THE Australian Workers’ Union campaign Tassie Salmon: Our Jobs, Our Future is in desperate need of a reality check.

I have heard nobody, except Bill Shorten’s former union, the AWU, talk about shutting Tasmania’s salmon industry down.

I have heard nobody, except the union, talk about salmon workers losing jobs.

All I’ve heard is talk about the need for the salmon industry to face head on its undeniable environmental issues to become genuinely sustainable. Only then will it grow and prosper, and provide jobs for future generations.

Regrettably this is what politics has become. Pick an issue. Claim jobs are under threat. Whip up fear. Throw together a Facebook page.

Print some stickers. Claim to be standing up for ordinary workers when, in reality, its all to do with trying to score political points. Paradoxically, of course, by refusing to address the challenges facing the salmon industry, it is the union that is threatening jobs.

So let’s leave politics to the AWU and consider the facts.

The salmon industry is a success story and it is important to Tasmania, not least because it is a big employer with a superb product. But the industry is facing environmental challenges and growing pains.

For instance, on the West Coast we have seen mass fish deaths and environmental problems in Macquarie Harbour where salmon numbers have had to be reduced. But do not take my word for it, because even the industry has accepted it cannot be business as usual.

No less than Frances Bender, of Huon Aquaculture, has warned of a looming disaster in Macquarie Harbour.

On the East Coast, the community is fighting plans to farm salmon in the ecosystem at Okehampton Bay, in the middle of an important tourism region. No wonder fish farming is such a divisive issue in the community.

We know fish farming creates all sorts of marine pollution on account of the chemicals and feed pumped into the water, as well as the effluent produced by fish. Of course, this has a detrimental effect on water quality and reduces oxygen levels in the surrounding waters.

Frankly, there can be no doubt anything less than world’s best practice fish farming is bad for the environment. That puts at risk not only our marine and bird life, but also our clean waters and beaches. It jeopardises our tourism industry as well as our recreational and commercial fisheries. How crazy is that?

We would, potentially, put one industry ahead of all else that makes Tasmania so special.

The question is where to from here. Tasmanians are familiar with the practice of some union leaders, and politicians I would add, ignoring systemic problems and blindly defending the status quo. This nothing-tosee-here approach is what

brought the state’s forest industry to its knees, so no wonder many Tasmanians are cynical about the next big thing, and all the promises that accompany it. They know that ignoring problems just leads to mass job losses and industry demise in the future. I’m not with this business-as-usual, expand-at-all-cost brigade because people and their jobs, and the community and the environment, are way too important for such mischief or laziness.

What’s needed is really quite simple, and that’s to stop any expansion of the salmon industry until the very best minds do the research and determine the right way forward, a way that genuinely satisfies the most stringent environmental, social and economic criteria. Indeed, such a triple-bottom-line approach should be the test of all activity in Tasmania.

This is a pivotal moment for salmon farming and I want to see the industry succeed and people employed. So I’m not going to take the easy and selfserving path chosen by the AWU. Instead I’m going to fight the good fight that acknowledges the issues and drives change, because change is what will keep this industry going and keep people in work.

This should not be a debate with the workers on one side and the environmentalists on the other. We actually want the same outcome – a genuinely sustainable industry that is financially viable and meets the most stringent social and environmental criteria. The Tasmanian Government also needs to establish the very best regulatory framework, one that can win the complete confidence of the community.

That is what will put the salmon industry on a genuinely sustainable footing and ensure that Tasmania continues to supply the country, and, indeed, the world, with the very best produce. That is the way to help ensure the salmon industry realises its remarkable potential. To do anything less would be socially divisive and environmentally irresponsible. It would also make a mockery of any claim to care about jobs.

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