Department of the Environment

Archived media releases and speeches

The Hon Tony Burke MP

Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities

Question without notice - Parliament House

17 September 2012

KELVIN THOMSON (MEMBER FOR WILLS): How does the Government intend to use new powers under environmental law to protect our oceans and fish stocks. What has been the response to this and what additional scientific work will now be done as a result of these changes.

TONY BURKE (MINISTER FOR ENVIRONMENT): Thanks very much Deputy Speaker and I want to thank the Member for Wills for the question. The member for Wills was one of the first members of parliament to express particular high levels of concern about wanting to make sure that our fishing remained sustainable.

Of course he was reflecting views that have been described by those opposite as only coming from environment groups. Nothing could be further from the truth. There has been no group making more noise in respect to this issues than recreational fishers. Recreational fishers who have been responding loudly and strongly with two messages.

One, they want to make sure that in the years to come we haven't overfished the stock. They want to make that they and their kids and their grandkids can continue to catch fish in the same numbers that they can now.

But the second message that has come in their response to the Government's action, is a genuine level of shock that an opposition which campaigned as though it were the friend of recreational fishing has gone missing on this issue and has actually become the chief opponent of a recreational fishing campaign.

Recreational fishers have discovered without any doubt, without any doubt, that those opposite stand against them when it comes to what happens 5.5km from shore. They might be friends if there is a zone 400km away, but if it's a zone as soon as you reach commonwealth waters, those opposite and recreational fishers stand opposite each other opposing each other every step of the way in this debate. Every step of the way in this debate.

Deputy Speaker, once this legislation which is now being dealt with in the Senate, it was delayed for a hour while opposition speakers debated for an hour whether or not they had time to debate it in the Senate. But then having done that the debate commenced and after question time, the debate in the other place will continue.

And I certainly hope, I certainly hope that they reach a conclusion in that debate today. Because we want to being a situation where the law is proclaimed and we want to be in a situation where the Government is able to action the new laws and the new legal powers which it makes available.

On proclamation of this legislation I will be using the legal authority made available to myself and to the Fisheries Minister to be able to conduct the scientific research which I wanted to be able to conduct before conditions were put in place.

In any other area of environmental law you can do it. In any other area of environmental law if the information is not there you can make sure that the studies are done before the decision has to be made.

Until this law is through, you can't do that you don't have those same powers with respect to fisheries. And this government makes no apologies for wanting to have a highly precautionary level of care when it comes to our oceans.

Those opposite might be able to turn a blind eye to these issues, we won't.

KELVIN THOMSON (MEMBER FOR WILLS): I thank the Minister for his answer and ask him why is it important that when it comes to fisheries that we get the science right?

TONY BURKE (MINISTER FOR ENVIRONMENT): Thanks very much Deputy Speaker, I thank the Member for Wills for the supplementary because it is so important to be able to get the scientific information right on this and to fill those knowledge gaps.

And it's not only the Government and this parliament that has this view. When this issue was put as to whether or not there was enough scientific information before the Tasmanian parliament, every member of the Tasmanian parliament they all voted unanimously that the work had not yet been done for this trawler to commence operations.

On the weekend the Victorian National Party Minster Peter Walsh. Peter Walsh he said that they will put a 12 month ban in place. The draft notice would ban large mid water trawlers from operating in waters within three nautical miles of the Victorian coastline which fall under Victorian jurisdiction.

The Liberals in Tasmania know, the Liberals in Victoria know that those opposite that when it comes to a choice between staying with recreational fishing or perhaps being on the conservation side of an issue, they would rather desert every recreational angler in the country, desert them completely because they couldn't bear to be on the side of conservation, even on an issue as important as this.