FEDERAL Member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch has condemned the Government for its knee-jerk reaction and total mishandling of the Abel Tasman super-trawler debacle.
Mr Entsch addressed parliament on Wednesday morning after the government attempted to fast-track controversial changes to the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.
The amendments would create a new Chapter 5B of the EPBC Act enabling the fisheries and environment ministers to declare a fishing activity on an interim basis if both ministers agree that;
o there is uncertainty about the environmental, social or economic impacts of the fishing activity;
o the declared fishing activity should be prohibited while consultation occurs,
In addition, the ministers can declare a fishing activity for a period of up to two years if they both agree that;
o it is appropriate to establish an expert panel to conduct an assessment of the fishing activity; and
o the declared fishing activity should be prohibited while the expert panel conducts its assessment of the fishing activity.
“These amendments would give unprecedented power to the two ministers and the declarations could apply to any fishery recreational, sport or commercial at their whim,” Mr Entsch explained.
He added that Australians have already seen sovereign risk issues in relation to the Minerals Resource Rent Tax and Live Cattle Exports, which had a huge impact on investor confidence.
“We are seeing exactly the same thing now being applied to our fisheries. How does that make us look? It is an absolute disgrace.”
Mr Entsch’s speech also targeted the way the government has on one hand continually used science as a way to justify allowing this vessel into Australian waters, while at the same time it used no scientific basis whatsoever to justify its move to lock up the Coral Sea Marine Reserve.
“The minister bowed to pressure to close the Coral Sea as a result of a glossy spam email campaign from the American Pew Foundation, with no consideration of the impact on Australian businesses and families,” Mr Entsch commented.
“He then uses his own department’s science and that of AFMA to justify his approval for the Abel Tasman, before trashing that science in response to a campaign from Getup! and the Greens.
“The hypocrisy in this whole debate has been second to none.”
In opposing the Bill, Mr Entsch admitted that he had been critical on first learning about the plans to allow the vessel, known then as the Margiris, to ‘factory fish’ in Australian waters.
“I was concerned about bringing a vessel of this size here and allowing it to take 18,000 tonnes of quota in one area,” he said.
However with some minor “tweaking” of its conditions, ensuring appropriate AFMA supervision, the close monitoring of by-catch issues, and move-on provisions so that local stocks were not overfished, he believed a sensible take was possible.
“You’ve got to go back to the science, and that same science has to be applied around Australia, not cherry-picked on a case by case basis,” he said. “I think this opens the door to revisiting some of the areas that have been closed completely as a result of environmental hype, and reconsider fishing in those areas based solely on science and sustainability.”
Click here to see the Hansard transcript.