Wednesday, 12 September 2012
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Senator Ludwig. I refer to the press conference that the minister held yesterday with the minister for the environment, in which he said he was introducing new fisheries legislation because he was uncertain of the effects that larger boats would have on the industry. I also refer to the 26 July statement available on the AFMA website, which says:
AFMA has found no evidence that larger boats pose a higher risk to either commercial species or broader marine ecosystem when total catches are limited and the limits are enforced.
How can the minister claim that there was uncertainty about larger boats when the evidence from AFMA was so clear and so unambiguous?
I thank Senator Colbeck for his question. The Australian Fisheries Management Authority, as Senator Colbeck knows, is an independent authority responsible for the sustainable management of Commonwealth fisheries. I do have confidence in AFMA and the strength of the fisheries science behind the small pelagic fishery.
There are uncertainties around environmental science regarding the impacts of large freezer vessels on endangered species and other wildlife, and the government has taken separate action in this regard. The Gillard government has introduced legislation to toughen up environmental controls on vessels like the supertrawler. To this end, the government will seek to provide the Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, working with the minister for fisheries, with greater powers under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.Of course, what these powers will do is to allow for the suspension of declared fishing activities pending further assessment of the proposed activity if there is uncertainty about the environmental, social or economic impacts of the fishing activity.
This government remains a strong defender of Australian fisheries. This world-leading fishery management system was established under the Hawke government—a Labor government—not a coalition government. If you look at the record of the coalition government in this, which I may come to, you will find it lacking. Yesterday, with Minister Burke, I did announce proposed changes to legislation. I also announced the first major root-and-branch review of the fisheries management system. Whilst the— (Time expired)
Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I refer to the statement by the CEO of AFMA on 26 July that unwanted bycatch from non-target species by midwater trawlers is 'exceptionally low'. How can the ministers claim that there was uncertainty about bycatch when the evidence from AFMA was so clear and so unambiguous?
If Senator Colbeck looked at the press release that I put out—if he has missed something in the last couple of months in following the fisheries website—he would also note that there is a bycatch strategy release that has been put out by me for review. Why? Because it needs to be updated. There have been uncertainties created through that. That was done back in March; so it has not been something that has happened suddenly. I would expect that he would, hopefully, at least do his research before asking those questions.
It is an area where the review that I announced yesterday will also give him an opportunity of having input into the system, because— (Time expired)
Again, I thank Senator Colbeck for his question. Again, it seems to me that the opposition missed the press conference yesterday and what it actually entailed.
We are amending the environmental act to allow Minister Burke to deal with environmental concerns that he had raised. The Australian Fisheries Management Authority continues to be well supported by government. It is an independent regulatory authority and it has been getting on with its job of managing the fisheries. It does deal with individual fisheries, such as the small pelagic fishery, but there are two different issues. One is the concerns that Minister Burke raised under the environmental act; and those others, which are created under the small pelagic fishery. What the opposition are missing in all of that is that they seek to confuse the two. They are two separate—