06 February 2013
Andrew Wilkie pressed the Environment Minister for the Government’s position on Seafish Tasmania’s proposal to use the super trawler as a mother-ship supplied by a fleet of smaller vessels.
Mr WILKIE (Denison) (14:23): My question is to the Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. Minister, as you know, AFMA is now considering an application from Seafish Tasmania to operate the super trawler as a mother ship, supplied by a fleet of smaller vessels. As this is just a cynical attempt to circumvent the ban placed on the vessel last year; do you commit to honour the spirit of the ban, as well as the word, and to stop this madness now?
Mr BURKE (Watson—Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities) (14:23): I thank the member for Denison for the question. Members would be aware that we had a fairly intense debate towards the end of last year with respect to the impact that the super trawler may well have. This government unapologetically takes great care and great caution in protecting our oceans. The issues that we were dealing with, a few months ago now, went very much to the heart of what would be the impact of localised depletion.
Honourable members interjecting—
The SPEAKER: Can I ask the minister to resume his seat? I am on my feet. Albo, I will do it. Thank you. I think, with due respect to the independent member who has asked the question, that there should be some respect shown to allow the member to actually hear the answer to the question he has put. The minister will now be heard in silence.
Mr BURKE: Thank you. The issue of localised depletion has an impact on species that I am responsible for under national environmental law. There are other issues that ran around the campaign: people would discuss the size of the net and things like that, but ultimately localised depletion and the impact on predatory species was at the core of that. Seafish Tasmania, as well as going to AFMA, have written to me to give an indication of this mother ship proposal that they have in place. On the face of it, many of the environmental issues that we were dealing with a few months ago still arise in this new proposal. What I have asked my department to do is to prepare fresh advice on the two legal questions that they will have to answer. The first question is: is it a new fishing activity? The second question is: is there uncertainty as to the environmental impact?
I will receive that advice from the department and I will make a call on that; but I have written today to the company and made clear to them that depending on that advice, which I will not pre judge, I absolutely reserve the right to make further declarations in respect of any different ideas or uses for the vessel that come up. The tests will be the same as they were last time: is it a new activity and is there environmental uncertainty? If those tests are met, then a new declaration would go ahead and that would mean that we had a situation where activities of that nature were illegal while the scientific work was carried out.