Senate debates

Thursday, 16 August 2007

Questions without Notice

Fishing Industry

2:31 pm

Photo of Paul CalvertPaul Calvert (Tasmania, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is also to the Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation, Senator Eric Abetz. It relates to Australia’s fishing and seafood sector. Will the minister update the Senate on what actions the Howard government has taken to ensure the long-term economical and environmental sustainability of this industry? What action has the Howard government taken to support the aquaculture sector, particularly in my home state of Tasmania? Is the minister aware of any alternative policies?

Photo of Eric AbetzEric Abetz (Tasmania, Liberal Party, Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank Senator Calvert for this, his last question in this place, and note his genuine and longstanding interest in the issue of fisheries. I note that he devoted a considerable portion of his first speech to the state of fisheries in our home state of Tasmania. The Howard government has taken unprecedented action to better position the Commonwealth fishing industry for a sustainable future and, equally importantly, a profitable future. Through our unprecedented $220 million Securing Our Fishing Future package, the largest structural adjustment package ever offered to the Australian fishing industry, we have decisively dealt with the scourge of modern fisheries: too many fishermen catching too few fish. We have bought back on a voluntary basis over 550 fishing concessions, at a cost of $149 million, to improve the economics of the industry, and at the same time we are progressively rolling out management reforms to ensure the long-term sustainability and productivity of Commonwealth fish stocks.

I am pleased to say that our support for Australia’s valuable seafood industry does not end there. We have stood up for Australia’s interests internationally on southern blue fin tuna. We achieved a sensible and balanced outcome in the south-east marine parks. Last month, we announced new arrangements to protect Australia’s prawn stocks and environment from exotic diseases associated with some imported prawns. I recently had the pleasure of opening the new $137 million Australian Seafood Cooperative Research Centre.

Senator Calvert has also asked me about the very important aquaculture industry in Tasmania, an industry which is very close to his heart and for which he has advocated over many years—in fact, he has sold their product in this place. I am pleased to say that the Howard government is an unashamed supporter of the aquaculture industry, including in our great state of Tasmania. We have invested $3.5 million in the aquaculture industry action agenda, a collaborative initiative with the Australian aquaculture industry. It remains the largest single investment in aquaculture policy development and planning in Australia’s history. This is in addition to our $16.5 million commitment to the Aquafin CRC and our ongoing investment in critical research and development through the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, including a $1.2 million project this year to tackle amoebic gill disease. That might not mean much to others in this chamber, but I know that Senator Calvert fully understands the importance of tackling that disease.

Senator Calvert does not get much wrong and when he does it is in fact good. In his first speech, Senator Calvert predicted that the Tasmanian salmon industry could grow to a total value of $75 million. In fact, the valuable Tasmanian salmon industry grew an impressive $89 million in 2005-06 alone to a total value of $221 million overall. That is three times Senator Calvert’s prediction. I hope that he and his wife enjoy their retirement three times as much as they are hoping for.