House debates

Tuesday, 8 November 2016


Tasmania: Salmon Industry

7:40 pm

Photo of Andrew WilkieAndrew Wilkie (Denison, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

I was somewhat amused yesterday to read a letter in the Mercury newspaper from Labor senator Carol Brown in which she claims that my boycott of Tasmanian salmon will single-handedly destroy the entire industry. I can only assume that she thinks I eat an awful lot of salmon. Writing about the explosive claims on last Monday's ABC TV Four Corners program, Senator Brown made more sense when she wrote that 'it is vital that the salmon industry is properly and sustainably managed to ensure it continues to provide jobs for Tasmanians.' That comment is fair enough, I suggest, but it is the height of hypocrisy because if the Liberal and Labor parties really cared about jobs they would stop slinging mud at me and instead act decisively to ensure the Tasmanian aquaculture industry is put on a genuinely sustainable footing. That means meeting the strictest environmental, social and economic criteria. The fact is that there is deep concern in the Tasmanian community right now about salmon farming, and that concern is not going to go away by the Liberal and Labor parties sticking their fingers in their ears and ignoring it. Nor will they make it go away by calling me churlish and claiming I am not 'supporting an industry with an international reputation nor standing up for Tasmanian jobs.' The point here is that the Tasmanian salmon industry is now on notice to improve its practices, and the government is on notice to improve the regulatory framework. That is the only thing that will keep the jobs that we have now, and that is the only thing that will allow the industry to grow in the future.

When I read Senator Brown's letter in the Mercury it took me a while to realise that I was not reading a letter from Senator Eric Abetz, because it was almost identical to the sorts of ridiculous and alarmist claims that he made in a press release last week, including that I was single-handedly putting 5,200 jobs at risk by expressing my concern about the salmon industry. He said, 'Our salmon industry is one of the best in the world,' but if there were no problems in the Tasmanian salmon industry then there would not be the groundswell of community concern both before and after Four Corners. If everything was fine and there was nothing to worry about, then we would not even be having this discussion in this place tonight.

The problem is that the Liberal and Labor parties like to talk about jobs but they do not follow through with the policies that create them. In other words, it is just a buzzword. What these parties obviously do not understand is that if you really want to create jobs you have to look beyond the next election and beyond cynical politics and cheap point-scoring. That is something the two major parties are terribly bad at. We are seeing it with salmon farming, but there are many other examples where the Liberal and Labor parties are destroying jobs in Tasmania. There are the savage cuts to universities and science which are putting at risk Hobart's reputation as a centre of excellence for science and research, and there is the refusal to send defence work to Tasmania even though we have a world-class defence manufacturing precinct at Prince of Wales Bay.

The salmon farming situation is deja vu in Tasmania because it is the same debate that we have been having for years about the forestry industry, where instead of forcing change and putting the industry on a sustainable footing the Liberal and Labor parties have simply kowtowed to big business and refused to acknowledge that there is a problem. We keep making the same mistakes. Here is the problem: the Liberal and Labor parties might like to claim that they are different but at the end of the day they are like peas in a pod—Pinky and Perky. Senators Brown and Abetz in particular are singing from the same songbook. But this is not just one example of a pair of alarmingly strange bedfellows. Despite all their confected differences, the Liberal and Labor parties in Tasmania are pretty much identical. They both have no understanding of the public interest and not a clue about what policies will genuinely create jobs. The only jobs they are interested in are their own—and then they wonder why the community holds them in contempt. For my part, I look forward to resuming my eating of Tassie salmon—after the industry has cleaned up its act and has demonstrated that it has cleaned up its act.