SUBJECTS: Labor’s fisheries and aquaculture policies.
JOEL FITZGIBBON: It’s a real treat to be in Bermagui with Mike Kelly. We’ve had a big day in Eden Monaro talking first all about the forestry industry and our positive plans there, then the dairy industry and our positive plan to help our struggling dairy farmers and now here in Bermagui to talk about our fisheries and aquaculture policies. You know, the now Morrison Government took forestry and fisheries out of the portfolio title six years ago and sadly since then both forestry and fisheries has entirely slipped off the Government’s agenda. This is despite the fact that in both sectors there are enormous value adding opportunities and job creating opportunities. Now in agriculture, I often talk about adding value to our opportunities and there is no sector where there are greater opportunities to add value than in the fisheries sector. So we’re going to put fisheries and aquaculture back on the agenda, we’re going to do so in the first instance by having a national summit, to bring all the stakeholders in to demonstrate that the new government if we are so fortunate to be elected on May 18 has a determination to have a positive strategy for the fisheries and aquaculture sector. What will be our focus? Well first of all state and commonwealth cooperation. We need uniformity and harmony across the jurisdictions. We can’t get the outcomes we are keen to secure without better cooperation between state and commonwealth governments and cooperation between the two. We are going to focus on climate change. Climate change is critical to the future success of the industry. Sadly fishers all the time remind me the drought for example affects the fishing sector as much as it does the agriculture sector. We’re going to have a real focus on that including investing $10 million into a new centre to research into climate change. We’re going to focus on biosecurity. Nothing is more important to the sector than biosecurity. The government has dropped the ball in this area. We saw that with the white spot problem in Queensland. We need to take it more seriously, we need to properly fund it and resource it and a Shorten Labor Government will do so. Research, we’re going to increase research to 3 per cent of GDP, we’re going to review the way research is done in the fisheries sector to ensure that every dollar spent, scarce dollar spent on research is a dollar well spent and enable us to further go up that value chain. These propositions are in addition to what we are saying about recreational fishing, that $3 billion industry which is so critical to the Australian economy. Of course, what we’ve said there is that we’re going to get the Prime Minister, Bill Shorten involved by having a Prime Ministerial Round Table every year with the fishers. We’re going to give them a seat at the table, central decision making in Canberra, we’re going to spend $45 million giving our rec fishers the infrastructure they need to grow and to be strong and to enjoy their pastime. We’re going to put $10million into breeding and stocking. $500,000 into the Give Back to the Habitat Strategy. We want a sustainable fishing sector, both commercial and recreational and a Shorten Labor Government will ensure we have the plans in place to secure one. Mike did you want to add anything?
MIKE KELLY: Oh look it’s great having Joel here to back in our rec and commercial fishers. We’re here at the Bermagui Fishing Co-Op and Rocky Lagano and the team here put in blood, sweat and tears to deal with the issues that they were facing and being creative about that and having some restructuring help to begin with. But we’ve worked really hard to do things when we were in government around the marine bio-regional planning process here and we know that the rec fishing, the big game fishing that happens here is really big and important part of our local economy and so we were pleased to get support and money to the Bermagui Big Game Fishing Club as well, but to keep that support going to enable them to deal with the challenges they face is really important. So I’m really grateful for what Joel’s been able to do and win support from our federal team to get behind something that’s just so important to our coastal economy, but I will add that we need the New South Wales Government to stump up too. The co-op here is struggling with issues around their dealings with the Lands Department. If they want a commercially sound and successful operation here, they have to understand the dynamics that effect how these businesses work, how they attract financing. I’m calling on the State Government to work with the co-op here to make sure that those impediments are removed from their operations as well.
JOURNALIST: You’ve announced today a national summit to look at the seafood industry, but if industry insiders hear this they might think this is just another talk fest, why aren’t you announcing a national policy rather than just another summit to talk about what could be done for the seafood industry?
FITZGIBBON: Well because the current government over six years has created a huge vacuum in our policy settings and we want to talk to the stakeholders first about what their priorities are, but you can be absolutely sure that we will put fisheries and aquaculture front and centre to government policy making. You don’t hear this government talking about the fisheries sector. We’ll work with it, we’ll give the stakeholders a voice at the table and do the things that are necessary to build sustainability in the sector, profitability in the sector and of course for rec fishers, enjoyment in the sector.
JOURNALIST: You mentioned about making it easier, a more cohesive plan across commonwealth and state fisheries. What concrete news can you give fishers in that space who work in the commonwealth fishery or are concerned about the state fishery and how that will all impact on them?
FITZGIBBON: Well first of all it’s a matter of great regret that Barnaby Joyce when he became the Minister for Agriculture and abolished fisheries from the title of the department and his own title, abolished also the COAG committee that deals with agriculture, fisheries and forestry issues. We will restore that committee. It’s very obvious I think to rec fishers and commercial fishers alike that because of the jurisdictional issues here, you must have the commonwealth and the state working as one in harmony delivering results for both sectors. In terms of the commonwealth waters, we’ll make sure we stick to the science. We need to ensure that our fisheries operate on a sustainable basis and we will also enhance our cooperation with international players so that we’ve got uniformity and harmony in our objectives and of course our objective has to be sustainability.
JOURNALIST: What about country of origin labelling for seafood? That’s one that fishers are often pushing for. Would you like to see movement in the federal level when it comes to country of origin labelling?
FITZGIBBON: I would certainly like to assist consumers identify Australian produced fish absolutely. We are a heavy importer of seafood in this country, we need to do better producing more here, producing more value here but we need to help guide consumers to that higher quality Australian fish.
JOURNALIST: Would you make it mandatory?
FITZGIBBON: We’re prepared to do trials on making it mandatory. We’ve already started a process on that in Tasmania, I mean this is not an issue lacking in complexity. I think most people are aware of that. But we are certainly prepared to work with the sector to raise that community awareness.
JOURNALIST: Is there anything else that you wanted to add Mike?
KELLY: Just lastly, I’m really pleased too that we’ve got a very solid and - I’ll start again. We’ve got a very great policy on dealing with these super trawler issues as well which I’m really pleased about, that was a big issue here on our coast in terms of the irresponsible and unsustainable practices of the MV Geelong Star and so I’m really pleased that Labor’s got a very solid policy on ensuring that we don’t have our commercial and rec fishing environment plundered by those super trawlers so that’s another very effective and good part of our policy.
JOURNALIST: Are you going to be reducing the size of the super trawlers?
KELLY: Well we’ve got a ban on the super trawlers so…
FITZGIBBON: If I could just make a point on that, it’s not just the sustainability of fisheries, it’s the immediate and psychological impact on the economy. When recreational fishers hear that the super trawlers are in the area, they simply go fishing somewhere else and that has an impact on the regional economy because they’re not coming here to buy bait, to buy food, to buy their drinks, et cetera, to purchase their accommodation. So it’s a very big regional impact and we’ll stand by our regional communities.
JOURNALIST: What is the – you say stick to the science on commonwealth fisheries, what is the science saying at the moment?
FITZGIBBON: Well the science is the science and you know there has been a battle going on between the government and the opposition on the marine parks for example and the government has departed from the science, and that should be a real concern to every commercial rec fisher concerned about sustainability and we’ll take the process back to the science.
KELLY: We made that plan well when we were in government, you know, it was set down with the commercial fishers and rec fishers all around the country and designed marine bio regional planning processes and boundaries that fitted the local needs, they were all tailor made and were designed to keep sustainable commercial fishing going forward and also to make sure we had something to hand on to our kids so it was all there, didn’t need fiddling with.