Ms WOODRUFF question to MINISTER for PRIMARY INDUSTRIES and WATER, Mr ROCKLIFF
An RTI released yesterday shows yet another breach by Tassal of its permit conditions to farm in Macquarie Harbour. An undisclosed number of fish deaths were not reported in the required time. Your department refused to release this information, ruling it would put Tassal at a competitive disadvantage and raise unfounded concerns about the production environment. The Ombudsman disagreed and also found there is no evidence that your department took any action to change the situation since then.
Isn't your real concern to put business interests above the community and the environment? Your Government has repeatedly failed to enforce major operating breaches by Tassal. They have refused to destock their Franklin lease in the prescribed time and now they are thumbing their nose at the EPA's biomass limit in Macquarie Harbour. It was confirmed earlier this year that intensive salmon farming in Macquarie Harbour is damaging World Heritage values and threatening the Maugean skate. This is now a company with a terrible track record for following the rules.
Minister, you pushed through a dodgy approval for Okehampton Bay and fish are planned to be in the water by August. Why do you keep putting commercial interests above those of the east coast community and the environment?
Madam Speaker, I welcome the staff, support staff and students from Friends as Minister for Education today.
I thank the member for her question. In directly asking her question around right to information, that information was released under the Right to Information Act process which is independent and managed by the department. The matter was investigated -
Ms O'Connor - No, it is the Ombudsman.
Madam SPEAKER - Order. Allow the Deputy Premier to answer that very lengthy question.
Mr ROCKLIFF - The matter was investigated at the time following the company's reporting of the mortalities. This included testing of samples by the department which did not identify any disease issues requiring further follow-up. The department continues to work with all marine farm operators to ensure appropriate reporting of mortality events as part of maintaining biosecurity and marine environment health.
Every time the member gets up and criticises the regulation of salmon farming I remind her and her leader, as is my job, that when in government her party did nothing between 2010 and 2014. One of the areas that you will be aware of is the area around infringements for those who breach the rules of salmon farming. We have massively -
Ms Woodruff interjecting.
Madam SPEAKER - Order. The member for Franklin asked a very lengthy question containing a number of questions and should have the courtesy to listen to the minister.
Mr ROCKLIFF - We have massively increased the penalties for breaches, particularly pertaining to the nitrogen cap. There was a recent breach in the last couple of years and the member would be aware that under her rules it was not possible to impose a fine as such. The fine now could be some $41 million, given the consideration of the breach, so we have strengthened the penalty regime to an enormous extent, as we should. Salmon farming is a very important industry for Tasmania. It employs many thousands of Tasmanians and is a contributor to our state economy in the order of $750 million. We really want to see the industry continue and grow sustainably.
Ms O'Connor - So do we, but not expanding like this.
Mr ROCKLIFF - You say that, but we know that you do not.
Ms Woodruff - Who runs this state?
Madam SPEAKER - Order. I remind members that there is ample opportunity throughout the week to debate these matters. I am not going to keep reminding. I formally warn the member for Franklin, Ms Woodruff, that if she continues to interject I will eject her.
Mr ROCKLIFF - Madam Speaker, the member must concede and recognise that between 2010 and 2014 nothing was done by the Greens in government to strengthen the regulations around salmon farming. A considerable amount has been done by our government, the Hodgman Liberal Government. I have mentioned the penalty regime, but also and most significantly is the independence now of the Environmental Protection Authority across the entire supply chain of salmon farming. I particularly make reference to the fish farms themselves.
Madam SPEAKER - The minister will wind up.
Mr ROCKLIFF - We have done this because it is the right thing to do in our very balanced, three-legged-stool approach of environment, economy and social reforms to ensure that this industry can grow sustainably in the future and the community can have confidence. I believe a great majority of Tasmanians want this industry to continue to grow but grow sustainably. I recognise that, and that is why the Government is putting in a number of measures to ensure it can do just that.