Senate debates

Thursday, 5 March 2015


Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment Bill 2014; Second Reading

9:31 am

Photo of Sue LinesSue Lines (WA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise today to support the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment Bill 2014. Most Australians have a love of the ocean, whether we live in our coastal fringes or in more regional and remote communities. Our love of the ocean is legendary. We want our oceans to be pristine and to be protected. Australians also love eating seafood. It is part of the way of our life, and it is also part of our national holidays, particularly the festive season, when our fresh fish outlets often open for 24 to 36 hours straight. Australians consume around 25 kilos of seafood every year. We pride ourselves on the quality of our seafood, yet do many of us stop to think about its sustainability? This is not just a fringe issue for a select group of environmentalists. If we want to continue to consume good-quality seafood then we all have a responsibility to ensure its sustainability and, more broadly, the sustainability of our oceans.

There are fish stocks statistics produced by the United Nations which are alarming and should, whether we consider ourselves to be environmentalists or not, make us stop and take note and force us as parliamentarians to do something positive towards the sustainability of our fish stocks. Fifty-three per cent of the world's fisheries are fully exploited—53 per cent—and 32 per cent are overexploited, depleted or recovering from depletion. Most of our top 10 marine fisheries, accounting for about 30 per cent of all capture fisheries production, are fully exploited or overexploited. Our oceans are not an endless resource. The WWF reports that UN figures indicate that over 85 per cent of the world's fish stocks are now fished up to full capacity or are overfished. In a world—according to the World Wildlife Fund—with an ever-expanding population, the question is how we can balance what we take from the seas and how we keep the oceans healthy so we can ensure that we have fish into the future.

When in government, Labor recognised the importance of a sustainable fishing industry. Labor recognised that our fish stocks needed to be protected, and we recognised that the livelihood of those who work in the industry needed protecting as well. When in government, Labor acted. Now, in opposition, our concern for sustainable fishing, for protecting the industry, for ensuring jobs and for keeping our oceans and our fish stocks sustainable continues.

In 2012 Labor stopped the supertrawler before it started fishing in our oceans. We have seen, in our neighbouring countries, what supertrawlers have done to local fishing industries, and we certainly do not want to see that absolute depletion of fish stocks and livelihood, and a way of life being stopped, in Australia. Labor responded to this threat because of tough new powers that we implemented with the community's support.

I would like to think that the threat of supertrawlers has gone away, but it has not. The powers that Labor used to stop the first supertrawler were opposed by Mr Abbott and the Liberals when in opposition. Australia now needs protection again from supertrawlers. We need to ensure that our oceans, our recreational fishers, fishing businesses and livelihoods are protected and have certainty. Under this private senator's bill, proposed by Labor Senator Ludwig, new supertrawlers will have to face the same tough response that the original supertrawlers faced.

Mr Abbott and the Liberals have had over six months to do something to stop future supertrawlers and to protect our oceans, but they have failed—absolutely failed. Why would we be surprised? We know from the Abbott government that if it has a whiff of environmental about it, if it has a whiff of sustainability about it, if it has a whiff of protecting our environment for the future, it is not something that they are interested in. It is something that they will do whatever is in their power to move against. We know from experience that it is only those at the big end of town that get protection from the Abbott government. On environmental issues, on issues of sustainability, on climate change, the Abbott government just turn their backs.

Labor, with this bill, will not allow the Abbott government to turn its back on the issue of supertrawlers. Certainly, Labor will not be turning our back on ensuring the sustainability of our oceans, their fish stocks or our fishing industry. Senator Ludwig has moved to introduce this bill because the Abbott government has failed to take action to protect the livelihood of businesses in the fishing industry, has failed to take action to protect our oceans and has failed to take action to ensure that fishing and fish are sustainable. It is only Labor who is standing up for our oceans, for local business and for recreational fishers. To date, the government has done nothing.

I would like to reflect back. When Labor introduced these powers in September 2012, they were opposed up hill and down dale by the Liberal and National parties. The then opposition, in their usual Tea Party way, were convinced of a Labor-Greens conspiracy. We hear that in this place day in, day out—some kind of conspiracy. They did not think any more science or research was needed, and they did not want to stop the supertrawler. Yet the Prime Minister recently had the gall to say that it was banned with the support of members on his side of the House. The truth is there in the Hansard, the truth is there in the media, and the truth was there in 2012, when they were opposed to Labor's bill. The Abbott government are yet to do even the most basic work required to implement sensible root-and-branch reform of fisheries management as recommended by the Borthwick review and responded to by Labor in March 2013. Those are the facts.

This Labor private senator's bill, put up by Senator Ludwig, will make the government put their money where their mouth is. Will they stand by their voting record and their convictions, or will they follow the leader, the self-professed weathervane, who has tried to rewrite history?

The bill restores the powers to enable the minister for sustainability, environment, water, population and communities, with the agreement of the Commonwealth fisheries minister, to make an interim declaration that a fishing activity is a prohibited declared commercial fishing activity while an expert panel assesses the potential environmental impacts of the activity. The bill will allow them, with the agreement of the Commonwealth fisheries minister, to make a final declaration for a period no longer than 24 months that a fishing activity is a prohibited declared commercial fishing activity. The bill in all senses protects the Australian industry. It protects our fishing stocks, and it protects the livelihoods of so many people employed in that industry.

As the government has refused to act to protect our fisheries or stand up for recreational fishers, it has left it to Labor to do so. If I think back again to 2012, when Minister Burke was in the chair, some of the National Party—in fact, it was Senator Williams in this instance—accused the minister of jumping at shadows. How could you be so misinformed of all of the data about supertrawlers as to accuse the minister of jumping at shadows? Senator Williams went on to try to convince Australians that the trawler's catch size was no larger than the quota already set for fishers domestically, yet we saw huge community concern not just in Tasmania but right across Australia. Australians were very, very concerned and very opposed to supertrawler activity.

Photo of Richard ColbeckRichard Colbeck (Tasmania, Liberal Party, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Williams was right.

Photo of Sue LinesSue Lines (WA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

And here we have, Mr Deputy President, heckling from those opposite. Are they already setting the course of once again burying their heads in the sand, not looking at the science and not looking at what has happened to our fish stocks across the world?

Those statistics from the United Nations are alarming. Quite frankly, if the Abbott government are not alarmed by them, they are showing their total disregard not only for our environment, not only for our oceans and not only for our fish stocks but for the livelihoods of those in Australia who work in the fishing industry. Let us have a look at what is happening here. Again, the opposition from the Liberals when in opposition was overwhelming. They never, ever let science get in the way of their Tea Party, head-in-the sand beliefs. We are going to act.

We saw earlier this year what they wanted to do with pristine wilderness in Tasmania. Tasmania seems to be a particular target of the Abbott government. They seem to think it is just their plaything, a place for them to wreck and to overfish. Well, it is not, and the world is watching. We saw their quite frankly embarrassing attempt to take back some pristine wilderness in Tasmania, and they got well and truly slapped over that. They told mistruths. They tried to pretend it was not a pristine environment—and they were wrong.

They are also wrong on supertrawlers and they will be held to account for their failure to act. Are they going to continue to argue that, somehow, supertrawlers are good for us, the environment and the fishing industry? Is that what they are going to try to demonstrate here today? It will be a tragedy if that is what they are going to try to do.

Australia is not unique or alone. We have to manage our fishing industry sustainably—and we do not have a bad record in that regard. It is not the best record, but it is not a bad record. We do not live in a closeted, closed environment. We need to be a model for other countries in the world. We need to play a part in urging other countries to run their fishing industries sustainably. We cannot do that if we support supertrawlers. We cannot be that good role model—we just can't. What happens here happens across the world. Our fish stocks are at alarmingly low levels and in many areas fish species are not going to recover.

Photo of Richard ColbeckRichard Colbeck (Tasmania, Liberal Party, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture) Share this | | Hansard source

What a load of bullshit!

Photo of Jacinta CollinsJacinta Collins (Victoria, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Cabinet Secretary) Share this | | Hansard source

That is unparliamentary language.

Photo of Gavin MarshallGavin Marshall (Victoria, Deputy-President) Share this | | Hansard source

Just a moment, Senator Lines

Photo of Richard ColbeckRichard Colbeck (Tasmania, Liberal Party, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture) Share this | | Hansard source

I withdraw.

Photo of Gavin MarshallGavin Marshall (Victoria, Deputy-President) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you. Please continue, Senator Lines.

Photo of Sue LinesSue Lines (WA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It is so typical of this government that it does not bother to read the science. It thinks its bullyboy tactics will work, but they will not work. They do not work on the Australian public and they certainly do not work in here. The stats are there for all to see. Presumably the government is now disputing the United Nations stats on fisheries. We will hear the government's views today.

This bill is absolutely worthy of support. It is a bill that Labor is proud to put forward. It is a bill which shows the abject failure of the Abbott government to act in this area—their absolute failure. I can only assume that their view has not changed since 2012. I can only assume, from the kinds of comments we have heard in this place this morning, that their Tea Party, ignorant, head-in-the-sand attitude towards our oceans is continuing. But this bill is worthy. It creates an expert panel, it looks at science and it looks at research—all of the things the Abbott government has so far failed to do. Let us put the science on the table. Let us put the research on the table. Let us start to make decisions that are fully backed up by experts. While some in here might think they are expert in particular areas, they are not. It has been proven over and over again that the Abbott government cannot be trusted in any area where sustainability is needed—unless it is sustaining their mates at the big end of town or unless it is about ripping off ordinary Australians. They are perfectly happy to do that, but on our environment, on climate change and on the protection of our pristine forests, our oceans and our fish, they have been found sadly wanting. I commend the bill to the parliament.

Photo of Christopher BackChristopher Back (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I oppose Senator Ludwig's private senator's bill, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment Bill 2014. What the bill attempts to do is amend the EPBC Act to repeal a sunset provision and enable the minister to establish an independent expert panel to conduct an assessment of the potential environmental impacts of a declared commercial fishing activity and to prohibit that declared fishing activity while the assessment is undertaken. Like the mover of the bill, Senator Ludwig, it is redundant. It is, like Senator Ludwig, superfluous. In the words of the Oxford dictionary, it—and Senator Ludwig, for that matter—can be omitted without any loss of significance.

So let us go to what we are dealing with in this particular bill. Senator Lines was not around, so she can be excused for her relative ignorance in the area. But I want to place on record, if I may, the history of this whole sad debacle and the fact that the coalition, in opposition and then in government, had to help the Labor Party out and help the country out, as we so often do. It goes to the failed Mr Burke. Mr Burke was then Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. When we are speaking about supertrawlers, Senator Lines might not be aware but I would like to remind those who are that it was indeed Mr Burke, the failed then minister, who in his role as agriculture minister created the issue. What did he do in 2009? Senator Colbeck will remember. He invited these types of vessels as part of his 2009 small pelagic harvest strategy. I am going to quote from Mr Burke, if I can, just to embarrass him a bit further, if that is possible. He said:

    That was in AFMA's Small Pelagic Fishery Harvest Strategy of 2009, page 2, in case Senator Lines wants to have a look at it. Indeed, he went on to trumpet further:

    This is the first time a trawler with a storage capacity of 2000 tonne or more—

    get these words, Deputy President

    is likely to operate in an Australian fishery …

    Subsequently, we had an environment minister in the Labor government who put a different position. Who do you think that environment minister might have been? Could it have been Mr Shorten? No. Was it Ms Gillard? No. It was none other than Mr Tony Burke—the same person, now with a different hat. He had taken his agriculture and fisheries hat off, he had put his environment hat on, and what did he say to Senator Colbeck? He completely bungled the development and introduction of the declared fishing activities bill in 2012. It is amazing what three years does. It is a long time in politics, isn't it, really?

    In fact this legislation, as Senator Colbeck pointed out to him at the time, was so bad it needed amendment within hours of its introduction. Why? Because, as Senator Colbeck said at the time, Labor did not understand fisheries or fisheries management. Their bill initially banned, if you do not mind, recreational charter boats! That is how much Mr Burke understood. That was the guy who encouraged the Dutch at that time to come into our waters, but of course he did not understand the difference between recreational and commercial fishing. Needless to say, the declared fishing activities amendment bill was so bad there was a 12-month sunset clause to kill it off.

    So there was Senator Ludwig, once upon a time, standing up for Australian fishers. And who was the agriculture and fisheries minister when his colleague reversed what he had done in 2009? It was Senator Ludwig, the very man who then subsequently failed to protect the very industry of which he was the minister. But he has plenty of form in that because, as we know, as agriculture minister he failed to stand up to Ms Gillard when she went ahead and banned the live export trade of cattle to Indonesia and subsequently to other markets. So he has form in his failure to stand up for anything or anybody.

    I will come in a few moments to an explanation of why this particular bill is redundant and superfluous. It can be omitted from the statute without any loss of significance. At the time, there were Greens amendments—and I am sure Senator Whish-Wilson will speak to his amendment again this morning—but just let me put on the record what the then minister, Senator Ludwig, said in August 2012 in response to a Greens motion in this area. Again I quote Minister Ludwig, then the minister, now the redundant, irrelevant senator who has introduced this bill. This is what he said about a disallowance motion moved by the Greens political party:

    This disallowance motion is a message that the Greens political party—

    his words, not mine—

    do not support sustainable catch limits based on science. It is a message that says the Greens want fisheries managed by politics, not qualified fisheries managers. And it says that the Greens do not support the commercial operators who fish in some of—

    listen to this, Senator Lines—through you, Deputy President—

    the world's best managed fisheries.

    He is actually talking about Australian commercial fisheries. Isn't it amazing? He went on to talk about the fact that:

    … the same disregard—

    that the Greens would have—

    for the science and management of our commercial fisheries will be extended to the legitimate pursuit of recreational fishing.

    Do you remember that it was Minister Burke who could not get it right between commercial and recreational boats of certain distances, certain lengths and certain tonnages? But Minister Ludwig at the time then stood up and said:

    … I will not allow the emotive politics of the Greens political party to run fisheries management policy in this country. We will ensure that the Australian Fisheries Management Authority is independent, that it makes independent decisions based on the science through its expert commissioners—

    and on he went.

    It begs the question: why is Senator Ludwig bringing this bill back in? Indeed, you would not believe it; despite all that 'failure' that we have heard of from Senator Lines, do you know what the Abbott government has done? It has done what Labor failed to do. It has done what Labor could not do. It has actually banned these supertrawlers.

    So what does Senator Ludwig want in this particular bill? What he wants is for taxpayers to pay for reviews of more scientific reviews. How unusual would that be for the Labor Party? Use taxpayers' funds frivolously to actually review the scientific reviews. He wants the creation of a panel to review every declared activity. It is a waste of taxpayers' money, a deliberate step to try and politicise fisheries management. After his own failure and that of his colleague Mr Burke, you would think that the last thing he would want to do is introduce a bill like this to give the wider Australian community the opportunity to expose Labor for what it was in government.

    We already have the world's leading fisheries management. It is in place. We already have the assessments under the EPBC Act. We have said before and we will go on saying it through our minister, Minister Colbeck: the coalition have confidence in the sustainability of Australian fisheries managed by AFMA. The only thing that this bill will do is introduce more red tape.

    Let me go to what the coalition is doing and has done in government. We oppose the bill and we oppose the Greens' amendment. Senator Ludwig, of course, is left lamenting what is now a redundant and superfluous bill. We did what they could not do: we banned the supertrawlers. We are bringing in regulation under the Fisheries Management Act, where it belongs and where it should always have remained, had the Labor Party not tried to fiddle with it. We support and will continue to support commercial, recreational and Indigenous fishers, and we are committed to the continuation of Australia's well-managed fishery. We have confidence in AFMA. We have confidence—I certainly have confidence—in the minister because of his deep knowledge of and association with the industry. I have had the privilege and pleasure of being with him and working with him and watching him as he interacts around Australia with both commercial and recreational fishers. I recall—

    Photo of Peter Whish-WilsonPeter Whish-Wilson (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

    What about southern bluefin tuna?

    Photo of Christopher BackChristopher Back (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

    Don't get on to southern bluefin tuna, Senator Whish-Wilson—

    Photo of Gavin MarshallGavin Marshall (Victoria, Deputy-President) Share this | | Hansard source


    Photo of Christopher BackChristopher Back (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

    because all we will talk about is Mr Graeme Wood and the Triabunna mill in Tasmania. Senator Whish-Wilson would be wise to not start going down that path, Deputy President, I can assure you. It is interesting in Tasmania. I will get to Tasmania in a few minutes because the Tasmanian commercial fishing industry were a very significant client of mine when I had a business in Tasmania, and what a tragedy it is today to see where that industry has landed itself as a result of the efforts of the Greens. But of course, through the agency of the minister, it is trying to re-establish and recreate itself.

    Let me go to the excellence of the Australian industry. We have heard commentary this morning about the UN and all its protestations. I heard a few protestations by the UN when I was there in 2013. I heard an absolutely nonsensical statement made by a woman in the UN. She made the observation that bushfires in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales were due to climate change! It sat down with those people and explained to them what a Mediterranean climate, eucalypt-dominated forest in a summer dry season creates—and it was not climate change. But it does remind me that I want to draw attention to the excellence of Australia's and particularly Western Australia's commercial fishing operations. I want to go to the Marine Stewardship Council, which is the international body that is actually the final arbiter of excellence or otherwise of the management of fisheries.

    What do you think was the first fishery in the world to be certified under the MSC standards? It was, of course, Western Australia's western rock lobster industry. It is the most significant, single species fishery in Australia. It was in the year 2000—Senator Sterle would know this from being familiar with it all—that it became the first fishery in the world to be so certified as a well-managed and sustainable fishery, and it earned the right to market its product internationally under the MSC eco label. As a result of the wonderful work of Mr Robb, in his capacity to negotiate a free trade agreement between Australia and China—something that the Labor government were not able to do in six years—that we are now going to see an improvement and an increase in the export of western rock lobsters directly into the Chinese market. The species of crustacean will go into that market live and fresh and will go straight onto the tables—demonstrating again not only the excellence of our industry but also the demand for the freshness of our product.

    The management of that fishery began in 1963. It has one of the longest-running management plans of any fishery in Australia and probably in the world. It has collected accurate data over time. It was in July 2010, following approaches from industry, that the then minister for fisheries announced that the western rock lobster fishery would be managed under an individual quota management system. Those of us associated with that fishery know what the improvement has been of allowing fishing 365 days of the year and a fishing quota so that the fishermen can decide on market demand and their capacity to maximise their returns, maximise the value and maximise the supply into our target markets.

    But let me stay, if I may, with the Marine Stewardship Council, particularly in terms of the comments made only recently in this chamber about the supposed failed management of our fisheries. What is another Australian fishery that is certified under the Marine Stewardship Council? It is the patagonian toothfish fishery. An interesting point about it is that the product is frozen at sea and retains and remains the highest quality. I know Senator Urquhart and Senator Whish-Wilson would also be very interested in this, because it is Tasmanian fishers who are active in the patagonian toothfish fishery. It is another one that has been certified. It is another one that has an international certification of excellence.

    Another fishery, which I think Senator Ruston would be interested in, with an international certification is the Northern Prawn Fishery—an Australian fishery. Do you knowing something else about it, Madam Acting Deputy President? It also has product that is frozen at sea, which retains the highest quality, so that it comes back to customers in Australia and overseas at the absolute best level. I do not know why it is that there are people in this place who have to run down our commercial fisheries.

    But let me now come to the small pelagic fishery, because at this time it is undergoing a certification process by the Marine Stewardship Council. Geographically, where does the small pelagic fishery operate? It is everywhere from the New South Wales border right around to my home state of Western Australia. As I said, it is undergoing a certification process at this very time.

    Before I move on, I want to remind those who are listening to this particular contribution that the MSC certified Patagonian toothfish fishery and the Northern Prawn Fishery are both fisheries which rely on the product being frozen at sea and retaining the highest quality prior to its consumption. So let us not demonise the processing of a product, as so many people seem so willing to do, or say that allowing it to be frozen in some way deteriorates it or in some way adversely impacts on the fishery itself.

    To answer some of the questions that have been asked, the coalition, in government, commissioned the expert panel, and the expert panel has reported. It responded to the commercial fishing activity declaration that was made on 19 November 2012 under the EPBC Act. It defined the Small Pelagic Fishery and said that the activity was in such a fishery using midwater trawl methods. It specified the length of vessels and has reported. This independent Australian expert scientific panel has now completed its assessment of the potential impact of supertrawlers—that is, boats greater than 130 metres—in this fishery. It focused its attention on assessing the potential impact of these trawlers on the marine environment and protected species including seals, dolphins and seabirds, and the potential for localised depletion of target species.

    The panel provided the environment minister with its report in mid-October. It was published, as we always do because of the demand for transparency, on 19 November 2014. The report gave a big tick to the existing risk based fisheries management framework used in the Australian fisheries management. If you had been listening to some of the earlier contributions, they would not have appeared to have been consistent with that advice and that report.

    It is this framework that has resulted in Australia's fisheries being recognised as amongst the best managed anywhere in the world. The risk based management framework is already in place and, as I say, the Marine Stewardship Council is currently undertaking an assessment for certification. The harvest strategy exceeds—not meets but exceeds—internationally recommended standards such as those made by the Lenfest Forage Fish Task Force in its report Little fish, big impact. The report also highlighted that there are risks from the proposed fishing operations, be they commercial or recreational. Of course, the coalition, as it always does, widely consulted before it took the decision that it took. We know what that was. That was to place a ban on those vessels greater than 130 metres in size.

    What additional research has been undertaken? It is science that must underpin fisheries management. There is a $1½ million research program well underway. We know that, for the current season, the total catch limit was set at 7.5 per cent of the estimated total fish population, leaving 92½ per cent remaining. I come back to where I started: like the person who moved this motion, it is redundant. The work has been done. It is superfluous. It can be omitted without any loss of significance to the community or to commercial fishing.

    10:09 am

    Photo of Anne RustonAnne Ruston (SA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

    I too rise today to speak on the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment Bill 2014. It basically seeks to repeal a sunset provision and enable the minister to establish an independent panel to conduct an assessment of the potential environmental impacts of a declared commercial fishing activity and to prohibit declared commercial fishing activity while that assessment is being undertaken. It will come as no surprise to this place that I, like the rest of my colleagues, do not support this particular amendment bill.

    Specifically, the bill aims to enable the minister:

    … with the agreement of the Minister administering the Fisheries Management Act 1991 (Cth) ( Fisheries Minister ), to declare a commercial fishing activity to be a ‘declared commercial fishing activity’ on an interim basis ( interim declaration ) if both Ministers agree—

    and this is the point—


          On the surface of it, that all probably sounds terribly sensible, but, when you start digging into the reality of what is going on here, it is nothing more than an appalling scaremongering campaign. It gives rise to the belief that there is a problem—and, I have to say, my colleagues on this side of the chamber and I do not believe that there is a problem.

          Before I go into the reasons the coalition cannot support this amendment bill being put forward by Senator Ludwig, I would like to put on the record that we also do not support the amendments being proposed by the Greens. To give some context, I will put on the record some comments made by Senator Whish-Wilson in relation to his amendments. He said:

          The Greens have put up an amendment to ban supertrawlers and vessels with freezing capacity over 2,000 tonnes. That is a globally recognised tonnage of fish that is being looked at by groups right around the world. We consider that we need separate legislation for any size over that. This is a very serious issue and it has not been flushed out in this bill. We would ask that Labor, through Senator Ludwig, who brought this forward, consider a proper amendment that will ban this type of fishing activity in this country once and for all. This is what millions of rec fishermen across this country want. This is what people who are worried that the ocean is broken and is dying want. … We have not had supertrawlers in this country before. We are doing very well, thank you very much. We do not need to see them back. This government needs to hold to its promise that it will not allow supertrawlers back into Australian ports.

          There are a whole heap of things you could say about that piece of scaremongering. Firstly, the Australian government has made a commitment that it will not allow supertrawlers over 130 feet back into Australian waters. There is no acknowledgement of that in Senator Whish-Wilson's statement. Once again, there is scaremongering. There is scaremongering not only in support of Senator Ludwig's bill but also in support of the proposed amendments from the Greens. It is also a misrepresentation of what is really happening out there.

          As I said, we do not support this bill. There are a whole heap of reasons why we do not. Most particularly, I think it is because of the abject hypocrisy—that Senator Ludwig should think that it is okay for him to bring this bill into the chamber. If you think about it, this bill has only been generated on the basis of the proposal to introduce this supertrawler into Australian waters—which was first proposed a couple of years ago by the very person who is introducing this bill. How that very same person can turn around and say he wants to make legislative change to make it more difficult to enable commercial fishing to occur in Australia—the very same person who stirred up the argument in the first place, having been part of the government that agreed to bring the supertrawler to Australia—is beyond me. If we had three hours, we could talk about the extraordinary level of sovereign risk involved in first agreeing to bring that trawler to Australia only to ban it once it was here. If those opposite had not wanted the supertrawler to be here, maybe they should have thought about that before bringing it here in the first place.

          It is quite interesting to read some of the comments Senator Ludwig made back in August 2012 in response to a Greens disallowance motion. I will read this because it does illustrate the hypocrisy I was talking about. He said:

          This disallowance motion is a message that the Greens political party do not support sustainable catch limits based on science. It is a message that says the Greens want fisheries managed by politics, not qualified fisheries managers. And it says that the Greens do not support the commercial operators who fish in some of the world's best managed fisheries.

          I have to say, Senator Ludwig, that I agree entirely with what you said. Then he went on:

          As minister for fisheries, I will not allow the emotive politics of the Greens political party to run fisheries management … in this country. We will ensure that the Australian Fisheries Management Authority is independent, that it makes independent decisions based on the science through its expert commissioners and on the facts that are presented to them. They will continue to make decisions based on sound judgement to ensure that fisheries are sustainable and meet all the ecological requirements—and, moreover, predicated on the precautionary principle so often espoused by the Greens.

          When Senator Ludwig was the fisheries minister we actually think that that was exactly right, and we would certainly support those comments. So it seems really quite weird, when you consider it was only a couple of years ago that Senator Ludwig was in this place making those comments, that we now have a bill being introduced that, to a large extent, basically says everything that he said there is wrong. He obviously no longer believes that our fisheries are the world's best-managed fisheries, he obviously no longer believes that science is the basis for which we would make a decision in relation to fisheries management and he seems to be okay with the fact that we are having fisheries managed by politics instead of by science. I just cannot believe that in the space of just on two years we can have moved from a position of perfectly logical science based judgement to thinking it is okay to play politics with this issue.

          Those amongst us who are a little more cynical would probably suggest that this is just Labor and Senator Ludwig looking for redemption for a very bad decision they made in deciding to bring the supertrawler here in 2012. Before it even managed to catch a fish out of the water, they decided to ban it and in the process probably exposed the Australian taxpayers to a massive amount of financial exposure, because why wouldn't the company sue the Australian government for a breach of contract? Once again, if you want to talk about the consequential impacts of making a decision and then changing a decision, you have only got to look at the impact of the live export ban that was the knee-jerk reaction of the very same minister at the time. That move saw the absolute decimation of the northern part of Australia and our cattle industry—all because somebody decided that, for the sake of quick city based politics, it was a good idea to ban the export of live cattle.

          The question that is probably most important in all this is: why would Senator Ludwig bring this bill in when the supertrawler and supertrawlers of over 130 feet have already been banned? In recognition of the response by the Australian community, the supertrawlers have been banned. This government has taken on board the fact that the community did not want that great big supertrawler, so a decision was made that there was a size over which supertrawlers would not be allowed into the Australian fishery. That is great—that has been ticked off. Everybody knows it. It is written in stone. So why on earth do we now need to bring into this place a bill that just gives another layer of regulation, another layer of burden on our commercial fishing industry, when Senator Ludwig, by his very own admission, says that we have the best-managed fisheries in the world?

          Senator Ludwig basically wants the taxpayers to fork out and pay for a review of the review. We already accept that we have this wonderfully managed fishery, there are a number of checks and balances in place to make sure that our fishery remains a well managed fishery. I will not bore the chamber by going through the absolutely massive amount of research that has been undertaken in this space to ensure not only that the fishery is well managed but that we can prove that it is well managed. To actually create a panel to review every declared activity can be nothing more than a waste of taxpayers' money.

          Despite the comments of Senator Ludwig in 2012, it really is nothing more than a deliberate attempt to politicise fisheries management. As I said, we support what Senator Ludwig said in 2012—that is, that the fisheries management needs to be science based. Everything that has been put in place by this government has gone towards ensuring that we do have a science based management approach to fisheries.

          It is not just me, or the government, making these comments about Australia having a very well-managed fishery. We are considered worldwide to be one of the best fisheries managers in the world. We have a number of protections in place through myriad acts, including the assessments under the EPBC Act that is so often quoted in this place. Another thing that needs to be said in all this is that the Australian Fisheries Management Authority is a well-established institution. We have confidence in AFMA. They were set up as an independent authority to manage Australian fisheries and we believe they are doing a very good job—and the rest of the world also thinks that they are doing a very good job. It appears that it is only Senator Ludwig and the Greens who believe that they are not doing a good job—yet, when Senator Ludwig was the minister responsible for oversight of this body, he seemed to think they were doing a pretty good job at that time. It appears that it is only now that he is in opposition that he has decided that AFMA is not doing that good a job. We have to question the motivation behind this bill being brought into this place.

          Summing up what this bill does: it just introduces another layer of red tape. We all know about what red tape—unnecessary compliance, unnecessary regulatory burden—does; it does little more than threaten jobs. If companies are overburdened with red tape and green tape, they are not concentrating on doing what they should be doing—getting out there and being productive. Any additional requirement that has no definable benefit and no definable positive outcome is really nothing more than a brake on the creation of jobs in Australia. I find it bizarre that Senator Ludwig would think it a good idea to do something that just creates an obstacle to the ability of the fishing industry to be productive, to develop and to create jobs for Australian fishermen—to generate that wonderful clean and green seafood for us to eat. We are just once again putting a handbrake on that.

          As I said, the coalition does not shirk the fact that good science must be the theme that underpins fishery management. We do not shirk from that at all. We are continually investing in research programs. At the moment, a major research program is being undertaken to estimate the current size of the major small pelagic fish stocks in Australia. The results of this research program are, I understand, imminent and will assist the setting of total allowable catch limits for the Small Pelagic Fishery from 1 May this year. But, until the new survey results are in, the government has said that we need to be responsible about this. We have set very conservative catch limits to ensure that, if there is any change in the data about the size of this fishery, the Small Pelagic Fishery—if the fish stocks are not as robust as they are believed to be—then we will have been catching fish at a rate under what we thought was a sustainable level. There is no question at all that we believe that a responsible approach to this is absolutely essential, but we are saying that that responsible approach does not need another level of regulatory burden.

          Another issue that I raised earlier was that of sovereign risk. If we continue to scaremonger—which is basically what has been going on with this bill—all we do is say to the rest of the world that we are not really serious about this and that, if you make a decision to do something in Australia, you should not be surprised if the government changes its mind, because that is what it is wont to do. We need to send a message of certainty to the rest of the world, because there is nothing surer than that certainty in any marketplace ends up having a very good outcome, that positive attitudes deliver productivity and that productivity delivers jobs.

          In summing up, Australia's fisheries are world-class, they are sustainably managed and decisions are made using only the best available science. It is the intention and commitment of this government that that will continue. The government is absolutely committed to a balanced and informed approach to fisheries management and we will continue to make decisions regarding access to all Australian fisheries based on sound science.

          Australia's Commonwealth fisheries have very conservative catch limits and, to ensure the health of our fisheries into the future, this will continue. We believe the Commonwealth fisheries regulator, the Australian Fisheries Management Authority, has the appropriate powers to enforce the conditions imposed on all boats fishing in our waters. We have confidence in AFMA and therefore we believe that they are the appropriate body with the appropriate skills, powers and tools to continue to undertake the responsible and science based management of our fisheries.

          As a government we have done what we said we would do. By undertaking further research on the commercial species and having an independent expert panel examine potential environmental impacts of the operation of large midwater freezer trawlers in the Small Pelagic Fishery, we have done exactly what we said we were going to do. We have done it responsibly, we have done it based on science and we have done it transparently. For all these reasons, and probably many more that my colleagues have told this place, the government believes that this bill is totally unnecessary. It just adds an additional level of burdensome regulation that is completely unnecessary. The additional requirement that has been put forward by the Greens with their amendment further exacerbates the situation.

          So, as I said, the government is not supporting this amendment bill that has been put forward by Senator Ludwig. I would hope that this chamber will see the sense of the science, which is quite readily available to every single person, including Senator Ludwig—who, having been the fisheries minister for a period of time in the previous government, should know better than anybody in this place about Australia's wonderful fisheries management record and the fact that this fisheries management record continues. Nothing has occurred over the intervening period since Senator Ludwig was the minister for fisheries that should give him any reason to have any concern.

          I would urge those opposite to read the words of Senator Ludwig from August 2012 and perhaps ask Senator Ludwig if he could please explain why his position in this area has changed. Having said that the management of fisheries should not be politicised, he has turned around now and brought this bill into this place which appears for no other reason than being entirely political.

          For these reasons and many others, I have to say I cannot possibly support this bill. As I said, I believe it is completely unnecessary. It provides an additional level of burdensome regulation, which is something this government has promised to get rid of. Therefore, we will not be supporting it.

          10:29 am

          Photo of Matthew CanavanMatthew Canavan (Queensland, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

          It is great to see that the band is back together. The Green-Labor band are back together and they are coming to a regional town near you. The last time the band were together and went on a Green-Labor magical mystery tour they banned the live cattle trade. We all remember that. In the first tour they went on they played to sold out crowds all around regional Australia. They had people turning up everywhere around regional Australia—in Cloncurry, in Richmond, in Rockhampton, in Darwin, in Karratha—all coming out to see the Green-Labor magical mystery tour and what it could do next to a natural resource industry in this country.

          And back then not only were they able to damage diplomatic relations with our closest neighbour, with a country of more than 200 million people just to our north, but they shut down an entire industry overnight, without telling anybody. That is still causing massive heartache and pain in regional areas. And now, they have the band back together! They thought that Joe Ludwig did such a good job—sorry, Senator Ludwig, through you Mr Acting Deputy President—with the live cattle trade that he is now going to repeat that and move on to fishing as well.

          And he is doing it in cahoots with the Greens again. He is doing it at the behest of a Green-Labor agenda that does not want to see anyone in this country make money from using the natural assets and wealth that we have in this nation. We are so lucky in this country to have been given the great pastures and the open-ended plains on which to grow cattle. We have the third-largest ocean territory in the world to any other country. But according to the Greens, the Labor Party were not allowed to use these. They should be locked up and everything should be kept in pristine condition, except where Greens and Labor voters live. It is okay for people in the cities to build massive amounts of concrete—10, 12 and 13-storey buildings. Look at this parliament itself—we spent $1 billion on this and look at what we did: we carved it into a hill! Basically, we dug up a hill here—a beautiful, pristine hill here in Canberra to make this building. And I am glad we did! We have improved this area. But, according to the Greens and the Labor Party, you cannot do anything anywhere else in the nation.

          This bill is all about demonising our fishing industry. It is about saying that we should not be allowed to fish in our own oceans and eat our own seafood. I think the people of Australia actually want to eat Australian seafood. They do not want to see overseas seafood; they would prefer to eat seafood fished in our waters, providing jobs to people who need them and supporting regional economies. But the Greens-Labor party have put their colours down here in this bill: they do not support that. They do not want those industries to thrive and they will take any opportunity to try to restrict production in these industries, all for driving votes in city areas.

          I will come to the fact that this is not based on any kind of science at all and that it completely makes no sense. But before I do that I actually want to run through what is in this bill and what it is trying to do. What this bill does is to set up an independent expert panel to review a decision to ban supertrawlers, and that independent expert panel will come back with advice about that ban. Now, I actually thought that the Greens and the Labor Party wanted to ban supertrawlers. That was what I thought their policy was.

          The government, on our side, has also said no to supertrawlers—these large boats that can have the capacity of more than 2,000 tonnes. We both have said no to them. We both have the same policy position. We both have restricted them. But, apparently, we want to set up a panel to review a decision that we all support, that there is no need for any further potential dispute or controversy over, and we are going to waste more resources doing it. This is Monty Python-esque: we are going to set up a panel to review a decision that we all support! Why are we doing this? What is the point at all of wasting our time with this bill? Why has this bill not been removed from the Notice Paper? There is no political controversy here. We all have the same policy and we all agree. Indeed, this is something that was done a few years ago. There was some controversy at the time—I admit that—but we have moved on. We have moved on and there is no need for this legislation or for this particular bill.

          At the time that it was a little more controversial, the then Minister for Fisheries, Tony Burke, decided—well, I think the Labor government had approved this particular supertrawler to come and fish in Tasmanian waters and then it became controversial—to introduce the declared fishing activities bill in September 2012 to ban this particular supertrawler coming in. Now, it should be noted that it was actually Minister Burke—when he was the then agriculture minister—who created that issue. In 2009, Minister Burke, introduced a small pelagic harvest strategy which said that there are considerable economies of scale in the fishery, and the most efficient way to fish may include large-scale is factory freezer vessels.

          So in 2009 the Labor Party supported supertrawlers—we now call them supertrawlers—they supported large factory fishing vessels. They encouraged companies to try to apply for fishing licences under this small pelagic harvest strategy, and some companies did. I think it was the Abel Tasman at the time. That was certainly from Europe—perhaps the Netherlands. It decided to come here and take advantage of this harvest strategy that the Labor Party had put in place and take advantage of the fishing licences that they could legitimately and legally buy.

          That became controversial politically and a few years later the Labor Party decided to ban it, after this company had already made investments and after they had already brought the vessel itself to Australia—they decided to ban it. That was completely bungled. Indeed, they bungled it so badly that they got the ban wrong too. They could not even ban a fishing boat correctly without getting it wrong! When they introduced that bill, initially it actually banned recreational charter vessels as well; so it created uncertainty for our recreational fishing industry. It was doing it tough and it did not need that additional uncertainty.

          Now, we are all on the same page: these vessels are gone, the problem has gone and at least we do not have companies applying here and wasting their money because we cannot make up our minds. We have made up our minds, so why do we need to do anything with this bill? There has been no case made that we actually need to change anything. In fact—as other speakers have recognised—we have some of the most efficient, sustainable and scientifically-based fishing management practices in the world. We have long-standing arrangements in which fishing activity is regulated both at the federal and at state levels, based on principles of sustainable use. And it should be based on those principles; there is no argument about that. Fishing, generally speaking—and certainly fishing in ocean waters—is a public good. It has common-good problems. If we did not have regulation of how much could be taken, we would have too much taken because the private incentives do not accord with the public benefit. Too many people would go out and fish immediately to get what they could and not consider the long-term sustainability of those fishing areas. So we do need regulation. That is why we have regulators like the Australian Fisheries Management Authority at the Australian government level and the various state government bodies to look after inshore areas as well. It is a heavily regulated industry.

          In fact, I looked at this a couple of years ago and, as a result of that regulation, there are no endangered fish species that are local to Australian waters. Despite what you often hear from the other side, we do not have endangered fish species in Australian waters, as a result of Australian fishing practices. It is true that some of the pelagic fish—that is, the migratory fish species that visit our waters seasonally, like southern bluefin tuna—are at risk, but that is not because of Australian fishing practices. That is due to fishing practices of other countries who have waters that we do not control in which these fish sometimes swim.

          I do not get it. I do not understand. Perhaps the Greens and Labor Party think that somehow fish, cattle and all these other resources that we use and eat have passports or reside in particular countries, because they are so fascinated and so devoted to putting more red tape and regulation on our farmers, our fishermen and our forestry industry that they completely ignore what happens overseas.

          We should be promoting Australian seafood. We should be making sure that we can catch as much of our seafood needs as possible from Australian fisheries. That will be good for global fish stocks because we know we manage them well. What happens instead is that, when we clamp down on Australian fishing resources and the Australian fishing industry, we still eat fish. People do not eat less fish. People still eat seafood. They simply import it from other nations that probably and often do have inferior environmental records to ours.

          When you look at the actual stats in this area, Australia as a whole imports around 70 per cent. The last time I looked, it was 72 per cent, but I am sure it jumps around a bit. But about 70 per cent of our seafood comes from overseas. As I said earlier, we have the third largest ocean territory of any country in the world, yet we have to import more than 70 per cent of our seafood. To me, it does not really make a lot of sense that we import so much seafood when we have access to so many resources here which could fulfil our needs.

          We extract just 28 kilograms per square kilometre. For every square kilometre of our ocean territory, we extract around 28 kilograms of seafood or marine catch. We import a lot of seafood from other countries to meet 70 per cent of our needs. A lot of our seafood comes from China, Thailand and Vietnam, and New Zealand as well. We import a lot from New Zealand. I do not have the figures in front of me, but I believe New Zealand extract 50 to 60 kilograms per square kilometre, which is about double our take but still a low level compared to the globe.

          But these other countries we import from—China and Thailand are our biggest—extract more than 5,000 kilograms per square kilometre in their waters. In the ocean territory that they control, they extract more than 5,000 kilograms. Compare that figure. We extract 28 kilograms per square kilometre; they do more than 5,000 kilograms per square kilometre.

          The reason they take that much is their regulations are not as stringent as ours. Their oversight and their environmental record is not as good practice as ours. I am not trying to be critical of those countries. They are at a different level of development. They have different priorities. We have the great luxury and benefit of being able to afford to regulate our industry to the level we do. But at the marginal level, when you are thinking about whether we should eat more Australian seafood or less, whether we should import more from China, Vietnam and Thailand or less, clearly we should try and maximise our take here, within the sustainable use constraints, and to minimise what we import from countries which clearly do not have the same environmental standards and records.

          But the Greens do not want to talk about that because they are on a crusade to shut down regional communities and to spread a fear campaign in cities about the sustainability of our natural resources and primary industries. The people involved in these industries do not take kindly to demonisation. The people involved in these industries are doing the best they can to earn a buck, to put food on the table for their kids, to pay off a boat which usually costs millions of dollars these days, and they are continually being subjected to changed and increased requirements and ridiculous demands about what should or should not happen.

          The most recent one, of course, was a couple of years ago, when the marine reserves were introduced by the former Labor-Green government. They just shut down the whole of the Coral Sea—completely shut it down. There was no extraction at all in the Coral Sea as a result of these marine reserves. I said earlier, at the start of this speech, that we should base our fishing policy and our fishing catch on sustainable use. Clearly that decision was not based on sustainable use, because zero is not sustainable use. Zero is not the level of extraction that will maintain a population of fish. You can of course extract a percentage of the fish and still maintain a stable fish population over time to make sure our future generations will still have access to this resource and still have a diverse and sustainable environment to live in.

          They wanted zero because green on a map looks really nice. When you stand in front of the TV cameras in the election campaign at the Sydney aquarium in front of beautiful fish that look like Nemo—they are not even on the reef; they are in an artificial environment—it sounds nice to say, 'We're stopping fishing in the Coral Sea.' That is why they do these things. They do these things because it looks good on a political pamphlet dropped in people's letterboxes during a campaign. They do these things because stopping fishing sounds nice in a TV advertising jingle.

          But the actual reality of what happens is it is not good for the fish, it shuts down industries, it hurts regional communities and it takes away people's jobs and livelihoods. That is what is not on the political pamphlets. You do not turn over the other side and see how many mums and dads lose their jobs because of these decisions. Those marine reserves alone—it was just one decision, one thing that has happened to the fishing industry in the last couple of decades in this country—were going to cost Australia around $20 million a year, according to ABARES, and more than 100 jobs.

          In this place, people will probably say, 'What does it matter? One hundred jobs is not that many.' Well, 100 jobs is 100 families; it is 100 people impacted; it is 100 people who will worry about how they pay their mortgage; it is 100 people who will worry about what they do with the boat that they have been left with, which now does not have much value or much use because of decisions we make in this place. And for what benefit? We do make decisions in this place that cost people their jobs at times, and they are hard and tough decisions. But it must clearly and surely have a corresponding benefit that we thinks compensates for the harshness of those policies. But this has no impact. It does not protect fish. It is not good for the environment. It is about suiting a political campaign, not a real world impact.

          In November last year I was up in Karumba, a big fishing community in the gulf in Queensland. Fishing and a little bit of tourism is all Karumba really has going for it. It is a beautiful place. If anyone is listening and wants to go on a road trip, having a beer at the Sunset Tavern in Karumba is a great experience. When you are watching the sunset there over the gulf, you think you are close to God. It is a beautiful place. But it cannot just survive on grey nomads driving thousands of kilometres to come and visit now and then. It needs an industry as well. It has the fishing industry. There are a lot of prawn trawlers there. Indeed, my chief of staff used to work on a prawn trawler up there when he was younger. It is a great place.

          According to ABARES, this marine reserves policy was going to cost jobs but it was also going to reduce the average income in Karumba by $2,023 per person per year. Imagine if we had an environmental policy which cost someone in Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane $2,000 a year!

          Photo of Glenn SterleGlenn Sterle (WA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

          You had Work Choices, remember, mate!

          Photo of Matthew CanavanMatthew Canavan (Queensland, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

          And we saw what happened with Work Choices. It was not a good policy—although I do not believe the figures are commensurate. It was not a good policy and we walked away from it because of the impact on people. Likewise, this policy was not a good policy. Through you, Mr Acting Deputy President, I accept Senator Sterle's acceptance that the marine reserves policy was a bad one because it cost people in Karumba $2,000 a year. We should consider those impacts on people. This gets ignored because Karumba is a place of only a few hundred people and it is a long way from here. There are no TV cameras there. There is no media there to report people's stories and heartache at the policies that we do here.

          What I would love to have happen in this place is that we stop the demonisation of people who are just trying to have a job and make a living in this country. When we make wild claims about fishing, about the beef industry and about irrigation in the Murray-Darling Basin we are individually and personally attacking people in our community. We are telling them they are doing something that is not right—which is absolutely rubbish. All of us still eat steaks that the beef industry provides—or most of us do. All of us still eat the fish from our waters. All of us still wear clothes that are made from the cotton that is irrigated in those communities. Very few of us give up those things, but we want to righteously stand here and condemn and object to people's livelihoods while living on the back of the wealth they produce. I hope this bill goes down, because it will be a small step towards rejecting the demonisation of these industries and starting us back on the path of supporting industries such as fishing, farming and mining. People here like to condemn those in the mining industry all the time while living off that wealth and using the taxes they generate to make this country a better place.

          10:49 am

          Photo of Simon BirminghamSimon Birmingham (SA, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister for Education and Training) Share this | | Hansard source

          It is a pleasure to follow Senator Canavan in this debate. For those who listened to his contribution, the point that needs to be emphasised again and again is that Australia should be proud of our status among all the countries of the world as a responsible manager of our natural resources. In our fisheries, our biodiversity, our land management practices, our freshwater management practices, agriculture, forestry, mining and resources and extractive industries generally Australia is a world-class citizen. In many ways, we are top of the class for having responsible frameworks that provide the best opportunities to manage our natural resources—both our finite natural resources and our renewable natural resources—and best protect our environment while allowing for economic growth, job opportunities and the potential as a country to enjoy and sustain the standard of living that we expect and hope all Australians can access now and into the future.

          We should stand proud. That is not to say that our laws and our systems in all of these areas are perfect or that there is not continual opportunity for improvement in the way we manage resources, but we are very good, very able, very responsible managers of all aspects of our natural resources. All too often, there are people who seek to vilify the way in which we manage those natural resources. There are people who seek to portray Australia as being an irresponsible citizen. Sadly, all too often, those criticisms come not from the rest of the world—the rest of the world largely recognises that Australia sets best practice in natural resource management—but from within pockets of the Australian community which, as Senator Canavan rightly identified, are often quite detached from the land, the ocean and the environs that we are debating here and the resources we are seeking to manage.

          Sometimes the criticism and vilification comes from within this parliament—particularly from within this chamber, from some of those in the Greens' corner of the cross benches, and sometimes from those opposite. That is disappointing because we should be holding Australia up as the gold standard, because that, in large part, is what we are. And we should be encouraging people to see the resources we dedicate to scientific research, to informed assessment against that scientific research and to putting in place sound regulatory structures around that, as shining examples of what the rest of the world should be aspiring to, and what we can help the rest of the world do to manage our resources.

          Senator Canavan rightly highlighted, in relation to fisheries in particular, some of the countries from whom we import fish. In those countries the management practices are vastly different from the practices we apply in Australia. And by no means are those practices of the some high standard that we have. He acknowledged—and I, too, acknowledge—that often these are developing nations. Their economies are at a different stage and their legal and regulatory structures are at a different stage. Their capacity to enforce and deliver compliance regimes for these types of regulations are also at a stage that is different from Australia's and from Australia's economy. So it is not intended as a criticism of them, but as an example that, in relative terms, Australia stands out well and truly ahead of the pack.

          But we should not simply rest on our laurels. Where there is scope to improve management of our natural resources, including our fishery stocks, then that is exactly what we should do. But the actions for such improvements should be based on the scientific evidence. They should be based on informed knowledge. They should be based on a realisation that when you take action that constricts an industry—that restricts its capacity to operate—there is an impact. There is an economic impact and, from that economic impact, there is a social impact. By constricting industry—by constricting that activity—you create less wealth, you have fewer jobs and you have, therefore, poorer standards of living for Australians.

          Getting the balance right to ensure that we have, in a fishery sense, sustainable industries into the future—which can sustain the businesses, the industries, the employers, the employees, the jobs, the families, the communities, the towns and the support businesses which all rely on those industries—is what is so very important.

          Sadly, sometimes rather than information or new approaches that are based on science or on an appropriate understanding of effective regulation and effective lawmaking, we see posturing for the sake of cheap headlines. That is what the legislation before this chamber is really all about. The opposition introduced the private member's bill to repeal division 4 of part 15B of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act on 19 March last year. If they had such long-standing concerns about this part of the act they could have exercised them during their time in government. But they did not; instead they decided to engage in a bit of posturing just a few months after they arrived in opposition.

          The effect of the proposed bill would be to remove the sunset clause currently contained in part 15B of the EPBC Act, which has prohibited new declarations from being made from 20 September 2013. Removal of that sunset clause would allow for new declarations to be made once again under part 15B. Since this legislation has been introduced we have had a further amendment proposed by the Australian Greens, which would also seek to create an offence in the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act of using an oversized fishing vessel in a Commonwealth marine reserve or marine area. Oversized fishing vessels under that amendment are proposed to be any vessels that have a processing and storage capacity greater than 2,000 tonnes.

          The Greens amendment adds to the amendment proposed by the opposition—that is, it would operate alongside the power to make declarations over new commercial fishing activities, and establish expert panels. It is important to understand, in relation to what the opposition is proposing by removing the sunset provision, that while this private member's bill would allow for new declarations to be made prohibiting new commercial fishing activities for up to two years, part 15B—the part of the act that we are talking about—has never provided the power permanently to stop supertrawlers from fishing in the Australian fishing zone.

          The government opposes this bill of the opposition, and the amendments of the Greens, because we see them largely as posturing, and because we think that they are not the most effective way of regulating this part of the fishing industry. The private member's bill of the Labor Party, and the proposed Greens amendment to that bill, will not provide a permanent ban or a permanent stop to supertrawlers from applying to operate in Australian fisheries. We hear lots from those opposite, suggesting that that is what this legislation is about, but in reality it will not do so. This legislation will only provide for temporary bans of up to two years. The Greens amendment focuses instead on storage capacity. Fish storage capacity can, of course, be reduced or amended on different vessels.

          The government believes that we should support, of course, commercial and recreational fishers both, and we are committed to the continuation of having well-managed fisheries in Australia—well-managed fisheries where that management and the approaches to it and the caps and limits on fisheries take that are applied are determined and based on scientific information and knowledge.

          We are aware that there are concerns from a range of groups, including recreational fishers, about the potential impact of supertrawlers on Australia's marine environment, on our protected species and on our local fish stocks. We acknowledge those concerns. That is why late last year we announced that there would be a ban on supertrawlers—factory freezer vessels of more than 130 metres—from fishing in the Australian fishing zone, and that that ban would be implemented appropriately under the Fisheries Management Act 1991. It is an appropriate change, and it is an important provide a conservative, considered, scientifically based, sound regulatory environment for our fisheries industry to operate in. It is important that we provide this to protect those fisheries stocks.

          Australia adopts a very conservative approach to the setting of catch limits for all Commonwealth fisheries. The small pelagic fishery catch is currently set at 7½ per cent of the total estimated fish population. That, of course, means that 92½ per cent of the estimated fish stock is left in the water for rebreeding purposes and to ensure the sustainability of the industry.

          Not only do we adopt conservative approaches to the setting of those limits and appropriate quotas but we are also committed to an informed approach to fisheries management. Our government has invested $1½ million in independent research to refresh our data on the current size of many Australian small pelagic fish stocks. The first results from this research will be available in March and will assist in setting total allowable catches for the small pelagic fishery from 1 May this year.

          Until the new survey results are available the conservative catch limits we have are based, of course, on the earlier survey data—the earlier best available information we had. Initial results from the research suggest that the spawning mass for species like the jack mackerel may be similar to previous findings, but this analysis will be reviewed by independent scientific experts prior to it being finalised so that we can have confidence that the decisions taken for appropriate management of our fish stocks are absolutely the right ones based on and informed by the best available scientific information.

          I said before that it is an act of hypocrisy on the part of those opposite to be bringing this bill before the parliament right now, given the way they have treated this issue in the past. Senator Ludwig and his party lament, it seems, their own poor handling of this issue when they were in government. We are doing what they could not and did not do, which is to provide for an effective permanent ban in relation to supertrawlers. We will bring that in via regulation under the Fisheries Management Act—where it belongs, where it always should have been. We are doing what those opposite should have done when they realised and acknowledged there was a problem with the proposed supertrawlers, rather than what they did, which was put in place at this time-limited provision in the EPBC Act. We have confidence in the sustainability of our fisheries, managed as they are by the Australian Fisheries Management Authority. But we believe we can strengthen that confidence further by the new regulation we have proposed in relation to supertrawlers.

          We should, though, remember what the Labor Party said when they were in government. Mr Tony Burke, who first had a role to play in this space as agriculture minister, responsible for fisheries, basically invited supertrawlers to come to this country. In the 2009 the Small pelagic fishery harvest strategy, a document released under his watch, said:

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

          There is certainly an encouragement there identifying the economic benefits and the benefits of scale from such approaches. The minister then went on and, in fact, proudly trumpeted the coming supertrawler when it was revealed; he went out and proudly proclaimed that this was the first time a trawler with a storage capacity of 2,000 tonnes or more was likely to operate in an Australian fishery.

          The Labor Party were there, happy at that stage to see this activity going on. Their response was then poorly-structured approaches in terms of time-limited actions via the EPBC Act. We believe our response has far greater credibility because it will provide a permanent and lasting approach. But it is also complemented by our commitment to act in every possible way in a manner that preserves our fishing stocks and is informed by science—informed by research, informed by knowledge—and then acted upon in the setting of appropriate regulatory arrangements.

          As I said at the outset, as a country we should be celebrating our achievements in relation to the management of many areas of our natural resources. In fishing, that is absolutely one of them: we take seriously the setting of limits. We take seriously an appropriate management of fishing stocks and of fishing zones and areas because we know that we need to allow those species to regenerate to be able to have sustainability. But we also take seriously the need for industry to be able to operate, for businesses to be able to operate and to create the jobs, the income and the support that communities need and so richly deserve.

          We also know that, if we overreach and over-restrict what happens in Australia in relation to fish stocks, we will see an increase in importation from other parts of the world. If we see that increase in imported product, it will most likely be coming from countries whose management practices do not reach the same high standards that we have. So, rather than coming in here, as some will do, and vilifying the approach we have to managing our natural resources in Australia and to managing our fisheries in Australia, people should come in here and celebrate the strength, credibility, reliability and knowledge that underpins our approach. In celebrating that, people should highlight it to the rest of the world and encourage others to adopt the same types of standards that we have, to recognise that we are a world leader and to recognise also that this government is proposing a permanent solution to a problem that is being debated rather than the temporary one proposed in this legislation. That is why this legislation should be defeated, as I would urge the Senate to do. (Time expired)

          11:09 am

          Photo of Penny WrightPenny Wright (SA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

          I rise to speak and add my contribution on the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment Bill 2014, which is a Labor private senator's bill. This bill is designed to give the Minister for the Environment the discretion to allow supertrawlers into our country and into our seas. I want to be very clear right from the outset that it will not stop supertrawlers and it does not ban supertrawlers. But, before I discuss the detail of the bill and the issues around the technique that the opposition is using in introducing this bill, I just want to contribute a few thoughts about what we are facing in making these kinds of decisions in this parliament in Australia in the second decade of the 21st century.

          I think it is very clear from the evidence that has been mounting from probably the 1950s and 1960s onwards and every week in the 21st century, more and more compellingly, that the actions that we are taking now, the decisions that we are making now, this century, have an unprecedented capacity to affect the viability of not only our species but every other species on this beautiful, beautiful planet that we have. It is very clear that the combination of increasing human population and the incredible complexity of the technology that we now wield on this planet means that we are at a point in history when we are seeing unprecedented species loss, with predictions that half of all species on the earth may be extinct by the end of this century. It is very, very clear too, in the context of this discussion, that these species include many, many fish species. We know—just being anthropocentric and thinking purely from a selfish human point of view—that so many people around the world rely on fish for their main source of protein and nutrition, so we know that the sorts of discussions we are having here are not just political. They are actually about the survival of our species and other species on this planet.

          Along with many other people, although I know these things, I do read the science, and I watch the science with increasing concern. Like many others, I read an article in 2013 by Ivan Macfadyen called 'The ocean is broken'. It was published in The Sydney Morning Herald. It is still available if people listening to or reading this speech want to have a look at it. He wrote about a sailing trip that he did. He is an experienced sailor, so he had the ability to compare his experience then with what he had previously experienced on other trips. It was chilling. It was heartbreaking really. He had noticed changes in the last years. Basically, he was confronted by the silence that he heard, the silence on the seas, and he realised that this was attributable to the fact that they saw very, very few birds. They also caught very few fish. They would normally have caught fish each day to feed themselves. Over the period of a journey between Australia and Japan, they were able to catch two fish.

          We can stand here in this chamber and we can talk about these facts. We can talk about these statistics till the cows come home. We can pay lip-service to these concerns, and we would all pretend that we are all really concerned about this, but I want people to really think about what the responsibility is that we hold in our hands, particularly in this parliament as legislators but also people throughout Australia and indeed internationally; about the choices that we are making now; and about what they will mean not in the far distant future but very soon for us and for our future citizens—'our children and our grandchildren' is the way I often like to put it.

          Let us turn now to the bill and the context for this particular bill. I want to again be very clear that this Labor Party bill will not stop supertrawlers and it will not ban supertrawlers. There was a great deal of anxiety the last time there was a supertrawler that was threatening to come to Tasmanian waters and fish. Ultimately, because of the pressure of the fishing community and the non-government organisations—and certainly the Australian Greens were very much there listening to those concerns and relaying our understanding of the science—steps were taken to have a sunset clause to not allow that supertrawler to continue. But this bill will not actually stop that potential from happening again, and, as we know, there is now discussion about another trawler coming to Australian waters.

          What are these supertrawlers that people are concerned about? Supertrawlers are like a lot of other things that are happening in this century with the use of technology that we human beings now have. We can wield so much power and we can do so many destructive things in very short time spans now because of the technology that we have. Essentially, supertrawlers are a form of industrial fishing. It is not the fishing that we might have once thought of when we thought about people on boats out there against the elements, catching their fish after an honest day's work.

          These are industrial fishing machines. These are essentially floating factories that allow the catch to be frozen for long periods of time before they return for processing. They catch stupendously unimaginable large amounts of fish from the oceans. Basically, the evidence is very clear: wherever these supertrawlers have gone, these industrial fishing vessels, they have broken the ocean. That is what we are talking about here. In the context of what we are facing in terms of our survival on this planet, it is really important to bear that in mind.

          This bill will return us to the situation that we had before when the Labor Party was in government and the last supertrawler was threatening to enter Tasmanian waters. It will essentially give discretion back to the environment minister, whoever that happens to be at any particular time, to allow a supertrawler to help itself to Australian waters. With the history of environment ministers that we have seen recently from both shades of government, both shades of the parliament, Labor and the Liberal-National party coalition, this does not strike me with any particular confidence. Despite the fact that we are constantly being told that both the opposition and the government are beholden to the science, the evidence is to the contrary.

          If we look at the sorts of decisions that have been made about the environment in the past, in the face of scientific evidence—and coal ports on the Great Barrier Reef are just one example—it does not provide me with any consolation at all that we can rely on the environment minister; that if there is a discretion on the environment minister, they will make the right decision when we are thinking about the long-term national interest and the science. The big battle last time with the supertrawler was not fully won. The supertrawler was stopped then but they will keep wanting to return to Australian waters, especially where other oceans are broken.

          The argument that we need to leave it to the science, to the discretion of the environment minister, has two flaws as far as I am concerned. One is that the scientific work has not yet been properly done. Even the resource assessment group at the Australian Fisheries Management Authority agreed that not enough scientific work had been done the last time this debate was live, and that work is still not finished. With all the evidence about the depletion in fish species around the world, it is very clear that there is still a huge amount of scientific uncertainty.

          I know that the concept of the precautionary principle has gone out of fashion because it is not convenient for people who want to make a lot of money out of exploiting resources. But, in fact, at this point in the 21st century, the precautionary principle has never been more important. When there is a risk to this extent, we have to use caution. We have to be conservative. We must not be extreme when it comes to conserving the very resources of the environment that we rely on for our survival.

          The other aspect that I have already canvassed is that even where there is clear scientific evidence such as the evidence about the risk of catastrophic climate change and the clear evidence about the most effective ways to deal with that risk, to mitigate that risk, there is no compelling evidence that governments will necessarily take action on that. I think the federal government that we have at the moment is a case in point.

          I now want to turn to some very fishy links between the imminent advent of another trawler and this federal government's role in that, and some donations made to the Liberal Party by the Southern Bluefin Tuna Industry Association that have recently come to light. The Southern Bluefin Tuna Industry Association is based in my home state in South Australia. They have been very outspoken in the past in support of the supertrawler when it was coming to Australia last time around and they are outspoken in favour of supertrawlers such as the one that is now wanting to approach our shores. Why?

          The thing about tuna farming is that, as with all farms, you have to be able to feed your product; you have to be to feed your tuna. For every one kilogram that is added to the weight of a southern bluefin tuna that is being farmed, you actually have to feed it 12 kilograms of fishmeal—12 kilograms converted into one kilogram. If we are talking about feeding the world, if we are talking about efficiencies, it is obviously highly, highly inefficient that we are concentrating large amounts of protein into small amounts of protein. Why is that happening? There is a lot of profit to be made out of it—and I will come back to that.

          Ninety seven per cent of the pelagics that are caught in Australia go to fishmeal—that is small fish like sardines and so on. They are the species that are targeted by supertrawlers. They go to fishmeal and it is fishmeal that is fed to the tuna that are being fattened up at the tuna farms off the coast of South Australia. When the last Seafish Tasmania trawler caught small pelagics, they were sold as fishmeal. What will happen with the proposed trawler and the pelagics caught by it? The government is saying that Seafish Tasmania may sell small pelagic fish-catch to Africa for food. Of course, that is an interesting idea because if that were definitely to be the case then there would be some kind of a moral argument at least that we would be feeding people who need that protein. But, in fact, there is uncertainty about that. It has been very difficult previously to know where the pelagic fish were going to go—and we still do not know that yet. You might like to watch this space to see what happens over time, but there is a very strong possibility that any pelagic fish stock from the supertrawlers will be sold to Australian fish farmers. Let us watch this space. There is some uncertainty about that at the moment, and that is some of the scientific and political uncertainty that we are dealing with in this space.

          Let me take you back to the way that the tuna farming industry works and what happened in relation to a donation that the tuna fishers made to the Liberal Party before the last election. Australia's tuna fishers made a $320,000 donation to the Liberal Party, and most of it—$250,000—was before the 2013 federal election, and $70,000 was after the election. Why did they make the donation after the election? I am not sure why that would be, but they have never before given any donation to the Liberals or to any other party. What transpired? What did the Liberal Party do? When the Liberal Party gained office two things happened very quickly. The first one was that they changed some of their policies. What was the result? The result was a windfall of over $600,000—I think the figure is around $800,000—to the tuna fishers after the election. They did this by delaying the introduction of video monitoring technology which is designed to stop rorting of the data about the quota that is being taken in tuna in Australia.

          Prior to the election, we know now that Liberal Senators Richard Colbeck and Sean Edwards visited Port Lincoln and Ceduna, which is where the southern bluefin tuna industry fishers are mainly based. They had a couple of visits and some meetings there. Although in estimates Senator Colbeck did not remember discussing donations initially, he did come back and recollect that in fact the idea of donations to the Liberal Party had been discussed. As well as that, there was a letter, a written undertaking, specifically committed to reducing red tape that had been raised by the tuna industry. Let us go back to the question about the southern bluefin tuna industry and how it works—

          Photo of Anne RustonAnne Ruston (SA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

          Madam Acting Deputy President, I rise on a point of order. I am just wondering whether the senator is prepared to make these allegations outside this chamber.

          Photo of Deborah O'NeillDeborah O'Neill (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

          That is not a point of order. Senator Wright, please continue your remarks.

          Photo of Penny WrightPenny Wright (SA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

          Thank you. In fact, the allegations are not allegations; they are statements of fact. They are on the public record in the estimates. In fact, they have been reported in newspaper articles outside the chamber. I invite people to Google and find out the story. There was one particular article in the Sydney Morning Herald about this. I have been outlining a chain of facts, a chain of what occurred. People can draw their own conclusions from it; but, to me, the conclusions are pretty clear. We have the southern bluefin tuna—and let us not misunderstand this—which is a critically endangered species. It is recognised internationally as a critically endangered species which has been overfished. It is vital, therefore, for this critically endangered species that it is not overfished and that it is managed internationally by a quota system. Obviously, vital for the conservation and the integrity of the quota is that it is not rorted and that there is accurate data around whether or not the quota is being met. It is also part of a fishing industry which is worth about $1 billion internationally to those who benefit from it. So there have been high stakes negotiations between countries like Australia an Japan about the size of the quota their fishers can take, and they have long argued over their shares. Australia's quota is about 5,000 tonnes per year. However, soon after the federal election, the quota for the Australian fishing industry, the tuna fishers, was increased by about 10 per cent.

          The Australian industry is centred off Port Lincoln in South Australia. Nearly all the tuna in that industry is netted live in the Great Australian Bight and then dragged in cages slowly through the ocean. Some fish die in that process and are thrown away. These fish are not counted as part of the quota. The fish are then transferred into pens in the ocean near Port Lincoln, and there they are fatted up in the cages. As we heard, 12 kilograms of pelagic small fish is required to grow one kilogram of tuna. Then they are onsold to Japan's sushi and sashimi market. A handful of families are involved in this industry, and they have multimillion dollar licences.

          Let us be clear: if we are looking at feeding the world, this is a very inefficient way to do it. There have been long-held concerns about the integrity of the quota system, which relies on the reliability and the accuracy of the data. What was proposed by the international organisation was that there would be video monitoring, because that is one way to ensure that we have proper data. Concerns had been raised that a sample taken from the top of the cage where the smaller fish are congregated would underestimate the average size when the larger fish were below the cage. Also, there are fish that die before they arrive in the pens and they are not counted. So the introduction of video evidence that Australia undertook to do in 2012 and committed to a full rollout by 2013 was a way of trying to ensure the integrity of the process. In 2013, we have a new government who advise the chair of the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna that Australia has decided to postpone the implementation of stereo-video monitoring until an automated solution became available. This was met with dismay by New Zealand and Japan was extremely concerned, because they know that there is extra uncertainty of unaccounted mortality created by the delay in the implementation of the stereo-video system. So we have a delay in the video technology, which has netted the Australian Southern Bluefin Tuna Industry Association, the tuna fishers, a saving of close to $800,000. We also have the consequences whereby we have an international commission where there is mistrust and concern about the reliability of the quota system. We also have Australia taking a step like this, which means that we will then potentially have consequences from countries like Japan, who will have the grounds perhaps to say, 'In that case then, if we can't rely on the system that you're implementing, why should we comply?' What will they do? How will they respond? It is just human nature. That is the politics of what has occurred.

          Let me finish by saying that we need to be sure that the decisions we are making in this parliament are truly based on the science, that they are based on accurate data and that we set up the systems which are necessary to ensure that we have that accurate data. Also, those systems should not be subject to undue influence by donations that are being made to political parties that happen to be in government. (Time expired)

          11:29 am

          Photo of Cory BernardiCory Bernardi (SA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

          I rise to put some thoughts on the record with regard to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment Bill 2014 introduced by Senator Ludwig. It will not surprise those in this chamber that I am opposed to the bill put forward by Senator Ludwig and also the amendment put forward by the Greens.

          Before I address the specific substance of the bill, I do feel it is incumbent upon me as a South Australian senator, just like Senator Wright, to respond to some of the statements that Senator Wright has made. I must say from the outset that I am very, very disappointed that Senator Wright would choose this chamber to attack one of the most important industries to South Australia, and that is the southern bluefin tuna fishing industry. It is an industry that is extraordinarily valuable to our state. It generates some hundreds of millions of dollars worth of revenue. It is very important to the town of Port Lincoln, where I spend quite a bit of time. I consider many of the tuna fishers to be my friends and I consider them to be great contributors to South Australia. They invest in South Australia, they invest in jobs and they invest in developing best industry practice in the tuna fishing industry—

          Photo of Penny WrightPenny Wright (SA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

          They are friends of the government!

          Photo of Cory BernardiCory Bernardi (SA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

          I might I say this: Senator Wright, of course, gets caught up in all of her rhetoric. She gets caught up in her antipathy towards any harvesting of the sea. I am one of those who loves harvesting from the sea, quite frankly. I enjoy nothing more than heading out of Port Lincoln in my little boat and catching things like sharks—you know, sharks, which are dangerous creatures and hurt people. But not only that: they consume thousands of kilograms of protein every year that Senator Wright wants to protect. They consume the sardines, they consume the baitfish, they consume a whole range of things. I like catching them, I like cooking them and I like eating them. What I do is: I cut them up, I breadcrumb and deep-fry them. It is beautiful. It is something for the whole family to really enjoy.

          I am a consumer of protein just like the tuna consume protein. In Senator Wright's world, the tuna, if they were not captured by the tuna fishermen, would not eat anything at all. They would not chase those tasty sardines and those little pelagic fish. They would not eat the 12 kilos of other fish in order to put on one kilo of their own growth. No! They would swim through the ocean and not eat anything at all. It is not like we can force feed crew. It is just preposterous to presume that, somehow, by capturing some smaller fish, fattening them up and adding enormous value—and it is a world-pioneering experience—we are doing damage to the environment.

          Let me tell you what does damage to the environment: a fishing industry that is not managed as well as the Australian fishing industry. We are at the very top, in South Australia in particular, of managing the fishing industry—particularly the southern bluefin tuna industry. If we go back to the issue of quotas, I remember when quotas were reduced for many nations when the Howard government was in—it was a fine government—because they had been doing the wrong thing. They had not been counting quotas. They had been virtually doubling the fishing over what they should have been. But Australia was protected in that reduction of quota, because we did the right thing. Quite frankly, I was very proud of the government. Minister Abetz was, I think, the fisheries minister at the time. He went in and fought on the international stage. He said: 'Why should we be penalised when we are doing the right thing by the global fish stocks and sticking within our quota?'

          Of course, that did not take place under the previous government. Quotas were reduced despite Australia being, perhaps, the best managed fishery in the world. Based on my own experience and the experience and wisdom of those who go out and fish for tuna commercially, there are more tuna out in the Great Australian Bight than ever before. It is quite extraordinary how much is available out there. It is because it is very, very well managed. So I do not buy what Senator Wright is peddling.

          It is worth noting that the Greens—that extreme environmental movement, if you will—has long had this antipathy towards any harvesting of southern bluefin tuna. I remember when Mr Peter Garrett, one of your former ministers, Mr Deputy President Marshall, was an environmental campaigner rather than a political campaigner. He was head, I think, of the Australian environment council or something like that. He was actually pushing for an entire time ban on any commercial fishing of southern bluefin tuna. It was preposterous. It was absurd. But this is just how the extreme green fringe want to actually stop people from harvesting the bounties of the sea. It is right for us to question. If we going to complain not based on science and not based on evidence but on some emotive unfairness to the fish and prohibit Australians, or anyone else for that matter, from sustainably catching important food for the world, where are we going to end up with this? If we allow government to encroach at these sorts of emotive levels, what is going to happen in the future? Are they going to continue to prosecute, prosecute and prosecute the case until it is the recreational fishermen that, ultimately, suffer?

          Recreational fishermen are, in many respects, great environmentalists. They do the right thing. I support the fisheries officers that go out, check and make sure that we do the right thing, because we want to see fish stocks maintained. I do not want to see the rape and pillage of the sea, because that would be entirely inappropriate. We need to make sure that things are sustainable. That is why we cannot, in all conscience, listen to the types of rhetoric of the emotive arguments that are not put forward based on any real science apart from—

          Photo of Penny WrightPenny Wright (SA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

          Real science, like video-monitoring technology?

          Photo of Cory BernardiCory Bernardi (SA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

          Thank you, Senator Wright. Through you, Mr Deputy President Marshall, I know Senator Wright hates South Australia. I recognise that Senator Wright really loathes South Australia. That is why we do not see her standing up for submarines in South Australia or for the southern bluefin tuna industry, or for anything else. The only thing we hear from Senator Wright is some sort of—

          Photo of Penny WrightPenny Wright (SA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

          Mr Deputy President, I rise on a point of order. It seems that Senator Bernardi insists on misleading the chamber by suggesting that I have been trying to—

          Photo of Gavin MarshallGavin Marshall (Victoria, Deputy-President) Share this | | Hansard source

          Senator Wright, this is not a point of order. Please resume your seat. Senator Bernardi, you have the call.

          Photo of Cory BernardiCory Bernardi (SA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

          In legal parlance, it would not be a vexatious litigant; it would be a vexatious point of order giver. I think we should consider whether people only have a certain number of points of order to give in this chamber before they are ruled disorderly.

          If we go back to the point, South Australia has some critical industries and, quite frankly, the defence industry is one critical industry. I am very pleased that senators on this side have fought internally with the government to ensure that South Australia gets a better than fair deal. I must say, the Prime Minister has been very supportive in that respect. But there are also other industries that are very important such as the southern bluefin tuna fishing industry, the prawn industry, the agricultural industry. They are all very important from South Australia. We can ill afford to let any of them go by the wayside.

          But is it just coincidence—I am asking myself this question and I would ask the Australian people to consider it as well—that some of these very successful industries are the ones that are most targeted by the extreme and radical green movement? They do not really like agriculture. They claim that cows, for example, are destroying the climate or that sheep are destroying the environment. The bluefin tuna industry, of course, is suddenly some sort of terrible blight upon the world. But what they do not accept is that they are users of all the goods that are produced through this primary production. They do not seem to like mining or the defence industry. I just wonder what they do like. In actual fact, we know they like each other.

          Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (Victoria, Liberal Party, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Education and Training) Share this | | Hansard source


          Photo of Cory BernardiCory Bernardi (SA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

          And they do like windmills, which I consider to be a blight on the environment myself.

          Going back to the substance of this bill, it is built around rhetoric. It is built around an emotive argument. It is built around some sort of hysteria, which I do not think it is entirely appropriate, quite frankly. As I said at the start, I will not be supporting the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act Amendment Bill 2014 nor will I be supporting the amendment by the Greens.

          Senator Ludwig, who is someone I do have some respect for in this chamber, has put forward this bill and has made in the past comments about what fishermen in this country want. As a fisher in this country—not a very successful one but one who is very keen on enjoying not only the nutritional benefits but the entertainment benefits of fishing—I join with so many other people that do not want to see plunder from the sea that is unjustifiable. We want to make sure that the bycatch is minimised. We want to make sure that there is a sustainable fishing catch going forward.

          One of the alternatives that can supplement a wild fish catch is fish farming where they will take smaller fish such as in the southern bluefin tuna industry and fatten them up to add value using fish meal or sardines or pilchards—and that is indeed a huge industry all of its own. Also the alternative is to grow fish from little sprats and breed them. They do that in the abalone industry in South Australia as well. There is a very successful abalone-growing onshore industry where they export right across the world, particularly to China. You also see it with barramundi and in a whole range of other areas. But wild caught fish is generally the freshest. It is the cleanest and there is something that is wonderful about being able to eat a wild caught fish.

          We also know that the more limitations we put on that, the more reliance will go to fish farming practices which do not meet the same standards as they do in places like South Australia, where fish husbandry or animal husbandry is not at what we would deem to be at an acceptable level. That could be where you are picking up some crustaceans or shell fish or even some other pelagic fish which have been grown in polluted waters or in an unsanitary environment and so are unacceptable. That is the risk if we go down the path of what the Greens and others are suggesting.

          There is no real suggestion that we are increasing some sort of catch or bioharvest from larger ships or anything else that is coming in—they may consolidate the catch of a number of smaller ships. It may be done more efficiently. It may produce more jobs or fewer jobs. We do not know, but we are not saying we are going to catch 50,000 tonnes more fish. In actual fact, Australia's quota is quite straightforward and we try and act within those limits.

          We also do not hear a lot of discussion in this building about the poachers that go into Australian territorial waters. We need appropriate measures to apprehend and intercept those poachers who clearly do the wrong thing all the time. But in the world of moral relativism that groups like the extreme environmentalists put forward, somehow we are persecuting these poachers because they have got no choice; they have to do what they have to do and we should not be prosecuting them. Whether it be the Patagonian toothfish, whether it be harvesting shark fins in Australian waters, which is pretty barbaric—they should at least capture the whole shark and cook it up and eat it because they are very tasty—or whether it be the harvesting some sort of shells, poachers are doing the wrong thing. Australian fishers overwhelmingly do the right thing whether it be commercial fishermen, recreational fisherman or those that act somewhere in the middle.

          I will not be supporting this bill. I do recognise that management of fisheries is something that many in this chamber and across this parliament are interested in. But in order to manage things appropriately you have got to be fully informed about them. That means not just some sort of theoretical knowledge about it. It does not mean dismissing the expertise of those who have spent decades on the sea and who understand what it was really like in what I will call 'the bad old days' when there were no quota limits, size limits or bag limits. Some of the old videos from South Australia are extraordinary, where you see fish piled six or seven deep on the deck of a large boat—the sorts of things we would abhor today; that is what was done previously.

          We have experts managing our fishing environment—not only AFMA but also experts who have spent their entire lives in the fishing industry and who have absolutely nothing to gain by destroying that industry. In fact they have everything to lose. Similarly, people like me and the many other recreational fishers have absolutely nothing to gain by seeing the fish stocks of the sea depleted to a point where we cannot sustain a reasonable catch for recreational fishermen or continue to sustain feeding the billions of people around the world who depend on seafood and those who choose it because it is healthy.

          I think South Australia has a wonderful opportunity to present itself as the clean, green seafood capital of the world. We have pristine waters. The waters of the Southern Ocean are some of the most pristine in the world. We have very good fish management practices there. We have responsible corporate citizens who play an enormous role in their community. We also have other commercial fishermen who want to come in and maximise the return on their investment from fishing in South Australian waters. I do not see anything wrong with that. I think efficiencies are positive because people can save money and it can lower the cost of good for consumers. If the same quota can be caught in a shorter time frame there is a greater opportunity over the remainder of the year for the fish stocks to replenish. These are all positive things.

          I think that bills like Senator Ludwig's and particularly the amendments put forward by the Greens—with the emotive and, I would say, uninformed arguments put forward by Senator Wright and others—do a disservice not only to my home state of South Australia, and I am extremely parochial about it, but also to the good management of fisheries right across our country. Successive governments have tried to do the right thing, in many respects. They have bungled it on some occasions. I am not going to play partisan politics and things of that nature, as Mr Burke did when he was fisheries minister. I am not sure that it is actually helpful in this debate. What is helpful in this debate is to be able to have a reasonable discussion about the benefits of fishing to Australia—the commercial benefits not only from an industry perspective and the money it generates but also the fact that that provides us with a huge insight into how fish stocks are actually being managed. We simply do not have the resources or the time to examine to the same level that private enterprise will about fish stocks and how they are being managed. I know from firsthand experience that when there are plenty of fish out there the fishermen are happy to tell you there are more fish than they have ever seen. And when the fish are a bit sparse on the ground they are happy to tell you that too. They know that they need to do the right thing not only by their industry but by the nation, by the state and by the community to make sure that the industry they are pursuing is sustainable.

          I will stand with the fishermen of Port Lincoln and I will stand with the fishermen around the country who do the right thing. I will stand with the commercial fishermen and the recreational fishermen. I do believe that, ultimately, when we attack them we are attacking one of the great competitive advantages that my state of South Australia, but also Australia, has in that we have a viable, methodical, scientifically based industry in which the interests of nature, the interests of man and the interests of the privateers and government are all combined to produce a sustainable fishing industry. (Time expired)

          11:50 am

          Photo of David FawcettDavid Fawcett (SA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

          I rise to make my contribution to Senator Ludwig's private senator's bill, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment Bill 2014. As senators would be aware, this bill amends the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999—the EPBC Act—to repeal the sunset provision and to enable the minister to establish an independent expert panel to conduct an assessment into the potential environmental impacts of a declared commercial fishing activity and to prohibit the declared fishing activity while the assessment is undertaken. It sounds to me remarkably like more red tape which would be yet another impost upon industries that are so important to Australia.

          I want to make it very clear that the coalition has confidence in the sustainability of Australian fisheries managed by the Australian Fisheries Management Authority, AFMA. The reason we should have that confidence was highlighted for me just before Christmas last year when I joined the member for Barker, Mr Tony Pasin—who is a very good member for a rural seat in South Australia—and the foreign minister to go down to the south-east of South Australia. We met with a number of community forums and groups, and one of the groups we met with was the southern rock lobster industry down there. We talked around a number of things, including fuel levies and exports, and it became very clear that they are a fantastic contributor to our economy. Their industry outlook for 2011-16 highlights that over 54 per cent of their catch is exported. The total value of that is around $583.3 million, and over 54 per cent is exported, but it is sustainable.

          Photo of Gavin MarshallGavin Marshall (Victoria, Deputy-President) Share this | | Hansard source

          Order! It being 11.52, the time for this debate has expired.