Disallowance of Statutory Instruments
Mr PERRETT (Gympie—LNP) (5.31 pm): I move—
the Fisheries (Commercial Fisheries) Regulation 2019, Subordinate Legislation No. 178 of 2019, tabled in the House on 3 September 2019;
the Fisheries (General) (Vessel Tracking) Amendment Regulation 2019, Subordinate Legislation No. 180 of 2019, tabled in the House on 3 September 2019; and
the Fisheries Amendment Declaration 2019, Subordinate Legislation No. 181 of 2019, tabled in the House on 3 September 2019, be disallowed.
The government is making a dog’s breakfast of our successful and well-established fishing industry. It is causing turmoil for both commercial and recreational fishers. The new fisheries regulations introduced over a month ago are just the latest to cause distress to fishers and their families. These are a massive amount of changes—a total of 922 pages of changes with no scientific evidence provided to substantiate the regulations. There is no regulatory impact statement, no compensation and more confusion regarding the vessel monitoring system. The Queensland Seafood Industry Association has said that they will cripple the industry, which is already struggling under heavy regulation and increasing overhead costs. Regulation is forcing fishers to the wall and making it harder to source fresh, wild-caught seafood. Fishers, their families, workers and the businesses and towns they support deserve better than trite platitudes.
The Queensland coroner has shown up the department to operate in a culture of obstruction and cover-up, so fishers are justifiably wary. They are suspicious of the real agenda, because there has been no genuine consultation. There is no evidence that they are being listened to. QSIA senior vice-president, Allan Bobberman, was on the fishing working group for the past 18 months. He called the consultation a sham, with conservation groups overrepresented and fisheries officers pursuing predetermined outcomes, such as untested quota management systems. The minister should go back to the drawing board, because no-one trusts what has been overlooked, slipped in, or tweaked. The regulations are a maze of inconsistencies to meet a political agenda. There is no scientific evidence provided to justify this or any other fisheries management policy. All fishers are given are motherhood statements.
DAF’s stock results published online a month ago show that there is no correlation between what is listed as ‘depleting’ or ‘depleted’ and the new catch limits in these regulations. There are also inconsistencies for both commercial and recreational fishers. Stocks of spanner crab, pearl perch and snapper in the east coast; Ballot’s saucer scallops in the East Coast Otter Trawl Fishery; barramundi in the southern Gulf of Carpentaria; and king threadfin in the Gulf of Carpentaria are listed by the department as depleted. Yet the regulations allow an increase in the number of spanner crab traps when they are listed as depleting. Then we have the government closing small areas to protect juvenile prawns for trawl operators when, in fact, the department lists all prawn types as sustainable, not depleting. There are limits on mud crabs, pipis and molluscs for recreational fishers, yet they are also not listed on the depleting list. In fact, mud crabs are listed as sustainable.
Allan Bobberman said that cutting 25 per cent of his allocation was neither justified nor based on science. He said, ‘Just take the barramundi. They’ve done a stock assessment and said it is quite healthy.’ The contradictions in the published information and the regulations give credence to suspicions that the limits are there simply because of a political agenda.
True to form, there is no regulatory impact statement. An RIS was not provided for the Fisheries (Sustainable Fisheries Strategy) Amendment Bill either. The minister’s excuse then was that the bill had been thoroughly scrutinised in public and that the Queensland Productivity Commission did a preliminary impact assessment. He said—
This legislation and this policy have been heavily scrutinised, well consulted on and actively considered by the government … my department prepared a preliminary impact assessment for consideration by the Queensland Productivity Commission ….
determined that further analysis and consultation in the form of a regulatory impact statement would not be beneficial at that point in time.
When will it be beneficial to have an RIS? The minister also said—
While the financial impacts were acknowledged, this is exactly why $3 million in rebates has been made available. The reforms will provide long-term benefits to all users of the fisheries including commercial fishers.
In effect, DAF provided the estimated financial impacts to the Productivity Commission. It was not the other way around. Based on DAF’s information, the commission determined that an RIS would not be beneficial. We do not know why. The department acknowledged that there will be financial impacts, but we do not know to what extent. The claim that it will provide long-term benefits is based on DAF’s information about its own proposals. The government has either never questioned the financial impacts or thinks that they are immaterial to its political agenda. Those who are living and working in the industry—commercial operators—say that the changes severely impact them. In some cases, they will go broke. Who are we expected to believe?
It is the same with these regulations. This time there is no excuse that the Queensland Productivity Commission has made an assessment. The government is avoiding an assessment on whether these regulations will increase the cost of product for consumers or impact local businesses, the supply chain and regional towns that rely on a strong fishing industry. The minister’s press release of 1 September said that these regulations would ‘continue to have Queensland fish on the table, protect thousands of jobs in both the commercial and recreational sectors’. No evidence is provided. There is no explanation as to how these new regulations will put more fish on the table or protect jobs other than by importing product.
Bowen seafood wholesaler Terry Must says that fish such as barramundi and other species are already being sourced from the Northern Territory and other states because they are impossible to buy locally. Throughout the state, it does not matter what type of fishing people are involved in—commercial, recreational, or aquaculture—it is the same message: the government is not interested in the little guy.
Only last week I visited a successful aquaculture farm in Rockhampton run by Tony and Jodi Besch.
They were highly critical of the government, which they felt was squeezing them out. Jodi said— ‘With the introduction and hard push from the Labor government … we now face an uncertain future … We hear a lot about the BOOMING aquaculture industry. We see a lot of media release about ‘Furner’s Fish Farm Frenzy’. As a producer of premium barramundi for the last six years, can someone please point me in the direction of this BOOM … in fact it is the opposite. … Our very own Premier recently visited the big brother to our system in Abu Dhabi. It would have been far cheaper to fly to Rockhampton and see the technology in your State.’
Regulation 180 is about the vessel monitoring system. The VMS is a shambles. No-one is sure if the expansion of vessel tracking for remaining commercial boats is being brought forward by a year.
These regulations say that it will be in place by 1 January 2020, yet during a disallowance motion debate in February the parliament was told—
… the government committed to introducing vessel tracking on all licensed commercial and charter fishing boats by the end of 2020 with a priority to install units on net, line and crab commercial fishing vessels by 2019.
VMS was sold to the industry on the basis that it was for safety on commercial boats and that DAF would monitor and alert authorities during emergencies. Last month’s coroner’s finding into the tragic loss of trawlers Dianne and Cassandra shows that the department never activated the feature.
During the coroner’s investigation, it became clear that the department was being deliberately obstructionist in relation to its operation of VMS on commercial fishing boats. The rollout of the VMS trackers has been nothing short of a farce.
The government endorsed Option Audio YB3i units proved to be another debacle. There are numerous very public examples of faulty VMS transponders, shonky government authorised suppliers and general mismanagement from the department that have marred the rollout of VMS. Fishers rightfully are questioning what is the real purpose for VMS? This is not about being anti technology.
Younger generation fishers understand the need for VMS technology. What fishers do not trust is the government’s agenda and its inability to manage any form of technology rollout. One only has to look at this government’s IT rollouts, payroll debacles and purchasing debacles to know its abysmal track record on technology. There is no trust in the government to monitor or handle new technology. No one trusts the real motives.
When the minister foreshadowed this disallowance motion in February the parliament was told— The Minister … will be responsible for approval of harvest strategies which outline preagreed decision rules to achieve ecological, economic and social objectives …
It now is clear that the economic and social objectives are to follow a political agenda to push fishing families, businesses and regions out of the industry. The only objective anyone hears is the continual repetition of a motherhood statement: to create a legacy for our children and our grandchildren. What is the legacy for those who fish?
The government highlights its incompetence every time it tries to divert attention from the hatchet job being made of fisheries management by misrepresenting the LNP’s position. It was the LNP that initiated a report into the whole fishing management system. The MRAG Asia Pacific review was commissioned by the LNP when in government in 2014. The LNP does not have an issue with MRAG.
The issue is that the government is weaponising fisheries management to suit a political agenda.
Fishers want a sustainable industry. It stands to reason they do not want to do themselves out of work. These changes are draconian, they are heavy handed and will make commercial fishing almost unviable. There is suspicion the government is going too far on catch limits. Quota changes were not developed in consultation with the industry. They are not backed up with scientific evidence. There is no trust in a departmental culture of obstruction and cover-up. I urge support of this disallowance motion.