Wednesday, 12 September 2012
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Senator Ludwig. I refer to the minister's supportive statement in question time on Monday regarding the trawler the Abel Tasman. The minister stated—
Government senators interjecting—
The minister stated that output controls such as the total allowable catch, particularly individual transferable quotas, are the preferred approach to fisheries management and that small pelagic fish species including localised depletion were unlikely, and that the Australian Fisheries Management Authority, as the independent authority responsible for the sustainable management of Commonwealth fisheries, has continued to play that role very well. Can the minister explain what has changed since Monday?
I thank Senator Boswell for his interest in fishing. Nothing has changed. I continue to support the independent regulator. I continue to support the way it manages the fishery. But talking about output controls and input controls—correct me if I am wrong, Senator Macdonald—I think it was Senator Macdonald's work that changed it from input controls to output controls.
Contrary to some of the claims that have been made, I am advised that large trawlers were invited here during the Howard government. They invited one, and I think that has been mentioned couple of times, the MV Veronica, and by the time it arrived in 2005, they stopped it. But the nature of this particular vessel was—
Honourable senators interjecting—
One of those areas is that, in that instance, they changed the entire law. They went from input controls, which is gear, right through to output controls. But there is nothing that has changed—AFMA continues to enjoy the government's confidence and continues to be an independent regulator. What is different is that Minister Burke—
Senator Ian Macdonald interjecting—
You interject, I know. But as I have said time and time again, I requested advice at the time from my department about my powers to act, and it was clear that I did not have the power to act under my legislation. As fisheries minister, my responsibility is to make sure that our fisheries remain some of the most sustainable and best managed in the world. That is why I did announce a review with Minister Burke— (Time expired)
Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Seafish Tasmania has worked with Commonwealth officials for seven years. It has met all of AFMA's regulations and now finds the rules have suddenly changed. Is the government prepared to offer compensation to Seafish Tasmania and the small family fishing companies that intended to lease their quotas to Seafish Tasmania and who now face owning an asset that is near worthless. Has the government calculated the cost of compensation?
I thank Senator Boswell for his supplementary question. In terms of the commercial decisions by the operator, they still remain and have a total allowable catch for a particular fishery, which is the small pelagic fishery. Nothing has changed within that. As I have also indicated, nothing has changed in relation to the work that is being done by the independent regulator, AFMA, as the regulator of that fishery.
What has changed is that yesterday we implemented a bill which changes Minister Burke's legislation to allow him to take a certain action. That means it will seek to provide the minister for sustainability—or, in short, the environment—the powers of suspension for a declared fishing activity pending further assessment. It is important that we do the further assessment. It will take roughly 24 months to ensure that we do have the sound science to ensure— (Time expired)
Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Isn't yesterday's decision to change the rules midstream a repeat of last year's live cattle fiasco when the government, without any prior warning, suspended trade to Indonesia? Why would any company invest in Australia when the government abandons firm commercial commitments for no reason and with no notice?
I thank Senator Boswell for his question, although I have answered this a couple of times today. His question misses the point. What we did with live animal exports over some period of time was to move from a place where there was completely no regulation to a place that ensures that the live animal export industry could continue to enjoy having a bright future. It continues to operate. A couple of weeks ago Santori celebrated 50,000 head of cattle going into Indonesia. That industry continues to export to Indonesia, unlike this issue that relates to fishing. An independent authority is already in place; it continues to enjoy the confidence of this government; it continues to do its job. Commercial fishers continue to have respect for AFMA and this government in the way they go about managing— (Time expired)