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Finfish Environmental Standards - Public Consultation

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Thursday, 30 March 2023

Tags: Fish Farms, Environment Protection Authority

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Mr Speaker, last November, Jeremy Rockcliff the Premier hosted an exclusive Liberal Party fundraising dinner with tickets of $4400 a head. It was a cozy group and the Premier has never denied the dinner or the presence at it of the notorious Batista brothers, who own JBS, the world's biggest protein producers - they are also convicted, on the record, of numerous environmental and taxation crimes in multiple countries. Also, at it was the CEO of Cooke Sea Food, the new owners of Tassal, with an equally appalling environmental track record.

The Premier also never denied he was heard telling his corporate mates over dessert that his Government is backing the salmon industry all the way, regardless of how unpopular that is.

This week, the long-awaited draft Finfish Environmental Standards public consultation process completed. We have been given the information that is on the public record now of submissions from multiple groups with their views about it. It is paytime for the salmon coorporations. Their pathetically small investment in the Liberal Party in Tasmania is reaping enormous profits. I draw the House's attention to the submissions on the environmental standards for Tasmanian Marine Finfish Farming 2023 that are sensibly about improving our environmental regulations. According to the environmental defender's office, which has done a thorough submission, they are, 'a weaker set of environmental rules that currently apply, and a diminished version of what was promised by the Government last year'. (tbc)

In fact, the Government has been hiding the Cawthron's reviews response, an independent review of the EPA's Tasmanian and International regulatory standards, requirements for salmon agriculture that was done in 2019. The EPA did that work, and the Cawthron Institute did an independent review. In that, they made 15 recommendations for what global best practice would look like. None of those 15 environmental standards have been addressed in the Government's draft regulation standards, none of them have been implemented, and at least a third have not been addressed at all.

We are in a dark place, where we are confronted with spin and falsehoods about the real state of our environmental regulations. Christine Coughanowr, who was the Derwent Estuary Programs founder, that was, and is an outstanding example of how we can improve our waterway health, despite a legacy of really extensive pollution. Tasmania's Derwent river was at one point the worst and most polluted river in the world and that has been dramatically turned around. Christine Coughanowr headed that work for over 10 years and she said about the Government's draft standards, that they provide less environmental protection, and less clarity than the existing rules, quote, 'they significantly expand the allowable footprint of impact, devolve responsibility for critical aspects of monitoring and compliance to the industry and they fail to require regular, public reporting by the EPA and the salmon industry'. (tbc)

The House would remember Louise Cherrie, who has been a fantastic and clear advocate, as a former member of the EPA and the Marine Farming Planning Review Panel. She has been an advocate for science and for following the evidence and for strong standards. She said the draft standards are grossly inadequate, they lack technical detail and trigger limits, they perpetuate the existing over-reliance on visual indicators and they default to the EPA director's discretion, rather than providing certainty in key areas.

We need standards that hold operators equally accountable to high standards of environmental protection. At the moment, what we have is a backward step that continues to allow open pen farming to be the only industry in Tasmania that is permitted to discharge their wastes untreated into our marine environment.

We had, from Mr Jaensch, the same gaslighting that we hear from this Government on a regular basis, in every portfolio. He said that the draft standards will have increased regulation of noise and light emissions and rigorous environmental monitoring requirements. It is hogwash. We have three independent scientists who have looked at it, as well as the Environmental Defenders Office. It is clearly not only a step down, it has given the industry everything that the Premier assured them he would do.

So, there is not going to be any pesky interruption to salmon company supply chains or their production volumes regardless of any impacts that occur in the environment, like the dead zones that they caused in Macquarie Harbour and like the choking green slime that is occurring in the Tasman Peninsula at the moment.

The new regulations are a licence for salmon companies to operate wholly on their own terms. It is a classic case of state capture. We see state policies being influenced by ministerial direction to the so-called EPA, which is not independent yet. It is utterly detrimental to our coastal communities and particularly to the life of the beautiful marine environment. If the Premier wants to speak for Tasmanians, he should get out and talk to them.