Interview on ABC Tas Country Hour - Supertrawlers



DECEMBER 29, 2014

Topic: Supertrawler ban, agriculture


DAKIS: Senator Colbeck thanks for joining us on the Country Hour program this lunch time, as you've just heard Rebecca Hubbard, the Alliance is welcoming the ban on the supertrawler but not the definition of 130 metres, why 130 metres long?

COLBECK: Well the 130 metres is the definition that has become accepted in the debate, it was put in to the public arena by both the NGOs and the previous government, so we've accepted that definition, the previous government put in a temporary ban, we've decided to make more definitive action and we've introduced regulations to regulate vessels over 130 metres from entering the Australian fishery.

DAKIS: What are your views then about Rebecca's point of view that 130 metres is too narrow a definition and that supertrawlers a slightly different or shorter length can also pose a threat to fish stocks?

COLBECK: Well I think it's pretty much typical policy creep by environmental groups, particularly environmental groups have displayed themselves as anti-industry, let's not forget that Environment Tasmania has opposed the forestry industry in Tasmania, that they are campaigning against the salmon industry and obviously attacking the fishing industry, we are looking to provide some certainty for the fishing industry and let's not forget that freezer vessels have operated in Australian waters for nearly two decades now, and the reference that was made to the Meridian is in a completely different fishery that has been fished for 17 years with freezer vessels. The fish stocks in that fishery are higher than they were when the fishery started utilising that method, the quotas were increased last year, it's a very narrow window of fishing off the West Coast of Tasmania in the middle of winter.

DAKIS: So you're not going to revisit that definition of 130 metres?

COLBECK: No, look we've made our decision, it was a decision we took great consideration with, we've spoken to a lot of people about that decision and that's now been made, we will put regulations in place to confirm that, the policy is effective it takes place immediately, so industry knows that if they want to try and bring a vessel in excess of 130 metres to Australia it won't be accepted, that message is now clearly set out to industry.

DAKIS: Rebecca referred to an expert panel report and she alluded to the fact that they'd raised some concerns about the length of supertrawlers, what's your understanding of what that expert panel report actually suggested about the length of supertrawlers and their impact?

COLBECK: Well the expert panel report is a scientific report that was commissioned by the previous government, it's quite a comprehensive document, what it effectively does say though is that Australia has a scientifically risk based well managed fishery, that's confirmed by international assessment of Australia's fisheries, we determined as I said on Christmas Eve that we maintain Australia's reputation as having well managed sustainable fisheries and that's the intent of the decision that we've made.

DAKIS: So your understanding was (inaudible) or did not raise concerns about the length of fishing vessels, not so much about the style of their operation?

COLBECK: Well the report as I said is a scientific report that covers a whole range of issues, it covers the management of the fishery interactions with protected species, it covers the biomass of the species, a whole range of issues, I'd be very cautious about selecting one element out of it to try and make a particular point because you could probably make a point by nit-picking individual small points out of the report to suit a particular argument, I think you need to look at the report holistically and effectively overall what it says is that we have very, very well managed fisheries that are risk based, scientifically based, and I think that's the important thing that comes out of the report from my perspective.

DAKIS: You're tuned in to the Tasmanian Country Hour, we're having a conversation with Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Tasmanian Senator Richard Colbeck. So does this decision by the Federal Government, was it based on science on the supertrawlers or to what degree was it influenced by the very strong community reaction to the notion of a supertrawler in Australian waters?

COLBECK: Well we acknowledged in our release that there was community concern in relation to supertrawlers, we accepted that that was a fact, we wanted to provide some comfort to the Australian community that we were cognizant of those concerns, but we would also continue to work to demonstrate to them that we were concerned about managing our fisheries well, to maintaining the reputation of our fisheries, which I've said repeatedly in the public arena is recognised globally as being amongst the best fisheries management in the world, and we will continue to improve that, so there are a number of elements to it, and one of those is obviously the concern that was expressed by the community.

DAKIS: When the initial debate about the supertrawler arrived there was also an announcement at the same time a review of Australian fisheries management, now this is some time ago, has that reached completion or is there still some way to go for that?

COLBECK: Well the report has been received by the government and it made a number of recommendations, and there's a fairly comprehensive piece of, pieces of work that are being undertaken at the moment in response to that, it's not just a matter of providing a document that says this is what we think about the report, what we are doing is acting on some elements of that report, so we are working at the moment for example on the overall harvest strategy for our fisheries, we are working on our bycatch strategies, we're working on a number of other elements of that, and just a few weeks ago I held a meeting of state fisheries ministers in Melbourne and put a fairly significant agenda on the table at that point in time, and the results of that meeting are now a matter of public record, the communique from that has been published, so we've got a very, very proactive agenda around fisheries management, looking across jurisdictional issues between states and states between states and the Commonwealth, to ensure that we have a very well integrated fisheries management scheme that's efficient and affordable for industry but also ensures the sustainability of our fisheries, so we've got a very, very active agenda in relation to that and it's not just about that one report that looked at Commonwealth fisheries, we are looking much more broadly than that.

DAKIS: Watch this space. Well only a few days ago of course to go before we usher in a new year 2015, you are the Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture federally, so a wish list for the next year?

COLBECK: Well, pretty comprehensive, obviously we're very keen to see some of the results of free trade agreements as those get ratified and start to flow through so working on issues around market access, continue to work to reduce cost of government and business, and obviously here in Tasmania I'm really looking forward to assisting the growth of the agricultural sector here in Tasmania given that's also a particular part of my responsibilities, so I'm off on a trade mission to India in a couple of weeks looking to promote opportunities for agriculture nationally but also particularly for Tasmania, looking at high value wine, food, dairy, those sorts of things and so I think working to facilitate market access, growth, alternative markets for business and industry so that we can get a better return back to farm gate.

DAKIS: Tasmanian Senator Richard Colbeck Parliamentary Secretary to Agriculture.

TRANSCRIPT Country Hour 29 December 2014 Supertrawlers
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