Aquaculture Fisheries

Second Reading - Fisheries Amendment Bill

12 November 2015 - Debate resumed from 22 October; motion of Mr PAKULA (Attorney‑General).

Opposition amendment circulated by Mr WALSH (Murray Plains) under standing orders.

Mr WALSH (Murray Plains) — I will make the lead speaker contribution on the Fisheries Amendment Bill 2015. As is set out in the bill, the purpose of this bill is to phase out net fishing in Corio Bay by 2018 and in Port Phillip Bay by 2022, compensate the 43 existing commercial licence‑holders and provide a limited non‑net commercial fishery in Port Phillip Bay of up to 8 licence‑holders from 2022 onwards.

In starting my contribution I say success has many parents, and given that this is a proposal — —

Mr Eren — And failure is an orphan.

Mr WALSH — And failure is an orphan, as the minister interjects across the table, but I suppose in this case, given that the coalition put a policy out about this in a similar format early in the election campaign and the Labor Party copied that near the end of the election campaign, there has been a general ownership of this particular policy for quite some period of time.

From the coalition’s point of view, our Better Bays plan was a more holistic view on what could be done for Port Phillip Bay rather than just the buyout of the licences, as is proposed in this legislation, because that Better Bays plan also encompassed the concept of better erosion control around the bay, better litter control around the bay, better control of marine pests in the bay and better control of stormwater going into the bay, with the subsequent pollution that goes with it.

The Better Bays plan was also a package that included upgrades and improvements to fishing platforms and piers, particularly Mordialloc Pier. I am reminded of the story, when we went down to announce that, of Rex Hunt. Rex got quite emotional, as he does sometimes about that particular pier, because that was the place his father first took him to go fishing when he was a young child. The plan was also about new and upgraded bike paths around the bay and also money for infrastructure and the operation of surf lifesaving clubs as well, so it was a far more holistic program than just the buyout we are now talking about here today.

Target One Million, as I said, is only one part of this particular program and the buyout by the now Labor government, because if you do not upgrade the associated infrastructure, you actually put more pressure on the recreational fishing infrastructure. It is going to be a lot harder to get a parking spot; it is going to be a lot harder to get a launching slot, particularly for those people coming back in after a number of hours out in the bay fishing; it is going to be a lot harder to actually get their boat back on their trailer when they want to. We know that for those people who have visited those launching places around the bay, when there is a long queue of people coming in off the water and they are tired and have been out in the weather, they just want to get their boat on their trailer and go home, and that creates some tensions at times around that particular area.

As I started off by saying, success has many parents. It would be interesting to know whether Labor would have done it at all if it had not been for the coalition putting this policy forward. I notice the minister at the table smiling about this. I believe the coalition actually led the Labor Party to do this particular policy.

Mr Eren — Except you didn’t do it.

Mr WALSH — We did not get the opportunity to do it. Port Phillip Bay, as has been said by a lot of people, is a recreational fishing mecca here in Victoria. It attracts a lot of people not only from outside Melbourne and the rest of Victoria but also from interstate and overseas to actually go and fish in Port Phillip Bay. I noticed recently there was an economic report put out about the value of recreational fishing here in Victoria. It coincides with this particular debate. I suppose as an inlander it is important to know that that recreational fishing economic report includes recreational fishing right across Victoria, not just for the bay, because it is a huge industry wherever you go.

Coming back to the bay, there has been a lot said about the pastime of recreational fishing and the joy for children — and for adults, for that matter — when they catch their first fish. I suppose one of the pleasures I had as the former minister with responsibility for fishing was actually to go out snapper fishing with Trevor Hogan from Patterson River a couple of years ago, something I had never done. I had never been out on the bay fishing. I am one of those people who openly admit that they actually like to see land when they are out on the water; I do not want to get too far from land. But it was an opportunity to go out with Trevor and some of the people from VRFish to do some snapper fishing. It was a real thrill to catch my first snapper. We both caught a couple of fish each and took them home that night and cooked them with the instructions that Trevor gave us, and it was a magnificent piece of fish, so I understand the thrill that people get out of going recreational fishing.

I think one of the myths about fishing is that it is not a sport or recreation for women. I know there are a lot of people who always talk about the guys going fishing. There are a lot of women who go fishing, and we should make sure that we put on the record in this place that it is not a gender‑specific pastime. A lot of women love going out fishing, both with their partner and probably most likely without their partner and with someone else they can enjoy that with. It is a recreation for the whole family, and as has been spoken about by a lot of people, it is important that young people get the opportunity to do it. Quite often, particularly if they have a positive experience the first couple of times they go out fishing, they are — with no pun intended — hooked for life because of the thrill they get out of doing that and will get out of it into the future.

There is a substantial industry that sits behind recreational fishing. We have talked about the economic activity report. That effectively says that the combined direct and indirect output of the industry is about $7 billion, and it employs something like 34 000 people. Those people who have gone along to the boat show over a number of years would have an appreciation of how recreational fishing crafts have improved over time. If you go back in time to a little silver aluminium tinny with 5, 10 or 15‑horsepower output on the back, you see that boats have come a long way since then.

Mr Brooks — Not mine!

Mr WALSH — That’s up to you. You need to buy a better one. You need to go to the boat show, Colin; there were some great boats down there. I am sure there is a person who would love to sell you a better boat in the future, but there are some very good boats there now and a whole range of rods and tackle and everything that sits behind that. So there is a very big industry that sits behind that.

The thing to remember in discussing this legislation is that there are those 43 licensed commercial fishermen who have been fishing in the bay, some of them for several generations. With this particular legislation it is important to bear in mind that some of those people believe they are substantial losers out of this particular initiative that is being put forward. I would like to thank particularly Seafood Industry Victoria (SIV) for the detailed information it has sent through about its views on the compensation package and how it is going to work, particularly the fact that SIV does not believe the compensation package is adequate. It does not believe it is as generous as the Western Port buyout that happened a number of years ago. When I met with SIV a number of weeks ago in the consultation on this bill, at that stage it was going to write to the minister and see that particular issue out. I do not know if it has actually written to the minister about the fact that it does not believe that the compensation package is adequate, but it said it was going to do that.

The other issue, comparing it with the Western Port buyout, is the fact of a tax ruling around how the payments were going to be treated from a tax point of view. As I understand it, a class tax ruling for the Western Port commercial fishermen meant that they clearly knew how the tax was going to be treated on their payments — when they get their payouts, they lose a substantial amount of it in tax.

One matter that arose during our bill briefing which was not clear to me is about the allocation of the eight longline licences that will remain after 2022. The question that I raised at the bill briefing was that the process for how those licence‑holders will get a licence is prescribed, but it does not impose a time frame on it. During the bill briefing opposition members were informed verbally that the licence‑holders would be notified before 1 April 2016. Our advisers took it on notice that that issue would be clarified and put on the record during the debate in this house. I think it is important for those people who will be affected that the process be set out in the bill as to how they can apply for a longline licence. In making their decisions about when and how they surrender their licences, it is important that those people know when they are going to be informed of whether, if they choose to apply, they will be one of the eight licence‑holders who will be given a longline licence into the future.

There is a lot that could be said about this bill. Unfortunately the way the business program has evolved this week — with a lot of bills and the short day yesterday — not everyone will have a chance to speak on bills, which we saw happen with the previous bill, debate on which has been adjourned. A number of speakers on this side of the house have not had the opportunity to speak, and I have put my truncated version of my contribution to the debate on the record.

In closing, I will speak to the amendment that I have had circulated in my name, which is:

Clause 5, page 3, line 31, omit “2018” and insert “2017”.

That is to do with the time of cessation of netting in Corio Bay. The feedback that I have had from the Friends of Corio Bay Action Group is that they believe that the government is using the ceasing of netting in 2018 as an election stunt running up to that year’s election. They believe it would be better to move the date away from the election cycle and have proposed 2017 instead of 2018. I think that is reasonable, which is obviously why I have circulated my amendment.

When I started my contribution I said that success has many parents, and there has been bipartisan support for this particular program. I would like to think that there would be support from the Labor Party in the other place for my amendment to bring forward the cessation of netting in Corio Bay from 2018 to 2017. If there is no support in the upper house for that amendment, that would say to me that this is all about a political stunt and not about trying to do the right thing by the fishermen in Corio Bay. It will be interesting, and it will be a test for the Labor Party in the upper house to see if government members support that amendment, because if they do not, that would send a very clear signal, particularly to the Friends of Corio Bay, that the government is not serious about this piece of legislation.

 

November 2015 -

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