Thursday, 13 September 2012
Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Declared Fishing Activities) Bill 2012; Consideration in Detail
I will just address briefly this question of social and economic considerations. It was very important that this found its way into the bill in the first place. It is a core argument which has been made by the people who have concerns about this supertrawler—and rightly so. The environment is not separate from people. The EPBC Act contains a general requirement for the minister to consider social and economic impacts when making decisions. The social and economic considerations in relation to environmental decisions are not just legitimate but essential. For example, in approvals of coal seam gas wells the impact on local communities as well as the environment are legitimately taken into account. In fact, if the minister did have the power and did more often take into account social impact we would see a lot less disruption of the environment.
But essentially this first amendment shows that those who support it do not have the same level of concern about the impact of the supertrawler on local fishing communities, the viability of the local fishing industry or the jobs impact. Fishing is an important industry for many small communities. For some communities, it is a major source of employment. The impact of the supertrawler could potentially devastate a small local economy. Ministers should be required to take into account the potential social and economic impact their decisions could have.
Fishing Party attacks on the Greens at the last election, which came thick and fast, now have a great degree of irony because here it is the Greens who are the only party standing up for recreational fishing by opposing these amendments. The effect of these will be to open the door to the supertrawler in two years time, and what we share with recreational fishers is an understanding of the environment, of the need to maintain fish stocks and of the damage massive commercial fishing operations can do not just in relation to the amount of fish that they take but to the ocean. Massive commercial fishing operations like the supertrawler catch much, much more than the fish that they intend to take for consumption. They also catch other fish of interest to recreational fishers. This activity disturbs the ocean's ecosystems to the detriment of all who enjoy the ocean.
So the social and economic interests should be taken into account. They were the basis of the concern about the supertrawler and the reason this bill was being introduced. It is hypocritical to now remove them from that very legislation.