Senate debates

Monday, 17 September 2012


Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Declared Commercial Fishing Activities) Bill 2012; Second Reading

8:15 pm

Photo of John WilliamsJohn Williams (NSW, National Party) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to speak on the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Declared Commercial Fishing Activities) Bill 2012. May I congratulate my colleague Senator Macdonald, who covered so many issues in his presentation to this chamber just then. The amazing thing, as Senator Macdonald said, is that last Monday all was sweet. Then, of course, emails came in from the GetUp! crew, the lefties crew and the Greens crew; and this government, instead of having any ticker and sticking up for the jobs and the provision of high-protein food for human beings in Africa, took the populist road again. This is live exports mark II. That is what this is.

In 2009, Minister Burke invited these large supertrawlers to our waters and is quoted as saying:

There are considerable economies of scale in the fishery and the most efficient way to fish may include large scale factory freezer vessels.

So I ask what has changed? What has changed since 2009 when Minister Burke made that quote? Now Minister Burke and Senator Ludwig are all at sea and could not get this legislation right without amendment after amendment. It is just farcical. When they got the legislation to the other place, they made five amendments. They had to call on their ex-colleague, Mr Craig Thomson, the member for Dobell. Now Minister Burke and Senator Ludwig have formed a stereo, monumental mess between them.

The coalition opposes this legislation because it is bad policy. It is flawed; it undermines rigorous science. The Greens are always on about the science: 'We've got to stick with the science'—until it comes to the science of AFMA, the Australian Fisheries Management Authority, that has done the science on this whole fishing project. But of course the science is out the door now. This is more about populism and gaining more votes, so forget the science now.

This is heading the same way as that disgraceful total ban on live cattle trade exports. I had people in my office just a few weeks ago from the Top End, up there in the cattle industry on big properties where they work hard, and now they are in serious financial trouble. What pressure does that put on them? What pressure does that put on their families? What pressure do they face every month when their bills roll in and there is no money to pay those bills? Why did this government put a wholesale ban on live exports? We know, and you know, that the activities in those abattoirs shown on Four Corners were unacceptable to anyone in Australia and we supported the government in immediately stopping the supply of cattle to those abattoirs doing the wrong thing. We all know how Minister Ludwig caved in to the green groups on the live export trade, shutting down a massive operation overnight, putting family operations into a financial mess and causing great hardship. You wonder why, in the Northern Territory election, those people out in the station country deserted Labor. It is because of what you have done to them.

Those live cattle had to be exported at 350 kilos or less. When this government shut down the live exports what happened? Those cattle were held on the properties, overstocked. They should have been gone. Once you overstock any property—sheep, cattle, goats, whatever you are running—there is less feed for the rest of the stock on that property. So as time went on those cattle exceeded 350 kilos. Then they could not, when this government made some effort to restore the live cattle trade to Indonesia, go on the ship; the cattle were overweight. Those people lost their incomes. Those helicopter pilots who do the mustering, and the truckies that this government says it so proudly supports, were out of work.

I notice today, thanks to Mr Windsor, that they have slammed another 2.4 cents a litre diesel tax on our truckies. When a disallowance was put up today in the House of Representatives, where the vote was 65 all, Mr Windsor voted with the government not to allow the disallowance and to allow higher fuel tax on our truckies. Is it any wonder that Tony Sheldon, boss of the Transport Workers Union, says the carbon tax is a death tax? Here is more tax on our truckies' fuel and another almost seven cents due on 1 July 2014. Two cents today; then seven cents—that is nine cents by eight billion litres of fuel, or $720 million dollars of tax each year that the member for New England has voted to add for our truckies. As I said on radio and in the papers, when it comes to the next election there will not be a truckie in Australia that supports this government—not one. You think that raising their fuel tax is going to cool the planet and now, today, you add more to them. You have your figures wrong. You are going on 2008 registrations for the amount of trucks on the road, not 2012. Mr Windsor will certainly be reminded of that come the next election if he is game enough to run in New England.

Indonesia has never forgiven Australia. Senator Ludwig should have got on a plane and gone straight over to Indonesia, met his counterpart, showed him the DVD and told Indonesia, 'We have a problem; let's work together to solve that problem.' In fact it was not long after that that Senator Ludwig went over there with Mr Emerson, the trade minister, and in a desperate state of begging handed out $20 million to the Indonesian government to increase the production of beef in their country. What about the beef producers in Australia that have gone broke because of this government's decision? What did you give them? Next to nothing. Do Australians not mean anything to this government?

I talked about the job losses and the trucks standing in the yards—how they could not pay their lease payments when they could not cart a load of cattle. There are the helicopter pilots, the jackaroos on the stations during the mustering and the local bloke selling fuel to the truckies—how is his business? It has dwindled to very little. It goes right through the whole economy. Of course, this government, this Labor Party that was founded to represent workers, does not care about the 50 jobs lost on the Abel Tasman, where more Australian jobs are gone. Other countries must be looking at Australia and asking themselves why they would do business with Australia. Australia under this government cannot be trusted. They make an agreement and then, without notice, the Gillard-Greens government says, 'We don't like this arrangement any more, so off you go.'

Minister Burke is jumping at shadows. He consulted no-one before making this decision to ban the trawler from Australian waters for two years. The trawler's catch size is no larger than the quota already set for fishers domestically. It has been able to fish to that quota only because it bought the right to do so from Sea Fish Tasmania, buying others out from doing the same. They have bought the leases; they have bought the quota. Who is going to compensate the Abel Tasman and its owners? As surely as I speak here now, the owners will serve a writ on this government for their backflip for simply going back on their word and for the huge cost to the trawler.

The trawler is 142 metres long, but only one-third of it is actually a fishing boat—the rest is freezer and processing facilities. Sea Fish Tasmania, which contracted the Abel Tasman, has complied with every rule and regulation laid down by the Australian Fisheries Management Authority. In fact, AFMA says there are no size restrictions on vessels on a statutory management plan and, if it became Australian flagged, it would be treated the same as any other Australian fishing boat.

AFMA say that in those fishing waters, from Western Australia, through the Great Australian Bight, around Tasmania and up to New South Wales, there are approximately 300,000 tonnes of mackerel. They said you could take 18,000 tonnes—six per cent. And what was that mackerel going to be used for? As we all know, it is an oily fish that goes off quickly when you catch them. They need refrigerating very quickly. There is little or no demand in Australia for human consumption. That 18,000 tonnes of mackerel, which was approved by the science, approved by AFMA and approved by this government until last Tuesday, will no longer go to Africa for high-protein human consumption. It is just like the people in Indonesia who wanted to eat beef, but, no, you had to bring that industry to a stop and now you are doing the same with the fishing industry. What is wrong with feeding people around the world?

The local smaller boats cannot go out as far, of course, but they can catch 18,000 tonnes. The Greens ought to be well aware that the 80,000 tonnes can still be taken with no alteration to the fish stocks. It has been approved; it is just that it cannot be taken for human consumption now. It will go into fishmeal. I am very familiar with fishmeal. It is a high-protein additive that we have used in our piggery for many years for the younger weaner pigs where you need high-protein, high-energy food to grow them. That is where the fish will go, not to human consumption. There has been no alteration to the volume of fish that will be taken from the oceans. Instead, it cannot be used for human consumption. Why not? Because it is not popular and the emails started coming in.

The Greens saw this as some way to defend their reputation and say, 'Look at me! Shut down the forests, lock everything up, form all these national parks and don't allow grazing in them to lower the fuel levels. Just let the grass and the twigs build up to the stage of 150 tonnes of fuel on the ground per hectare,' and then the lightning will strike. If it is a hot windy day, you will have no hope in the world of controlling the fire. The hot fire gets up to the crowns of the trees and destroys the trees. The fire travels at such a pace that animals cannot get away from it. So what do we do? We lock up land for national parks where we kill animals and destroy forests and trees, and the Greens call it conservation. I call stupidity. Until you learn to manage the country, sadly, just like the Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria, savage fires will continue. Fifty per cent of the country burnt there was national park land. There was 90 million tonnes of carbon dioxide produced. And here we are with this crazy carbon tax that is going to allow Australia's emissions to go from 578 million tonnes a year to 621 million tonnes a year—we are going to increase it by 43 million tonnes a year—but that does not matter. Ninety million tonnes of carbon dioxide was estimated to have been produced by the Black Saturday bushfires because of Greens policy: lock it up and leave it.

In the last few years we have had a lot of rain and some good seasons. The red gum forest at Deniliquin will be next, and red gum will not stand fire. It will not regenerate; fire destroys it. I have been through the 900 hectares that has been burnt near Deniliquin. When the fire went through, the local miller said, 'Can we cut it down for timber? Can we process it? If we don't do it quickly, within 12 months the timber will crack and it will be destroyed.' The National Parks Association said, 'Oh no, you can't cut that resource down and use that. You must leave it standing.' A couple of years later they said, 'Can we cut it down for firewood and let another forest grow?' and the National Parks Association said, 'No, you can't do that. You can't cut down the destroyed timber and use it for firewood.' So we have 900 hectares of just dead trees. Some of you Greens ought to go and have a look at the red gum forest and see what fire does to it. When Forestry managed it, there was grazing. For over 100 years that forest was managed well and sustainably, and the millers did the right thing. You watch it get destroyed. I hope I do not stand up in this place next February and say, 'I told you so.'

We have the same situation with this whole fishing fiasco now facing the Senate. Government staff confirm no scientific authorities or individuals have been consulted in formulating the legislation before the Senate. This legislation is about giving the ultimate power to the minister. When the legislation went before the House of Representatives it covered all fishing, including recreational fishers. Well, what a fiasco! You would lose a heap of votes there if the minister can say: 'You cannot hang that line over that jetty. I am the minister. I have the whole say about who fishes where.' The laughable thing is that those opposite had to run to their ex-colleague, Mr Craig Thomson, the member for Dobell, to move the amendment. That is how much of a laughing stock they have become.

Last week there was an interesting exchange on Sunrise when shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey asked Minister Burke whether Seafish Tasmania had complied with the law up until then. Minister Burke said:

Up until now, yeah. They have.

Seafish Tasmania has complied by the law. This has been going on for years. They have done everything right. Shadow Treasurer Mr Hockey then said:

And now you change the law when the boat arrives.

Minister Burke said:

That's right, because I believe the law fell short of what we need to do.

So, in two sentences, the government completely reversed its position. Talk about a sovereign risk! This company must have spent hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars to go through a contract to get permission, the approval of AFMA, to fish. And what happens now? Because of this backflipping government, because of emails, because of the Greens, because of Getup!, because of the lefties and because the boat happens to be bigger than any other boat—two-thirds of the boat is actually for processing, refrigeration and freezing—this boat now has to be shut down.

I will come to the point again about compensation. Seafish Tasmania could sue the government for lost income—and I have no doubt that they will. I have no doubt that they have every right to do exactly that. Because you cannot break your word with people in business. For years Seafish Tasmania have worked through the science with AFMA to develop a program to take 18,000 tonne of high protein feed to another continent. For what? To actually feed human beings. But, as I said last week in this place, it appears that human beings do not matter to many in this chamber. I gave you the example: I get all these emails to ban live exports or to ban the super trawler, but when we have women being stoned to death—a brutal inhumane act—in some country for supposedly committing adultery, I do not get any emails about that. Are people more concerned about fish than they are about the life of a human being? What is this world coming to? This is what we are getting at. And GetUp! and all their leftie associations fire off the emails. It is just amazing: I get 100 emails. And guess what? They are the same, word for word. There have the same exclamation mark, the same comma, the same a full stop. You would think they had been copied and pasted. Or is it just a big network sending them out to their happy gang of lefties, saying: 'Here. Send this off to the politicians.' I have said to my staff, 'When you get those emails, don't reply to them.' If people have not got the time to write their own email, I do not see why my staff have to put in their time to reply to some of these gang emails that are sent out by the hundreds and even thousands because of some leftist group who is actually forcing Australia to go back on our word, to go back on our commitment, to become a sovereign risk and to get the taxpayers to cough up the compensation.

It should be Minister Ludwig and Minister Burke who pay the compensation out of their own pockets if this all comes to grief in the court. They are the ones who have caused it all. They should get the money off their buddies over there who have supported them, the Greens, those Independents who supported them and their Labor colleagues. They should hand the hat around. They should pay for it. They made the mess. They should fix it. Why should the hardworking mums and dads of Australia pay for their mistakes. What Labor have done here is absolutely crazy.

This legislation makes a mockery of the whole Australian Fisheries Management Authority, which the government relies on for scientific advice. AFMA have done the hard work. They have done the hard yards. They have brought in the facts. Around six per cent of the mackerel would have been fished for human consumption, and now it will not. As I said, if the summons comes on, then I do not blame the people involved if it does. The people on that side, the Labor senators, and the Greens as well as the same lot in the other place, who have brought in this disgraceful legislation are destroying our name and making us go back on our word, should hand the hat around. As my father always used to say: your word is your word and it is worth more than any piece of paper you can ever sign. Those opposite are giving us a disgraceful reputation by going back on their word and pandering to the Greens and the do-gooders.


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