this $5.5 mil for that purpose. We don’t need it, so we will now claw that back into finance.’ Is that right?

Mr A Grant —Can I clarify one thing: not all the money required for the buyout was in the contingency reserve, so that is why the savings are probably less.

Senator ABETZ —What money was missing?

Mr A Grant —There was not the full amount set aside to finalise the payments. There was a small shortfall.

Senator ABETZ —What was the shortfall?

Mr A Grant —About $2 million or $3 million.

Senator ABETZ —Did the Torres Strait Regional Authority make a contribution?

Mr A Grant —Yes, they did.

Senator ABETZ —How much was spent on the buyback?

Mr A Grant —For the Torres Strait fin fish?

Senator ABETZ —$13.96 million?

Mr A Grant —$10.6 million.

Senator ABETZ —That money was there.

Mr A Grant —Not all of that money was set aside in the contingency reserve.

Senator ABETZ —All right, but it was made available through another avenue, via the Prime Minister’s office giving approval. That is right, isn’t?

Mr A Grant —Yes, there were commitments made.

Senator ABETZ —Yes. So at the time of the change of government, the full amount required for the buyback was already there and available.

Mr A Grant —Formally, not all of it was set aside in the contingency reserve, which is the money—

Senator ABETZ —I am not talking only about the contingency—you nearly tripped me up on that, Mr Grant, and well done—but you can get money other than from the contingency as well, and money had been set aside for it, hadn’t it?

Mr A Grant —Yes. I think the point that the secretary just made is that—

Senator ABETZ —I did not hear it, I am sorry.

Mr A Grant —There was a letter provided by the then Prime Minister. The funds were not sitting in the department, so we did not have the actual funds available to make that commitment. So all of the money was not formally allocated to that purpose.

Senator ABETZ —But informally. We can play with words, but provision had been made for the full buyout at a cost of the $10-plus million.

Mr A Grant —The previous government had decided that it would spend that amount of money on the buyout.

Senator ABETZ —Yes, and that was the amount of money required for the buyout to be successful.

Dr O’Connell —I think what Mr Grant is saying is that that money was not all in the contingency reserve.

Senator ABETZ —We know that. We have already got that well and truly established, but the money was made available. The total amount in the contingency and that which was allocated by the Prime Minister’s Office allowed for the full buyout.

Dr O’Connell —We would have to take on notice what was the nature of the approval from the Prime Minister, but I think what Mr Grant is suggesting is that we did not have that money allocated within the department.

Senator ABETZ —Let us just be very careful here—

Dr O’Connell —That is exactly what I want to be, very careful.

Senator ABETZ —because the department was signing up people, were they not, to buy them out prior to the new government coming in, in the full expectation and knowledge that the full amount of money was there and available? It would have been terribly irresponsible of you to seek to be signing up people without having the assurance that the money was there.

Dr O’Connell —Yes.

Mr A Grant —Correct, Senator. We had full policy approval to negotiate the full amount.

Senator ABETZ —That is right. It was an absolute commitment that that money would be made available.

Dr O’Connell —But that is not the same as identifying the specific source of those funds, which is what I think you are talking to.

Senator ABETZ —The fin fishermen did not worry whether it was going to come from a contingency fund or something else. They had the assurance it was there. Under the fishing structural adjustment package onshore assistance, there is $750,000 as well. That has just been clawed back?

Mr A Grant —That is the savings out of the Securing our Fishing Future program and it relates to negotiations with the eastern tuna and billfish fisheries about a potential resource sharing agreement. There were negotiations that were happening during the time of the previous government. The current government, when they assumed government, reviewed all the expenditures that were announced by the previous government but were not included in the formal budget process and, as part of that review, the current government decided that they would not proceed with that commitment and instead has made a savings provision.

Senator ABETZ —What has happened to the current government’s—and if ever you had a rort, this is it—promise of $2.85 million to Gippsland Ports for the on-water development component of the Cunningham Arm key precinct? Is that going ahead?

Mr A Grant —I think that relates to the election commitment to provide $5.75 million to the Gippsland—

Senator ABETZ —From the unallocated funds within the onshore component of the fishing adjustment structural package.

Mr A Grant —That was a commitment made in the election by the government.

Senator ABETZ —That is right.

Mr A Grant —We are proceeding with that funding.

Senator ABETZ —That funding is occurring?

Mr A Grant —It is.

Senator ABETZ —What about the $1.6 million to East Gippsland Shire for the foreshore development component of the Cunningham Arm key precinct?

Mr A Grant —Yes, that funding is committed and is proceeding.

Senator ABETZ —And the $1.3 million to Lakes Entrance Fishermen’s Cooperative Ltd to fund the $500,000 shortfall to replace the existing iceworks?

Mr A Grant —Again, that is continuing.

Senator ABETZ —And the $800,000 shortfall to construct a heavy duty deep water jetty?

Mr A Grant —The same, continuing.

Senator ABETZ —That was going to come out of this $5.5 million figure here on page 11?

Mr A Grant —The election commitment stipulated that the money required for that election commitment—I think it was $5.75 million—was to come out of unspent moneys from the Securing our Fishing Future program, and that is how it will be funded.

Senator ABETZ —How much is left from the onshore assistance?

Mr A Grant —After the expenditure commitments made by the government in the election—

Senator ABETZ —No, before the commitments.

Mr A Grant —Before the election commitments were made?

Senator ABETZ —Yes.

Mr A Grant —Of the order of $10 million to $13 million, I recall, Senator.

Senator ABETZ —And we had another round.

Mr A Grant —There was another round of onshore business assistance. Is that correct?

Senator ABETZ —That is right, and how much money was spent on that?

Mr A Grant —Mr Murphy, may care to remind me, but I probably have it here.

Mr Murphy —Yes, we did conduct round 3 of the onshore business assistance program and 14 applications have been approved, with a total value of just under $1.1 million. I cannot recall the exact number but it was under 1.1.

Senator ABETZ —Had a proposal for $2.85 million to Gippsland Ports for the on-water development component of the Cunningham Arm key precinct previously come to the attention of the department?

Mr A Grant —Some were the subject of applications for funding in previous rounds of onshore business assistance.

Senator ABETZ —Applications which had been rejected.

Mr A Grant —The previous government declined to fund the full amounts of the applications.

Senator ABETZ —And they were declined on the basis of the panel making certain recommendations?

Mr A Grant —Yes, of course. The panel assessed the projects and made recommendations as to funding.

Senator ABETZ —So here we have a number of projects in Gippsland—the one that I read out and the others fall into that same category, don’t they? In a desperate attempt to try to win the seat of Gippsland, projects that had been rejected by the transparent and proper approval process were being promised by the Australian Labor Party to certain people, having failed the approval process. Is that correct?

Senator MILNE —That is the Regional Partnerships program that—

Senator ABETZ —You do not have to try to run the defence for the Labor Party.

Senator MILNE —I am not. I am just pointing out that the hypocrisy here is breathtaking.

Senator ABETZ —The architect of this scheme is sitting in the room and he is quite appropriately sitting very silent.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —The hypocrisy comes from you and your mates in the Labor Party.

CHAIR —Senators, I call order please! Senators, I would call you to order. Senator Macdonald, do you want a private meeting?

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Sorry?

CHAIR —Do we want a private meeting? Are we going to go through this again? The department has been good enough to come back tonight to save us a spillover on Friday. I would like to inform you that we have until 11 o’clock and I am sure that there are other senators who would like to ask a question. Shouting across at each other is not going to help.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —There are others of us who want to ask questions.

CHAIR —Senator Macdonald, we had all day yesterday, of which probably three hours were wasted on frivolous argument.

Senator ABETZ —I want to confirm that these projects that are now being funded are being funded against the recommendation panel’s assessment.

Dr O’Connell —The projects are funded as the result of an election commitment.

Senator ABETZ —Having been through a process where they were rejected.

Dr O’Connell —Under the previous government. I am trying to separate out the decisions here or else we will be putting the officer in a difficult position of trying to compare two processes.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Dr O’Connell, could I just refer you to some answers that were given in the regional solutions area of the department today about these promises being made in election campaigns without having gone through the proper process of development. Could I urge you to have a look at the answers given by Minister Conroy in relation to that, because the hypocrisy that Senator Milne talks about is very obvious when it comes to the current government’s approach to these sorts of things. It is simply a question to ask you to take note.

Senator ABETZ —It is interesting, because the current Prime Minister Mr Rudd told reporters in Perth that ‘If it doesn’t pass the departmental seal of approval, it does not proceed’. Asked if that meant ministers would no longer be able to overturn rulings and fund individual projects, he said, ‘According to the three-stage process I’ve outlined, absolutely.’ Was the department asked to advise whether or not these projects ought to be approved?

Mr A Grant —Not specifically, Senator.

Senator ABETZ —Not at all, I suggest to you, Mr A Grant.

Senator McLucas —Senator Abetz, as we have heard from a number of the witnesses here today, it was a specific government commitment in the election.

Senator ABETZ —It is funny: when we made them, they were rorts. When you do it, it is an election commitment.

Senator McLucas —Pardon me—as all political parties make commitments, including yours.

Senator ABETZ —Music to my ears!

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Please tell Senator Conroy this, Senator McLucas.

Senator ABETZ —And, more importantly, tell your own Prime Minister, that if it does not—

Senator McLucas —As you know, Senator Abetz, it is a different process.

Senator ABETZ —Very much a different process. I follow you. I think we are ad idem on that.

Senator McLucas —As the former minister in this area, you know this better than most, and to conflate your argument is misleading.

Senator ABETZ —The fishing sector was also promised $5 million on a seafood promotion fund from the current government. Can you tell us about that?

Mr A Grant —Yes, I can, Senator. There was a commitment to provide, as you said, $5 million to promote the seafood sector. That election commitment is being implemented by the department. Formal responsibility for that sits with our food and agriculture area, but the department is proceeding with it.

Senator ABETZ —Because the $5 million is now going to be used, as I understand it, not only for the promotion of seafood but for a whole host of others, and will be shared throughout the agriculture portfolio. Is that correct?

Mr A Grant —I am not aware of the specific details. But we will be implementing the election commitment, as it was set out during the election.

Senator ABETZ —You see, everybody interpreted the promise as being $5 million for the seafood sector. It now appears that it is $5 million—

Dr O’Connell —Senator, Mr A Grant did not agree that the money is spread around. What he did say was that it is operated by a different part of the department that has already been through this Senate estimates. I am quite happy to take it on notice and provide you with the information.

Senator ABETZ —That would be very kind. Thank you.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —I will confine myself to about three minutes, very quickly. I do not have any questions for AFMA, except to say ‘Well done’ on the illegal fishing work.

Senator ABETZ —Hear, hear!

Senator IAN MACDONALD —It is nice to see that these things, which take a long time to put in place, eventually start to work. Well done. Senator Abetz touched on the recreational fishing grants program. That was a terminating program that the previous government was going to continue, or there had been a commitment made to it. Have you been doing any work on continuing that program under the current government?

Mr A Grant —On recreational fishing, Senator?

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Yes.

Mr A Grant —Yes. The program does terminate on June 2008 but, as I have just indicated, we will be making final payments to the grants program into 2008-09. The incoming government did make a commitment about recreational fishing and it was to review the 1994 national recreation fishing policy and to prepare a new recreational fishing industry development strategy. That will be the focus of our work on recreational fishing going forward.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Is there a price tag on that?

Mr A Grant —There was $2 million allocated to that.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —You are doing work on that now?

Mr A Grant —We are.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —At the present time there is no indication that there will be any grants program for recreational fishing?

Mr A Grant —No indication at this stage. It really depends on what the review suggests.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Thank you for that. Mr Hurry, perhaps in a sentence, could tell me how the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission is going. I ask you rather than Dr Kalish because you are the chairman of it.

Mr Hurry —We are progressing reasonably well. We have got all the tools in place that we need to manage this fishery properly, but we stumbled last meeting at getting a conservation measure in place for big-eye and yellowfin tuna. In an attempt to get around that for the next meeting, I have called a chair’s workshop on 1 and 2 April, with all the heads of the world tuna pursein organisation and the leading owners of the world longliners, to meet here in Canberra with a selection of government representatives to try to get a resolution that works for both industry and government that we can then take back to the December meeting and perhaps get something that works more broadly across the fishery. So that is the only real problem we have got at the moment.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Are you happy that all the relevant players are in the tent?

Mr Hurry —I guess this is a bit of a different approach. We did not get where we wanted to get at the last meeting. It was frustrated by people taking fairly strong positions and wanting exemptions from what would be a reasonable resolution on big-eye and yellowfin tuna, and it is an issue of just catching too many juveniles. The only approach that I can see that will work is to craft an arrangement that works for both industry and governments. Industry have often said to me, ‘If you want this to work, we have to deliver it for you, so we might as well be with you negotiating it.’ They do not often come to the table in a broader international meeting where government negotiators are doing most of the talking across the table, so we have brought them together in a workshop here to try to find a way of getting them to interact better and give us a resolution to move forward. So in that sense I am happy that they are in the tent, and I think we can get where we want to go. I guess I am always confident that we will get there.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —But are the Chinese and the Americans and the Japanese and all the other players—

Mr Hurry —They will be here at this meeting, Senator, and the indications I have are that they are prepared to be reasonably constructive in trying to find something to move forward.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Is there anywhere I can read this that is publicly available?

Mr Hurry —Yes. I can give you the copies of the minutes from the last meeting. The last meeting is not up on the website yet, but it will be shortly. I can give you details of the website.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —That would be good. I will do that. Finally, Mr Chairman, to Dr Kalish: can you briefly tell me about the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission? When last I left it we were trying to get it out of the FAO, but you were saying before we started that that has not been possible. Again, bearing in mind that my time is just about up, could you give us a brief explanation of what is happening with the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission? First of all, what is the health of the Indian Ocean tuna fishery?

Dr Kalish —First, starting off with the health: the fishery is not in a particularly bad condition compared with other tuna fisheries globally. So the skipjack resource is not overfished and not subject to overfishing; similarly, with the big-eye tuna resource. The only resources that are really in question right now are the elephant tuna resource that is being subject to overfishing, and the swordfish resource which is subject to overfishing predominantly in the western Indian Ocean.

As far as the issue of removing the IOTC from under the umbrella of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, despite several years of effort, countries were unsuccessful in completing that task. Really the ultimate goal was to ensure that all the principal fishing nations or fishing entities involved in fishing in the Indian Ocean were within the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission. Our goal was to amend the convention to establish the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission so that we could include fishing entities, notably Taiwan. But due to a series of legal arguments produced by the FAO we were unable to amend the convention to allow for that to happen.

This was subsequently reviewed at the FAO by the committee on the constitution and legal matters of the FAO and by a meeting of plenipotentiaries, and they both agreed that it was a difficult process and that it was impossible to amend the convention for the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission under the circumstances. They thought it would set a new precedent in relation to the FAO and organisations affiliated with the FAO. They have suggested a process that might include fishing entities in the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission but most of us, including the principal entity involved, are not attracted to that option. So we are still battling with that one, and it is a difficult problem.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —You would choose your words more carefully than I, but there is illegal fishing still going on, and the principal culprit—this is where you would choose your words better than I—is Taiwan?

Dr Kalish —Well, we might say that it is unregulated fishing.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Yes.

Dr Kalish —There is an effort to put their vessels on the vessel register and identify that those vessels are engaged in fishing activity in the Indian Ocean and that there is reporting of the catch by these vessels. The concern is that there is no legally binding mechanism to regulate their activities.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —So there is no quota in the Indian Ocean fishery.

Dr Kalish —No, no quotas have been established in that fishery. That is the circumstance for most tuna fisheries globally.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —But you were trying to get a country quota in the IOTC.

Dr Kalish —I would say that is a long-term goal at this time. We have not quite got to that stage yet. It is fairly ambitious at this moment.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Is there information available on the IOT fishery somewhere publicly that I could see?

Dr Kalish —Yes. Certainly the website provides a good source of information.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Of the commission?

Dr Kalish —Yes, and also the FAO, if you are interested in those meetings that took place in relation to separation from the FAO.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —I wonder, without imposing on you enormously, if you would not mind providing to the committee a two-page summary of the difficulties and where you are going, and Australia’s position and where we want to head. Would that be asking too much?

Dr Kalish —In relation to the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission?

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Yes.

Dr Kalish —I think we can do that.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Thank you.

CHAIR —Thank you, Senator Macdonald. And to Fisheries, thank you very much. If there are any questions that you wish to put on notice, senators, please do. I would call Forestries, please.

[10.09 pm]

Senator O’BRIEN —In relation to the document that Dr O’Connell provided for us, you told us yesterday this document was an agreement between the previous government and BFF on behalf of WEMA; that the first instalment had been paid but no other instalments.

Dr O’Connell —We do not have the relevant people here, but my recollection is that is right, that there was an initial payment made. If my memory serves me right, I think we said it was $75,000.

Senator O’BRIEN —Plus GST, yes.

Dr O’Connell —Plus GST.

Senator O’BRIEN —And that was before the election.

Dr O’Connell ¾That would have been, I think, in October. As far as I am aware, that is all the payments that have been made.

Senator O’BRIEN —So the second milestone payment that was due also in October was not paid before the election.

Dr O’Connell —That is my understanding.

Senator O’BRIEN —And has not subsequently been paid.

Dr O’Connell —That is my understanding.

Senator O’BRIEN —And the government is not satisfied that any other progress has been made.

Dr O’Connell —I would have to take on notice precisely what the status is, but my understanding is the milestones have not been met. My understanding is that the further milestones have not been met, but I would take that on notice to clarify it.

Senator O’BRIEN —Thank you for that.

CHAIR —Thank you. Welcome. Mr A Grant, do you wish to make an opening statement?

Mr A Grant —No, thank you, Senator.

Senator MILNE —I would like to start by asking some questions about the Tasmanian Community Forest Agreement grants programs; in particular the Tasmanian Forest Industry Development Program, Tasmanian Country Sawmills Assistance Program, Tasmanian Softwood Industry Development Program. I would like to ask first: did the department inform the minister of his obligations under the financial management regulations in regard to the disbursement of these moneys.

Mr A Grant —I am not aware that the Forests area specifically advised the minister of those obligations, no.

Senator MILNE —Can I ask the secretary of the department?

Dr O’Connell —Sorry, I missed the question, Senator.

Senator MILNE —Did the department inform the minister of his obligations under the financial management regulations in relation to the disbursement of the grants moneys?

Dr O’Connell —I would have to take that on notice.

Senator MILNE —It is a pretty important question.

Dr O’Connell —It is, and because you want a specific answer, we will have to take it on notice.

Senator MILNE —I would like to know when the department informed the minister of his obligations in relation to that. Can I also hear from Mr A Grant: is it true that the purpose of the hardwood industry programs, native forest and plantation, was to assist the industry to adjust to changes in public timber resources arising from the Tasmanian Community Forest Agreement? Was that the reason for the grants?

Mr A Grant —That was one of the reasons, yes, Senator.

Senator MILNE —What else was a reason for it?

Mr A Grant —Well, I could go back to the guidelines. The objectives of the program were set out in the guidelines, but there were some objectives dealing with employment, there were some objectives dealing with economic development within the state of Tasmania, and objectives relating to adjustments to decisions that were made during the Tasmanian Community Forest Agreement on resource availability.

Senator MILNE —According to your report, up until June 2007, 40 grants totalling $33.8 million were approved and 12 grant recipients were identified for research funding. Between June 2007 and 24 November 2007, how many grant applications were approved or recommended?

Mr A Grant —I would have to check the exact number, but my understanding is that 88 grants have been approved by ministers up till that period of time.

Senator ABETZ —Not an extra 88?

Mr A Grant —No, 88 in total.

Senator MILNE —So there were 40 between the commencement of the program in May 2005 to June 2007 and another 40 between June 2007—

Mr A Grant —Another 48. It may be 88 or 89, I am not quite sure, but it is around 48.

Senator MILNE —Would you be able to provide the committee with details of those grants—who got them, what sum and whether the department recommended that they be approved—please.

Mr A Grant —Yes, I can take that on notice.

Senator MILNE —Thank you.

Mr A Grant —Can I clarify that not all of those grants will have been paid in full. In fact, some of them may not have been paid at all, because once the approval process is made with these grants, negotiation has to take place with the successful applicant about the signing of a deed of funding and in some cases some of the applicants have taken a significant amount of time to sign and negotiate that deed of funding. So you should not assume that all of those grants have been paid.

Senator MILNE —I am interested in knowing which ones were recommended and/or approved between June and 24 November last year. Whether they eventually get paid is another question. I am also interested in knowing—

Senator ABETZ —Can I ask on that one, if I may, Chair, because it is directly relevant—

CHAIR —Senator Milne was asking a question. Let her finish it.

Senator MILNE —As at 1 October last year, how much of the grants money that had been put forward had actually been allocated? How much was left over at 1 October last year in those three programs?

Mr A Grant —I will have to take that on notice. I cannot tell you the exact number at 1 October.

Senator MILNE —Thank you. Can you indicate whether the minister sent a letter to anybody, or a number of people, in the forest industry asking them to apply for the grant money before the election?

Mr A Grant —The minister at that time?

Senator MILNE —Was Senator Abetz.

Mr A Grant —I would have to take that on notice. I am not aware that a letter was sent, but I will take that on notice.

Senator MILNE —Can I ask not only whether a letter was sent but that you table a copy of the letter and a list of the people to whom it was sent.

Mr A Grant —Presuming there was a letter.

Senator MILNE —If there was a letter.

Mr A Grant —Okay.

Senator MILNE —Thank you. I would like the list of the people to whom it was sent, and we will see if that correlates with the people who got the grants. In relation to the particular grants, considerable sums of money were paid to Buffalo Valley Logging and CK Forest Management. Can you tell me about those grants, please, and where Buffalo Logging has its operational headquarters.

Mr A Grant —I might defer to Mr Bartlett, who is a bit closer to the grants program than me. He may know that.

Mr Bartlett —Buffalo Valley Logging Co. has operations in Tasmania. They also have operations in Victoria. In relation to the grant that they applied for under this program, it was for machinery and operations that were based in north-eastern Tasmania. I would have to look up the application to give you the exact location. I do not have that detail with me.

Senator MILNE —What evidence do you have that the machinery is actually operational in Tasmania, since their base is in Myrtleford in Victoria?

Mr Bartlett —We know that they have a contract to supply wood in Tasmania, and we have evidence of purchase documents for machinery that was delivered to Tasmania.

Senator MILNE —What is the relationship between Buffalo Valley Logging and CK Forest Management?

Mr Bartlett —I will have to take that question on notice. That was an issue that we looked at at the time, because those two companies have some common shareholders, but I cannot recall the exact details.

Senator MILNE —A grant totalling $125,960 was given to AW Harvesting in May 2006. It went into liquidation. Were the grants contingent upon a detailed business plan and investment analysis and, if so, how is it that before the grant was even expended that company went into liquidation?

Mr Bartlett —You have asked two questions. The first one was: was it subject to an analysis of a business case. The answer to that is yes. In terms of the second question, I do not think it is correct. The grant money was paid and then some time after that the company went into liquidation. So the grant money was paid after we had evidence that they had purchased the machinery and then subsequent to that the company went into liquidation.

Senator MILNE —Would you provide the committee with the business case analysis that was the basis for that grant being paid.

Mr A Grant —It may be commercial-in-confidence. If we can provide that, we will, but we may not be able to. I will have to check that.

Senator MILNE —That may be the case, but it is also the case that this is public money and there is an expectation that there will be an adequate analysis of the business case behind the grant, and it seems extraordinary that they should have gone into liquidation so quickly. In fact, it would be good to know the date of the business case analysis, the date of going into liquidation and the date of the grant being paid. Can you explain to me how it is that there were grants made of $6 million or thereabouts for natural gas conversions at Australian Paper and other places? What has that to do with adjustment in terms of availability of the resource for adjustment to the Tasmanian Community Forest Agreement?

Mr A Grant —As I said, Senator, there are a number of objectives in the program. Adjustment to the resource is one. The longer term development of the Tasmanian forest products industry was certainly another. Mr Bartlett can confirm that the grant to that applicant clearly met the objectives of the program as assessed by the committee and then approved by the minister.

Senator MILNE —What analysis was made, in looking at these grant applications, between adjustment to a changed resource and business as usual plant and equipment? For example, can you explain to me why money was made available to Britton Bros for a new forklift?

Mr Bartlett —I would have to check that. I do not believe we have provided any money to any applicant for forklifts. When those applications have come before the advisory committee that oversees this, that is one of the items that we have taken out. The information you have might be from the original application, not all of which might be funded. I can double-check, but I am not aware of any instance where we have paid money for a forklift.

Senator MILNE —Would you mind checking to see if that is the case.

Mr Bartlett —Certainly.

Senator MILNE —The question still stands: what was your analysis about normal use and maintenance of machinery and the Commonwealth subsidising that rather than actually using it for a readjustment package? I would like to know the criteria you used to make that determination on the grants. Another issue is that Rayonier applied for $449,250 for two phosphate fertiliser applications in pine plantations. Is subsiding Rayonier for phosphate fertiliser an appropriate use of the money? Explain to me how that is an adjustment to a changed resource.

Mr Bartlett —I am happy to do that. That was under the softwood development program, and one of the key objectives of that program was to deal with an expected shortfall in log availability from the softwood plantations. Fertiliser application would help the trees to grow and therefore deal with log shortages—it is true, Senator, absolutely true.

Senator MILNE —It is absolutely true, but there are an awful lot of people farming softwoods who could have done with a couple of free fertiliser applications.

Mr Bartlett —Can I finish? At this point in time, no grant has been paid to Rayonier.

Senator MILNE —At all?

Mr Bartlett —At all.

Senator MILNE —Okay. These are grants that were paid or recommended. The figures were there and I would be interested to know if Minister Abetz actually recommended that Rayonier be paid for two fertiliser applications.

Mr Bartlett —I can answer that question. That one has not finished the assessment process through the advisory committee. No recommendation has ever gone to a minister on that grant.

Senator ABETZ —Bad luck; try again!

Senator MILNE —We have got lots of trying again; do not worry, Minister.

Senator ABETZ —I know—you have been at it for 14 years in the Senate.

Senator MILNE —I am very interested in these particular grant applications for a range of things that, in my view, do not constitute adjustment to the particular programs. In relation to the audits, how many of the people who have actually got the grants have provided audit reports and how many have provided them on time?

Mr A Grant —We will have to take that on notice, Senator, but it is fair to say that we have not received 100 per cent compliance with people providing audited statements throughout the process, and it is an area that we do need to follow up in improving the program.

Senator MILNE —I do not understand why you cannot tell me that, because it is on the public record that 17 should have provided audit reports by now and only three have done so on time. Seven have not provided any at all, four were due in 2006 and a further seven were late. That is what is on the public record, so I am asking you to tell me what you are doing about compliance with those audits.

Mr A Grant —We are proposing to write to applicants to remind them of their obligations under the funding deeds to provide audited statements.

Senator MILNE —When did you decide to write to them about that?

Mr A Grant —It has been in consideration for a little while now. I cannot remember the exact date that we made a decision to do that.

Senator MILNE —And the letter has not yet been written?

Mr A Grant —I do not think so. Mr Bartlett?

Mr Bartlett —We have got a letter that is about ready to go out. It is written.

Senator MILNE —Could you provide me at this time specifically the level of compliance with regard to these particular grants?

Mr A Grant —It is the compliance with the need to provide an audited statement?

Senator MILNE —Yes—the compliance with the need to provide an audit report on these particular grants. A copy of the letter would be useful as well. I will hand over to you, Senator Brown.

Senator BOB BROWN —Thank you. The office of the Prime Minister wrote to me last month to say that the minister for forests, or at least his department, had investigated the current logging in the Styx River Valley and found it in accordance with the regional forest agreement. Who undertook that investigation?

Mr A Grant —I am not aware of the letter that you are referring to, Senator, so I do not understand what the—

Senator BOB BROWN —Did you or people in your department investigate the current logging in the Styx River Valley with a view to seeing if it were in accordance with the regional forest agreement?

Mr A Grant —We did not particularly go to Tasmania to investigate that—no.

Senator BOB BROWN —Did anybody, that you know of, do that?

Mr A Grant —It may have been looked at by the environment department.

Senator BOB BROWN —No. It says here the department of the minister, the Hon. Tony Burke MP.

Mr A Grant —Senator, could you just read out the actual text in the letter.

Senator BOB BROWN —Yes, sure.

The minister with responsibility for regional forest agreements is the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, the Hon. Tony Burke MP. I am advised—

that is, David Epstein, the chief of staff for the office of the Prime Minister, and this letter is dated 11 January this year—

that investigations by his department indicate that current logging in the Styx River Valley is in accordance with the regional forest agreement.

Who undertook that investigation?

Dr O’Connell —We will have to take that on notice, Senator. It is clear that we do not have that information, and I will take it on notice to be sure we get the right answer.

Senator BOB BROWN —But this is the Prime Minister’s office advising me that you have undertaken an investigation, and you do not know about it?

Dr O’Connell —I am saying I will take it—

Senator McLucas —We will take that question on notice, Senator Brown.

Senator BOB BROWN —I just have to say, Minister, that the department ought to know about that if, in fact, such an investigation has taken place.

Dr O’Connell —I am not suggesting the department does not, Senator. I am suggesting that I will take it on notice and provide the answer to you.

Senator BOB BROWN —Justice Marshall in the Federal Court, in the judgement issued on 19 December 2006, found that logging in the Wielangta Forest in Tasmania endangered the three species nationally listed as endangered—the Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagle, the swift parrot and the broad tooth stag beetle—and that logging therefore should stop. In a consequent full bench finding, his ruling about the ending of logging was overturned, but none of the evidence upon which he based his finding that these three species were endangered by logging was indeed countermanded.

Senator ABETZ —Can I raise a point, Chair. The point of order is that I think some, if not all, of the committee members would know that in that action the senator was the plaintiff in the matter, and I understand that it might be subject to further court action. I was wondering whether that might be clarified, because I think that might be vitally important, before we traverse the findings of Justice Marshall that were comprehensively overturned by the Full Court.

CHAIR —Senator Brown, do you wish to—

Senator BOB BROWN —Yes, I do. That is quite right. As everybody here knows, I took that action and Senator Abetz took the other point of view on behalf of the Commonwealth. But, no, the matter I am talking about is not—

Senator ABETZ —No—but is this matter subject to further appeal, Senator Brown? That is my point of order.

Senator BOB BROWN —Whether or not it is subject to further appeal, the matter I am talking about is on the record and is a legitimate matter for me to be asking here.

Senator ABETZ —Not if the subject of the court actions is going to be canvassed in the High Court.

Senator BOB BROWN —This matter that I am asking about has not been subject to question in the High Court, Senator.

Senator ABETZ —My point of order is, if I may just quickly follow on from that: I think we have, in a very roundabout way, an admission from Senator Brown that the court action decided by Justice Marshall, which was appealed in the Full Federal Court, is now in the High Court. If that is the case, then any question surrounding any one of the decisions on the way through surely should not be canvassed.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Can I respond to that point of order, Mr Chairman? I do not know the results of the case, but if there is a question of costs either for or against the plaintiff and Senator Brown is the plaintiff—

Senator ABETZ —That is right.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —and I take Senator Abetz’s word for that—it may be that Senator Brown has a very substantial conflict of interest if he is canvassing areas which impact upon the costs paid in these—

Senator ABETZ —He has even said he might become bankrupt if he loses the case and that that might have certain flow-on consequences.

CHAIR —Senator Abetz and Senator Macdonald, I take the point of order and I urge you, Senator Brown, to think very carefully through your questions. I am sure you did not come down in the last shower, Senator Brown, but if you want your colleagues to ask questions for and on your behalf, I will give the call to Senator Milne, but otherwise continue, Senator Brown.

Senator BOB BROWN —Yes. My question is: in regard to the logging in the Styx Valley, the Upper Florentine, the Weld and the Great Western Tiers, and indeed other forests in Tasmania, are you satisfied, and how have you been satisfied, that in fact the requirement to protect rare and endangered species, including the Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagle, is being upheld?

Mr A Grant —Senator, the protection of endangered species and other biodiversity is the responsibility for the minister for the environment.

Senator MILNE —No, it is not. Under the RFA—

Mr A Grant —Let me finish. The responsibility for the regional forest agreement sits with our portfolio, but the particular aspects about managing species sits with the environment department. We have a responsibility to ensure that the provisions of the RFA are being implemented in accordance with what is set out in the RFA, or the Tasmanian Community Forest Agreement, and we receive regular reports from Forestry Tasmania and the Tasmanian government which indicate to us that the provisions that are set out in the RFA and the TCFA are being implemented.

Dr O’Connell —Mr Bartlett might also be able to assist.

Mr Bartlett —My understanding of the decision from the full bench is that the RFA is deemed to constitute protection for the endangered species. The comprehensive set of actions undertaken by the Tasmanian RFA, supplemented by the Tasmanian Community Forest Agreement, now are regarded, as the two governments agreed at the time, to be adequate protection for those species.

Senator BOB BROWN —Forestry Tasmania, in partnership with the University of Melbourne, assessed north-east Tasmania, the Bass District, as far as the giant Tasmanian wedge-tail is concerned and found that the likelihood of its extinction, which is about 64 or 65 per cent, goes to 99 per cent in that region if current logging targets of native forests were to be carried through to fruition. What assessment of that report have you done?

Mr A Grant —I have not done any assessment of that report, but Mr Bartlett may have.

Mr Bartlett —We believe that that is an issue for the environment department. Our department is not responsible for assessing the impact on endangered species.

Senator BOB BROWN —Let me ask this question then: Prime Minister Howard committed in 2004, amongst other things, to protecting 18,000-plus hectares of the Upper Florentine and Styx Valleys in Tasmania. Has that commitment been upheld?

Dr O’Connell —Senator, I am sure you would be aware that the Tasmanian Community Forest Agreement was the method by which the government of the day settled its commitments in the area.

Senator BOB BROWN —How much of the Upper Florentine and Styx Valleys was protected under that arrangement, Mr O’Connell?

Dr O’Connell —We would have to take that on notice. I do not have the numbers here.

Senator BOB BROWN —Was it 18,000 hectares?

Dr O’Connell —I said we would have to take that on notice.

Senator BOB BROWN —You do not know?

Dr O’Connell —I will take it on notice.

Senator BOB BROWN —In fact it was 4,000 hectares. I ask you: why was it that, between the time of that commitment and the Community Forest Agreement, 14,000 hectares of that forest were taken out of that commitment?

Dr O’Connell —That was a matter of a policy decision of the previous government. It is not something that I am able to provide you with any further information on.

Senator BOB BROWN —So you were not party to any decision making as far as that change?

Dr O’Connell —The decision making was by the previous government.

Senator BOB BROWN —Yes, I know it was, but you have no information about why the 18,000 hectares became 4,000 hectares?

Dr O’Connell —It was a decision of the previous government.

Senator BOB BROWN —Do you know how many jobs there are currently in the Upper Florentine and Styx Valley operations?

Dr O’Connell ¾Which operations?

Senator BOB BROWN —Logging operations.

Mr A Grant —I do not know the exact number.

Senator BOB BROWN —How many jobs are there in the logging industry in Australia at the moment?

Mr A Grant —I do not know the exact number of that either.

Senator BOB BROWN —Does anybody?

Mr Bartlett —It is around 87,000.

Senator BOB BROWN —Eighty seven thousand.

Mr Bartlett —That is correct.

Senator BOB BROWN —Have you got a breakdown of that figure, Mr Bartlett?

Mr Bartlett —I have not got it with me here, but we use the Bureau of Statistics data, and it breaks it down by those involved in the processing industries and those involved in the broader forestry industries.

Senator BOB BROWN —And how many are involved in the woodchip industry per se, Mr Bartlett?

Mr Bartlett —I do not think data that specific is available from ABS.

Senator BOB BROWN —But that is the majority of the export logging operations from Australia. You do not have figures on that?

Mr Bartlett —We do not collect them—no.

Senator BOB BROWN —Does anybody that you know of?

Mr Bartlett —No, not to my knowledge; not to that specific level of detail. As I said, the categories that ABS collect are processing industries and broader forest industry.

Senator BOB BROWN —How many of those jobs are in Tasmania?

Mr Bartlett —I would have to take that on notice, but that would be broken down state by state.

Senator BOB BROWN —How many of those are in the direct logging industry itself, including processing, within Australia?

Dr O’Connell —I might suggest, for the efficiency for the committee, that we clearly do not have a breakdown of these numbers here. It may be more productive if you are able to provide the questions to us—

Senator BOB BROWN —You have heard the questions so I will ask you to provide the answers, if you would, Mr O’Connell.

Dr O’Connell —That is fine.

Senator BOB BROWN —In the Arve Loop Road forest in Tasmania, seven hectares was illegally logged, and this was brought to public notice last year. This is a former Australian heritage listing and punitive World Heritage listing. What assessment of that illegal logging by Forestry Tasmania, and then consequent use of that timber by Gunns, has the department done?

Mr Bartlett —That is a matter for the Tasmanian government under the RFA. That is not our role.

Senator BOB BROWN —So an illegal logging under the Regional Forest Agreement does not draw your attention or any analysis by you?

Mr A Grant —Clearly, that is a concern if there is illegal harvesting under the RFA, and if the provisions of the RFA are not met, yes, we will be very concerned about that. But in that particular example, as Mr Bartlett said, it was investigated by Forestry Tasmania.

Senator BOB BROWN —What was the outcome of it by Forestry Tasmania?

Mr A Grant —Sorry, by the Tasmanian government.

Senator BOB BROWN —By the Tasmanian government?

Mr A Grant —That was Mr Bartlett’s comment.

Mr Bartlett —It was investigated by the Forest Practices Authority of Tasmania.

Senator BOB BROWN —And?

Mr Bartlett —And they found that there was inappropriate logging—yes.

Senator BOB BROWN —It was illegal logging, wasn’t it?

Mr Bartlett —I have not got the exact judgement here. I think the important point is that, under the regional forest agreement, the actual land management processes are delegated to the state governments.

Senator BOB BROWN —I have got just a couple more questions. Firstly, the minister visited Tasmania at the end of last year in his capacity as minister for forests. Who did he meet there and what was the purpose of that visit?

Mr Quinlivan —The purpose of the visit was to familiarise himself with the forest industry in Tasmania and he met with a range of people from the industry and the Tasmanian government—quite a number. As to the precise people, I think we would have to take that on notice.

Senator BOB BROWN —Would you, please.

Mr Quinlivan —And ask the minister about the full range of people that he met with.

Senator BOB BROWN —Did he meet with members of the tourism industry or the environment community who are very much involved with forestry in Tasmania?

Mr Quinlivan —I am not aware of that. We would have to check with him on that.

Senator BOB BROWN —Would you and let me know about that.

Mr Quinlivan —Yes.

Mr A Grant —He did go to Tasmania as the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. So he did other than forestry activities during his visit to Tasmania as well.

Senator BOB BROWN —I would be interested to know about that.

CHAIR —Senator Brown, you did say you have got a couple of questions left and I am mindful of that. We only have just over 15 minutes left and the other senators would like to ask a couple of questions of the officers. Could you get straight to the point?

Senator BOB BROWN —What role, if any, has the federal government had in the drawing up and putting together of the wood supply agreement between Gunns and the Tasmanian government for the proposed pulp mill?

Mr A Grant —We have had no role in that.

Senator BOB BROWN —What is your department’s role in assessing the greenhouse gas emissions coming from logging operations in Australia?

Mr A Grant —We have no role in that.

Senator BOB BROWN —Why not?

Mr A Grant —Because responsibility for climate change issues now rests with the Department of Climate Change.

Senator BOB BROWN —Yes, I am aware of that, but the assessment of it—you are looking after an industry that is a large producer of greenhouse gases. I wonder what your knowledge base is about that greenhouse gas emission table coming from forestry operations in Australia?

Mr Quinlivan —The Australian Greenhouse Office has to date been responsible for fulfilling Australia’s international reporting obligations and they have established methodologies, accounting procedures and so on. That question really belongs to them.

Dr O’Connell —Just for clarification, the relevant part of the Australian Greenhouse Office is now part of the Department of Climate Change.

Senator BOB BROWN —Is anybody in the department an expert in this field?

Mr Quinlivan —We would have the odd individual, particularly in the Bureau of Rural Sciences, who is quite familiar with the greenhouse accounting procedures in the forestry area.

Senator BOB BROWN —Have they produced any work on this matter?

Mr Quinlivan —I am sure they would have been involved in work with the Greenhouse Office over time and our forest group and others would have consulted them, but they certainly would not be publishing in their own right in this area because the responsibility rests with the Greenhouse Office.

Senator BOB BROWN —Would you do an inventory of that and see if there have been any officers involved, and if there have been outputs from the department over the last 12 years, and report back to the committee on that.

Mr Quinlivan —Any output in the area of greenhouse gas accounting for forest operations?

Senator BOB BROWN —Yes.

Mr Quinlivan —That is your specific question?

Senator BOB BROWN —Yes.

Senator MILNE —And also for standing forests.

CHAIR —Senator Brown if you do have—

Mr A Grant —It is a bit—

CHAIR —We have 15 minutes, if you can come straight to the point.

Mr A Grant —No—I am not sure I understand what we are being asked to do.

Dr O’Connell —That sounds like an extremely large project and I would want to assess the resources that would be used for it, because over a 12-year period is a long time.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —This is the estimates for 2007-08. Just very quickly, because there is not much time left for me.

Senator McLucas —I would like to clarify this so we finish it off. Senator Brown, I wonder if you could rethink that request?

Senator BOB BROWN —Yes—I will put the question off or narrow it right down.

Senator McLucas —Because it is a very large piece of work.

Senator BOB BROWN —Could the department furnish the committee with any information about any output it has had at all in the assessment of greenhouse gas emissions from the logging industry in Australia?

CHAIR —Senator Brown, I think the department and the parliamentary secretary have guaranteed that they will come back to you and take it on notice.

Senator McLucas —I really do want to clarify what that question is, Senator Brown.

Dr O’Connell —Is there a time limit? That would be helpful.

Senator BOB BROWN —I said for the previous 12 months.

Senator McLucas —I am sorry. I thought you said 12 years.

Senator BOB BROWN —No, I did not. I changed it to 12 months.

CHAIR —Madam Parliamentary Secretary, are you comfortable with that?

Senator McLucas —Thank you, we are happy to take that question on notice.

CHAIR —Senator Brown, if you do have other questions, I urge you to put them on notice. Senator Macdonald.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —I am assuming you are aware of the Asia Pacific Forestry Skills and Capacity Building Program, which I think is a program of AusAID. I would like to ask anyone at the table if your department was involved in setting up that program.

Mr A Grant —Yes, Senator. The Asia Pacific Forestry Skills and Capacity Building Program was a program that was under our authority.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Was it? Okay.

Mr A Grant —It was a DAFF related program. Obviously we had a strong interest in establishing it and setting it up.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —In a word, that is about helping Asia-Pacific nations stop deforestation?

Mr A Grant —It is. It is trying to build up the skills and the capacity of some of those countries, our near neighbours in South-East Asia, to better manage their forests, which will have some consequential beneficial impacts on greenhouse gas emissions.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Absolutely. So it is a program that was very important with the climate change debate and matters towards that?

Mr A Grant —It was a program that was announced at APEC in the climate change context.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —If the illegal logging in Asia-Pacific is addressed by that, is there a hope or a strategic approach that that may assist the Australian industry to prosper more because it is not competing with illegally logged forests from overseas? Was that a side benefit to the program?

Mr A Grant —I think Australia has been on the record as promoting sustainable forest management both at home and internationally, so clearly that program is consistent with our broader objectives of managing forests sustainably. Clearly we also have a policy of wanting to prevent illegal harvesting of illegal logging and we are looking at ways to restrict the importation of illegally harvested timber into Australia, so while that program is relatively modest and I am not sure that it will solve all the problems that you alluded to, it clearly is of benefit to all those objectives.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —And it is a program that anyone who has a real interest in the environment would support because it stops illegal logging, stops greenhouse gas emissions and builds the Australian forestry industry.

Senator McLucas —I think you are requesting the officer to provide you an opinion in that question.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —I think it is a matter of fact.

Senator McLucas —You do, but I think you are asking the officer to provide an opinion.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —It was a good program. I think it is one of those that has been cut by the current government, so that is a bit disappointing. Are you still doing any work on it?

Mr A Grant —Could I just clarify that. While the specific funding for that initiative has been—

Senator IAN MACDONALD —So it is still in your department? So it is your funding, so you will know if it has been cut and that is what you are going to tell me now.

Mr A Grant —While the specific funding for that initiative has been identified as a savings option, the government has decided that that initiative will proceed and it will be funded out of money that was allocated to the Department of Climate Change and to AusAID under what was previously known as the Global Initiative on Forests and Climate. So the initiative will proceed. It will be funded through a different avenue.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —I do not want to get into you on an argument about semantics, but there is no real saving at all because it is saved from your area but being spent by somewhere else?

Mr A Grant —There is a real saving because the amount that was specifically designated to that program has gone into a savings option and this initiative will be using money that would otherwise have been spent under the other programs. So there is a real saving.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —As I said, I do not want to get into an argument with you on what is a saving and what is not a saving, but clearly it is being saved here and being spent somewhere else. I think you have said that, so that is all I want to ask.

Mr A Grant —But there is a net saving.

Senator ABETZ —If I may, can I have the last few minutes? I will have very quick questions and hopefully you can provide very quick answers. The Australian Greenhouse Office reports on various industries’ emissions and impact on greenhouse. Has the Australian Greenhouse Office provided any information in relation to forestry activities and has it determined that in fact forestry is carbon positive?

Mr A Grant —I suggest you talk to the Department of Climate Change with that question.

Senator ABETZ —You are not aware of those studies?

Mr A Grant —I would not like to try to answer on their behalf.

Senator ABETZ —Coming back to the conspiracy theory that Senator Milne started on, can you indicate whether or not those Tasmanian Community Forest Agreement grants go through an approval process that had people on it from both the Tasmania and Australian governments?

Mr A Grant —I might get Mr Bartlett to go through that. He is part of the process.

Senator ABETZ —Is that correct?

Mr Bartlett —That is correct.

Senator ABETZ —And the state Labor government has to sign off on the grants as well?

Mr Bartlett —That is correct.

Senator ABETZ —So any grants that may have been approved between June and the election had the approval of the state Labor government?

Mr Bartlett —That is correct.

Senator ABETZ —That is correct? Thank you very much. In relation to the natural gas conversion at Devonport, if I recall, are you able to say—if you do not know, take on notice—how much greenhouse gas emission—as I understand it, literally thousands of tonnes per annum—was being saved as a result of that conversion?

Mr Bartlett —I will have to take that on notice.

Senator ABETZ —Did that conversion also make that business more viable, being able to switch from—was it diesel or coal—to natural gas?

Mr Bartlett —It was to provide liquid natural gas to trucking operators, enabling them to convert from diesel operation to LNG.

Senator ABETZ —Are we talking about the paper mill?

Mr Bartlett —Sorry, I thought you were talking about those—

Senator ABETZ —Because there are two.

Mr Bartlett —Yes.

Senator ABETZ —One with a boiler, that Senator Milne has referred to.

Mr Bartlett —Okay.

Senator ABETZ —That is what I was talking about. That was a conversion that made the business more viable, but of course it had all the greenhouse benefits attached to it. I would have thought the Greens would celebrate. Moving on to the Community Forest Agreement and the amount of old growth forest put into reserves, are you able to—if you have the figures—remind us as to the exact number of hectares that were promised to be locked up as opposed to the actual number that were locked up? Is it not a factor that the actual number that were locked up was greater than the number promised?

Mr Bartlett —Certainly the answer to the last part of the question is: yes, it was greater. I did not bring the exact numbers with me, but I can provide them on notice.

Dr O’Connell —Can I just clarify? You used the term ‘locked up’. We would prefer to use the term ‘protected under the agreement’, and that is because of the nature of the protections that are available.

Senator ABETZ —When I protect my house, I lock it up. So I am more than happy to use that term as well.

Senator McLucas —It is not a forest.

Senator ABETZ —Can we move on to the Tasmanian Community Forest Agreement. Did that also promise to protect jobs?

Mr Bartlett —Yes.

Senator ABETZ —So in coming to a solution, there had to be a balance between protection of rainforest and protection of jobs.

Mr A Grant —Protection of the environment and protection of jobs.

Senator ABETZ —Jobs—yes.

Mr A Grant —Enhancement of economic opportunity. There was a balance between economic, social and environmental aspects.

Senator ABETZ —Then the Greens, I think as a first, expressed some interest in how many jobs were in downstream processing or how many jobs were being exported. How many jobs do you know will be kept onshore as a result of the pulp mill being developed at Bell Bay? Are you able to give us a figure on that or not?

Mr A Grant —It depends on whether you are asking about how many jobs will be created through that establishment or how many jobs will be, in  your words, ‘kept on’. I am not quite sure of the context.

Senator ABETZ —All right, ‘created’. Thank you for correcting me. Do you have that figure?

Mr A Grant —I do not have that figure.

Senator ABETZ —If you can try and take that on notice, that would be helpful. The former government gave a commitment to Timber Towns, run by Councillor Malcolm Hole. Is the current government going to provide funding to that organisation?

Mr A Grant —That matter is still under consideration by the government.

Senator ABETZ —Is the current government honouring the 30 per cent loading on the Tasmanian Community Forest Agreement grants?

Mr A Grant —The government has made a decision to provide an additional grant to successful applicants under the three Tasmanian forest industry programs in the TCFA.

Senator ABETZ —To what level? To what extent?

Mr A Grant —An additional 30 per cent funding on top of the original grant.

Senator ABETZ —Yes. So that which was announced by us prior to the election is being continued by the current government. Is that right?

Mr A Grant —The government has made a decision to provide that additional 30 per cent grant.

Senator ABETZ —All it is doing is recommitting to that which the former government had committed itself to.

Mr A Grant —I am just telling you what the decision of the current government is.

Senator ABETZ —Can you tell us about the Rainforest Action Network activities in Japan. Has the Australian government sent representatives to some of these activities?

Mr A Grant —We have had regular visits to Japan to talk to a combination of stakeholders in Japan—the paper and pulp companies and the end users such as the photocopier companies. We have had contact with the environmental groups in Japan to try and explain the nature of Australian forestry operations and, in particular, the nature of Tasmanian forestry operations and to explain the obligations and commitments made in the Regional Forest Agreement and the TCFA.

Senator ABETZ —How much in costs has this department incurred in defending Senator Brown’s personal court action?

Mr A Grant —I would have to take that on notice.

Senator McLucas —I understand that it is not normal practice to enumerate costs in legal matters. I was in the legal and constititional committee yesterday and we had that question, and that was the response from the department.

Senator ABETZ —Take it on notice, because I would imagine a fair degree of departmental resources may have been involved. Has the department incurred any cost in relation to that? Is the environment department or the Attorney-General’s funding it? Do you know who?

Senator McLucas —We will take the question on notice.

Senator ABETZ —Thank you.

Senator McLucas —We will answer it in an appropriate way.

CHAIR —If the Senate will indulge me, I know that, Dr O’Connell, you want to make a brief statement. At the wish of the Senate, Senator Boswell has waited patiently for nearly two days, and he assures me that he would like to put two questions on notice, if he may read them, and he has promised me it will not take any longer than two minutes. Dr O’Connell.

Dr O’Connell —In terms of the funding deed with the Victorian Farmers Federation related to the WEMA, I have further information now which I can give. The initial milestone payment of $82,500 was made on signing of the deed. There was a further milestone payment of $122,500 which was payable on completion of a project work plan that was due on 8 October 2007. A proposed project work plan was received by the department on 16 January 2008, and the department was invoiced. The department has not paid that because, in our view, the activities in the proposed work plan differ from the original intent. That is the status in terms of those milestones.

CHAIR —Senator Boswell, in conclusion.

Senator BOSWELL —Senator Abetz may have asked these questions. I will ask the questions and you put them on notice. How many RAP payment cases are still awaiting finalisation through appeals? If Senator Abetz has asked that question, do not answer it. How are these appeals being processed? When will these appeals be finalised? What funding remains in the pool to finalise these appeals? How many Quick 50 applications have applied to be upgraded to full business restructure through the RAP process? What is the status of these applications? How long until they are resolved? Are the funds available and how much is there to assist these families? Senator Abetz put in $130,000 to study the impact of recreational and commercial fishing on the Queensland government’s proposed rezoning of Moreton Bay, and I would like to know what the study shows and how it impacts on recreational and commercial fishermen in Moreton Bay.

CHAIR —Senator Boswell, I have been informed by the department that the first page of questions was to the wrong committee. Your other questions have been taken on notice.

Dr O’Connell —The first page is the environment department. All of that is the environment department.

Senator BOSWELL —Yes—that is right, it is.

CHAIR —Senator Boswell, do you have one more question?

Senator BOSWELL —I do. My colleague Senator O’Brien and I were in Cairns, and the government was trying to work out a way that the 300 fishermen that infringed the system in the green zones and carried a criminal conviction—and the previous government had a way to get them out of that. Senator O’Brien said that he was sympathetic to the cause of getting those people out of a criminal conviction. Have you done anything about those 300 people?

Dr O’Connell —The environment department is also pursuing that.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Senator Boswell, I think the environment department is speaking on Friday between eight and 10 on climate change. You could put them on notice there if you want to.

Senator BOSWELL —Can you have a look at the $130,000 one, please?

Dr O’Connell —We will take that on notice.

CHAIR —I would like to thank the committee, the department officials and the parliamentary secretary. Thank you very much for your valued time. To the secretariat—I know you have had to put up with some interesting behaviour over the two days. Thank you very much for your support. I also thank Hansard.

Committee adjourned at 11.04 pm