Senate debates

Tuesday, 18 September 2012


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

1:37 pm

Photo of Ron BoswellRon Boswell (Queensland, National Party) Share this | Hansard source

And the rec fishers too, which brings me to the Friday of the bill going through. The bill went up, and all of a sudden there were complaints from the rec fishers. They wanted to be excluded, and so an amendment was moved to exclude them, which the coalition supported. And then the commercial fishermen said: 'Well, this bill as it stands could have an effect on our quota, on our licences. You can just about override anything and make our licences and our quotas totally devalued.' So there had to be another amendment go in there. In the end, the bill was amended to the extent that it only covers any new operation and it only covers one boat—that is, the Abel Tasman.

I find it very difficult to understand why Mr Burke and Senator Ludwig actually encouraged people to go out, find a partner and then come back and discuss it with the AFMA. The AFMA welcomed them and told them there would be no size restriction on their vessel and that the boat, if it became an Australian boat, if it was Australian flagged, would be treated as an Australian fishing boat. That is encouragement in the best possible way.

But then they found out that they were persona non grata. Mr Gerry Green, the owner of Seafish Tasmania, told Senator Ludwig that they had reached an agreement with the Dutch trawler: the boat would hold a capacity of 4,500 tonnes and the crew would be mainly recruited from Tasmania. The boat would be based in Devonport. Fifty local jobs would be provided to the new boat. Jobs are gold in Tasmania. Tasmania has been at the cutting edge of losing jobs. Not only would there be jobs on the boat, there would also be more activity in the port, which would require a lot of container movements, so there would be more jobs provided there.

All this has changed virtually overnight, despite the authority saying there are considerable economies of scale in fisheries and the most efficient way to fish includes large freezer vessels. The other point that has been raised is about the Abel Tasman. Senator Scullion, who knows fishing backwards, made this point: if a boat of 142 metres can go out more than 100 kilometres offshore and stay out overnight, stay out for weeks at a time, freeze the product and bring it back, then it is going to be more efficient to have one boat than a number of smaller boats harvesting the quota. Seafish Tasmania said it will adopt a 'move on' policy: it would not stay long in one place and it would spread catches throughout the fishery.

The Dutch have done everything in their power to play the game. They are not a neighbour like Indonesia, but they are still an important trading partner to us. We have insulted them. This is on top of the live cattle debate with our No. 1 neighbour. The Indonesians are still furious that we cut off their protein supply in midstream. That was done to our most important neighbour. If you do that to your friends, what are you going to do to your enemies? But Tony Burke has done this before. I can recall the Wilderness Society's relentless pressure to stop the project on Cape York from proceeding.


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