Thursday, 30 November 2023
Questions without Notice
Tasmania: Salmon Industry
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment, Senator Wong. I refer the minister to the announcement by Minister Plibersek to consult—over Christmas, no less—on whether to allow salmon farming on Macquarie Harbour on Tasmania's West Coast to continue. Given the minister has already indicated in her letter to the Tasmanian Premier on 6 November that the Labor government would likely require the industry to pause—in other words, shut down—will the minister guarantee that not a single one of the 400 West Coast salmon industry jobs will be lost because of this minister's and this government's decision?
Thank you, President. I thank the senator for the question. Certainly, all Tasmanians, I know, in this chamber have an interest in this. Some have different views but, certainly, those on our side understand the importance of the industry to the Tasmanian economy.
I'll take the interjection from the shadow Attorney-General, yet again making baseless accusations, baseless assertions—
We've got a bit of auditioning going on here, I reckon. I'm grateful for the indication that the announcement had been made; I appreciate the senator's drawing that to my attention. I see here that Ms Plibersek has made an announcement in relation to consultation on salmon farming in Macquarie Harbour. The second page of that statement says, 'Salmon farming in Macquarie Harbour does not have to pause while this occurs,' so I assume that the senator may not have read that statement at the time he asked me that question.
I would make this point: we understand this is an issue of contest, of concern, to many people. I would make the point that these laws, which have been supported by both sides of politics—I think they were originally introduced by a Liberal environment minister—are laws which need to be applied fairly and appropriately, and I'm sure that is the way in which Minister Plibersek will seek to approach this. I would assume that the senator would not be advocating anything else.
I refer to the fact that the complaints that precipitated this review about salmon farming in Macquarie Harbour were launched by the left-wing think tank The Australia Institute, the Bob Brown Foundation and then, of course, the Labor Party's taxpayer funded Environmental Defenders Office. Does the minister now agree that funding the EDO to engage in lawfare that destroys jobs is a mistake and funding should be stopped, or will the minister bow to the pressure of green groups and sacrifice Tasmanian jobs as a result?
I think this is largely a question I was asked on Monday or Tuesday. I did actually answer it. I answered it at some length, talking about the importance of democracy. I can infer from the fact that Senator Duniam has asked it again that he didn't get quite enough Tasmanian press from our first answer, so he wants to have another go. Good luck to him, that's what he does. I refer to my previous answer on this. I would also say to you, we do support the aquaculture industry, including the salmon industry. I think it is unremarkable to say that all industries need to continue to demonstrate that they operate in a sustainable and responsible manner. I know that not only Ms Plibersek but members of the Tasmanian delegation to the federal parliament, as well as Minister Watt, have taken a very keen interest in this— (Time expired)
Given there's been no guarantee for the jobs, what does the minister say to the 400 Tasmanian men and women whose jobs are now not safe over Christmas because of this Labor government's decision to attack the sustainable salmon industry to appease the Greens? If you need clarity, I'd be happy to table the minister's letter from 6 November.
Senator Brown and Senator Polley, order! Senator Brown!
Honourable senators interjecting—
Order! Senator Polley, I've called you at least five times. And apologies if it wasn't you, Senator McGrath, but I think it was.
An honourable senator interjecting
I've called you on many occasions as well. The minister has the right to be heard in silence.
That's the first point. I don't think running around trying to scare people about their Christmases is the right thing to do.
The second thing I would say is that I know that Senator Urquhart and Minister Watt went to Strahan—
just last week and met with members of the community and the local salmon industry. I would say to you, Senator Duniam: I guarantee people on this side have met a lot more workers in the industry than you.
Honourable senators interjecting—