You are here

Salmon Industry - Question Dodging

3 July 2018
Rosalie Woodruff MP


Last summer in Macquarie Harbour 1.35 million fish died from a combination of pilchard orthomyxovirus disease, low oxygen and warm waters. In May's huge storm this year, hundreds of thousands of salmon escaped from pens in Storm Bay, supposedly designed to withstand the forces of wave and wind in that bay. This is clearly an industry that is working at an industrial scale without anything like sufficient regulations around its massive and rapid expansion, and chaos is the end result. We have received reports of a recent devastating outbreak of the pilchard orthomyxovirus in Tassal's pens at Tasman and Dover, the same virus that has dogged the operations in Macquarie Harbour. Allegedly, the Tasman operation is losing around 1200 fish a day and so far, allegedly, have lost 300 000 salmon to the disease. There are serious questions being asked about the amount of chemicals being used to try to control the outbreak, with impacts on worker's safety, fish health and marine ecosystems being posed.

Can you confirm if this allegation of a new outbreak from Tasman or Dover is true, and what steps are you taking to safeguard the marine environment and to check that all standard safety procedures are indeed being followed?



Madam Speaker, it is very interesting that the member for Franklin asks a question on salmon. It was only a couple of weeks ago when she was pretending to be the best friend of the salmon industry, so I am not quite sure where she sits on this. As we know from the Greens, they flip-flop on these issues, try to use things to their best advantage, but when they turn around we know they are really about absolutely decimating industries around Tasmania.

As the member for Franklin would know, questions regarding the environment management of Macquarie Harbour are best directed to the Minister for Environment. With regard to Macquarie Harbour, it is worth pointing out that we have seen a number of measures undertaken there, including reduction of biomass limit and the JV between Petuna and Tassal, from which we expect to see improve fish health outcomes, biosecurity and environmental outcomes. We are getting on with the job of delivering our plan for salmon within Tasmania -

Dr WOODRUFF - Point of order, Madam Speaker, under standing order 45 going to relevance. There has been an alleged outbreak, and my very serious question was simply whether she was aware of it and what research and investigation is she doing?

Madam SPEAKER - As the member would be aware, I am not allowed to put words into the minister's mouth, so I hope she will continue and reveal that.

Ms COURTNEY - Madam Speaker, I can quite clearly tell the member what I am doing, which is getting on with the job of delivering our sustainable industry growth plan for salmon, which is what the Tasmanian people wanted at the last election. My predecessor, Jeremy Rockliff, released this plan in December 2017 and we are getting on with this plan delivering to industry and making sure we can -

Ms O'CONNOR - Madam Speaker, point of order, again under standing order 45, relevance. There is a question here that needs to be answered. This is a report of a very serious outbreak of a disease at two specific locations and she has not gone anywhere near the question.

Madam SPEAKER - I appreciate it is a very important question, but as you know, I am limited by this House on what I can make the minister answer. It is beyond my control. It is a practice that this House has allowed to happen. Please, Ms Courtney, continue.

Ms COURTNEY - Thank you, Madam Speaker. As you would well be aware, the Greens have form coming into this place for just making allegations around things and trying to create rumour and innuendo. As I have articulated, there are mechanisms for reporting things around environmental incidents through our independent environmental EPA. We are continuing to deliver for the salmon industry. As I mentioned, we are increasing independence and regulation through responsibility for the EPA.

Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Madam Speaker, on the disrespect shown to the House and the question under standing order 45. We need the minister to confirm whether or not there has been an outbreak of the pilchard virus at Dover and Tasman.

Mr FERGUSON - On the point of order, Madam Speaker, what we are witnessing here is disorderly behaviour. You have already ruled on that point of order raised. I also draw your attention to the extraordinary length of the question that was raised; it was more like a speech. The minister is entitled to latitude to answer the question. On the point of order, my point to you is on the disorderly attempts to disrupt the minister answering the question.

Ms O'Connor - Nice, but when a minister doesn't answer a question this is what happens. Apologies, Madam Speaker.

Madam SPEAKER - Ms O'Connor, whilst I respect your passion, I have to ask the minister to resume the answer and to wind up.

Ms COURTNEY - Thank you, Madam Speaker. Dr Woodruff discussed Macquarie Harbour and I have outlined the things we are doing in Macquarie Harbour, including working with industry –

Dr WOODRUFF - Madam Speaker, point of order under standing order 151, continued irrelevance and tedious repetition. The minister needs to let us know has she –

Members interjecting.

Dr WOODRUFF - It is not. Get your standing orders right. I am speaking to Madam Speaker not to you.

Madam SPEAKER - Dr Woodruff, that is not a point of order and it is drawing out question time, so we do need to limit these irrelevant points of order.

Ms COURTNEY - Thank you, Madam Speaker. As I was saying, we have increased penalties for breaches and are reintroducing demerit points in Marine Farming (Planning) Amendment Act 2016. This is the side of the House that is backing jobs in regional areas. This is the side of the House that is backing a sustainable salmon industry working proactively. We have strengthened the EPA, we are ensuring that we are supporting the salmon industry going forward and all we get from the Greens is innuendo and smear.



Your colleague has refused to confirm or deny allegations of hundreds of thousands of dead diseased salmon at Tassal's operations at Tasman and Dover and whether an investigation is being undertaken into the alleged deaths and the possible misuse of chemicals for control. She said it was your responsibility. Can you give the House a straight answer on this matter, please?



What Ms Courtney did was answer your question. She is the minister in relation to-

Members interjecting.

Madam SPEAKER - Order.

Ms ARCHER - Madam Speaker, I would like an opportunity to answer the question because I need to explain the responsibilities here. Ms Courtney quite rightly pointed out to members in this House, who are not but should be aware, that I have the regulatory oversight through the independent Environmental Protection Authority. That entity is independent and is responsible for regulations.

Dr Woodruff - Thanks for the lecture.

Ms ARCHER - I do not think it is a lecture. Coming into this House and explaining our responsibilities is perfectly reasonable. Ms Courtney deals with the salmon industry under her Primary Industries portfolio, as she quite rightly pointed out, and is very capable of answering that question.

Members interjecting.

Madam SPEAKER - Order. We have six minutes to go and I expect a little more decorum and respect for each other. Thank you.

Ms ARCHER - Madam Speaker, Ms Courtney deals with biosecurity issues and addressed those issues in answer to the question. The member is showing a complete lack of understanding for the fact that the Minister for Environment in this space has responsibility for the implementation of regulations. This Government made that process independent through the independent Environmental Protection Authority, who is the appropriate person to be dealing with matters of biosecurity. The very lengthy question that was asked of Ms Courtney mentioned Macquarie Harbour. That is the responsibility of the independent EPA and the member knows this. She is constantly coming in here and politically grandstanding on an issue, when Ms Courtney answered her question.

Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Madam Speaker. Under standing order 46 I request a supplementary question because Ms Courtney was asked a question and referred it to Ms Archer, who then said it is Ms Courtney's responsibility. We have not had confirmation that there has been outbreak of this virus. Do they not know what is going on?

Madam SPEAKER - I have a ruling, which is that since we have had a number of questions allocated, we no longer have supplementary questions.

Ms O'Connor - You people are disgraceful, 300 000 fish, and what did she say?

Madam SPEAKER - Ms O'Connor, I have an impeccable record of not throwing anyone out and I would like to maintain that, thank you.



Can the minister confirm there has been an outbreak of POMVE at the Tasman and Dover operations of Tassal, and will the minister not deflect the question to the Minister for Environment because the Minister for Environment has deflected it back to her?


Madam Speaker, I thank the member for her question. The member knows the Government mandates a range of biosecurity conditions on fish farming around Tasmania. That includes mandatory reporting, as the member would know, for events that exceed levels of 0.25 per cent mortality for three or more days, and the reporting of the level of the use of antimicrobial medication is a matter for the CBO. The members know this. What they are trying to do is again smear an industry that is providing jobs and support to regional areas.

Biosecurity Tasmania, through the Centre of Aquatic Animal Health and Vaccines, is developing a vaccine and is currently working with the manufacturer on commercialisation of production and regulatory approvals for it.


Members interjecting.


Madam SPEAKER - Order.

Ms COURTNEY - As we are seeing from Labor and Greens now working together, they have run out of questions. We are sitting here in this week after the Budget. We just saw from Ms White her inability to come up with another question except on GST again.

Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Madam Speaker. We cannot let ministers get away with this. The point of order goes to relevance. There have now been questions asked of the Primary Industries minister and the Environment minister and back again. The question is, can she confirm the outbreak of the virus? That is all.

Madam SPEAKER - I hear your frustration, Ms O'Connor, but I am not able to speak for the minister. Please continue.

Ms COURTNEY - It is wonderful to see Labor and the Greens working together to try to shut down an industry in Tasmania. We have seen it before and we will see it again. This Government is strengthening biosecurity for the salmon industry. This Government is strengthening environmental protection for the salmon industry and we are doing that because we want to see a sustainable salmon industry. All we hear from the other side are allegations, rather than them doing things to support jobs in regional areas. I am happy to outline the things we are doing to increase and strengthen the environmental management of Macquarie Harbour and other areas around Tasmania. We are seeing -

Members interjecting.

Mr BROOKS - Point of order, Madam Speaker. I am interested to hear what the minister is saying but I cannot because of the rabble on that side. I ask that they stop interrupting.

Madam SPEAKER - Thank you for that point of order and I request the House quieten down. It is now 11.01 a.m. Thank you, minister, I am going to draw question time to a close.