Huon Aquaculture CEO Frances Bender has attacked the integrity and purpose of the Legislative Council's Inquiry into Fin Fish Farming.
This is the first Tasmanian Inquiry ever to be held into fish farming, of an industry that is doubling in size and location around the state. Ms Bender’s attack on the process and purpose of this Legislative Council Inquiry indicates the fragility of the fish farm industry to public scrutiny.
Ms Bender accused the Committee of using a process that, by virtue of the material that had been presented by multiple witnesses, is “potentially damaging to this company and its employees”, and questioned what the inquiry was hoping to achieve.
Ms Bender charged numerous previous witnesses with having peddled “mistruths under oath”. She told the Committee that by simply holding an inquiry where witnesses presented negative comments about the operations and regulations of the fish farming industry it “challenges people’s personal and professional integrity, challenging their livelihood”.
Fish farming in Tasmania is a massive industry. The attacks on this Inquiry, by the CEO of a company that recorded a $22 million profit in the last six months, and $47 million last financial year, indicates just how little this industry is used to having to defend its activities or the laws that govern them.
Ms Bender’s conduct illustrates how brittle the industry is to discussion of independent regulation – it is clearly challenged by the prospect of not being allowed to do whatever it wants, wherever it wants, in effective secrecy.
The Inquiry has heard evidence from multiple witnesses about the failure of successive governments to provide a regulatory framework to protect publicly-owned waterways and give a voice for community concerns.
The Liberal Government needs to understand that without protections for the natural world and local communities the fish farm industry does not have the operating conditions it needs to be sustainable.