Senate debates

Wednesday, 15 November 2023


Dementia, Tasmania: Salmon Industry, Maugean Skate

7:35 pm

Photo of Richard ColbeckRichard Colbeck (Tasmania, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It's not what I was going to talk about, but I would like to associate myself with the comments of Senator Polley in relation to the event held by Dementia Australia today. I say to Maree McCabe, her team and those who were there living with dementia and telling their family stories: they absolutely smashed it out of the park tonight. It was one of the most engaging occasions of their regular visits here to Parliament House, and the connections that they created with their stories tonight were, as Senator Polley has indicated, so profound. And so, to Senator Polley and Nola Marino, who are the co-chairs, and to all the others who were there: they saw something very special. As I've indicated, Maree McCabe and her team literally smashed it out of the park tonight.

Tonight I want to comment on something I've spoken about previously in the chamber: the circumstance of the salmon industry, particularly in Macquarie Harbour on the west coast of Tasmania. This is an industry that makes a significant contribution to the Tasmanian economy. The aquaculture industry in Tasmania is worth in excess of $1 billion to the Tasmanian economy, and a significant proportion of that is in Macquarie Harbour on the West Coast. There are hundreds of jobs involved on the west coast, and three businesses have been there for a considerable period of time—one of them for decades—farming in Macquarie Harbour.

The industry feels under severe threat at the moment due to a request from three environmental groups to overturn an environmental approval that was made by Tony Burke when he was environment minister 11 years ago. If Minister Plibersek actually opens up this approval that was given by Mr Burke 11 years ago, it will be the first time that a project that has been running for so long has had its environmental approval reconsidered. It will be the first time since the EPBC Act came in.

This is not just a threat to the salmon industry in Tasmania; it's a threat to every other business organisation that has an environmental approval that's been put in place. If you don't think that organisations like the Wilderness Society and other environment groups—those anti-everything brigades—will use this as the thin edge of the wedge, you are kidding yourself. That's exactly what they will do. They will attempt to pry open every environmental approval that's been given where they decide that they know better than everybody else and they decide and should be the ones that provide the environmental and social licence to these projects so these extraordinarily important parts of our economy can continue to go ahead.

Minister Plibersek should work with the Tasmanian government on the significant plan that's been put in place by the industry. To give credit to the government, they have contributed $2.1 million. The Tasmanian government has contributed $2.1 million. The industry's put $4 million of its own money on the table and, through its levies, is seeking another $3 million through the FRDC to support the survival of the maugean skate, which is what this is all about. But an environmental approval that has been in place for 11 years should not be cracked open. The industry should be given the opportunity to work with the government and the funding that everyone has put up to resolve the issues in relation to the oxygenation of Macquarie Harbour. But the environment movement should not be given the opportunity to crack open an environmental approval that was given 11 years ago and put everything else on the table at risk as well. (Time expired)