Dr WOODRUFF question to MINISTER for PRIMARY INDUSTRIES and WATER, Mr BARNETT
Tasmanians in coastal water areas will be waking up this morning to hear news that their communities are potentially under threat from a massive expansion of fish farming. Last month, you quietly announced you would be supporting the industry to grow to $2 billion a year, more than doubling its current gargantuan footprint. Instead of growing salmon farming on land or far out to sea, we understand you are doing everything possible to help the industry take the cheapest, dirtiest and most harmful expansion route it can.
Despite a cast iron commitment to the people of the east coast that there will be no more fish farming outside Okehampton Bay, we understand Tassal is jockeying for more sites and has bought lease 164 in a consortium. This is a shellfish lease in the pristine Mercury Passage.
Can you confirm your department has formed a secretive committee or other entity to look at the 'no grow' zone on the east coast? Can you also confirm you will not be reclassifying any existing leases to become finfish or creating new leases north of Maria Island around Ile du Nord and Lords Bluff near the precious marine protected area? Will you tell Tasmanians how long you have been in conversation with industry about their plans for massive expansions into publicly-owned waterways?
Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Franklin for her question.
At the outset, can I reject the unfounded allegations that were being made by the member. It comes from a position of attacking and criticising a very important industry to Tasmania, and that is the salmon industry that has the backing of this Government -
Madam SPEAKER - Order, please.
Mr BARNETT - Not only that, we support the many jobs, particularly in those rural and regional areas. Let me make it very clear that I have been aware of unfounded rumours that are circulating regarding existing east coast aquaculture leases and salmon farms being established. Let me make it very clear for the member and members of the public, including those on the east coast that, with the exception of Oakhampton Bay, all other leases on the east coast can only be licensed to grow species such as seaweed and shellfish -
Dr Woodruff - At the moment.
Mr BARNETT - Madam Speaker, I am -
Madam SPEAKER - Dr Woodruff, the minister is addressing parliament.
Mr BARNETT - Thank you, Madam Speaker.
Dr Woodruff - I am making sure he understood me, Madam Speaker.
Madam SPEAKER - That is not very helpful. Thank you.
Mr BARNETT - Madam Speaker, as I was saying, it is important to be aware that the current Government policy excludes salmon farming in these areas and, additionally, there is no interest expressed to Government to grow salmon on these leases. They are there for seaweed and shellfish growing. Importantly -
Dr Woodruff - No, they would like to trade them for new leases.
Mr BARNETT - Madam Speaker, I am trying my best. I have been asked a question.
Madam SPEAKER - I know you are, minister, and I apologise for the rudeness of some. Thank you.
Mr BARNETT - Thank you, Madam Speaker. Importantly -
Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Madam Speaker. I understand why you might regard Dr Woodruff's interjections as rudeness but we are actually asking this question for people who live along the length and breadth of the east coast. They deserve an honest answer.
Madam SPEAKER - That is not a point of order. You do not like it when people interrupt you when you are speaking.
Dr Woodruff - We do not mind. We can deal with it. We are tougher than that. We do not have glass doors.
Madam SPEAKER - Excuse me. You have been here long enough to know the form of the House. You are not allowed to interrupt.
Madam SPEAKER - Dr Woodruff, I remind you that we are trying to run a dignified parliament here and a safe workplace. We are capable of far better debate than we are managing at the moment. Please proceed, minister.
Mr BARNETT - Thank you, Madam Speaker. Before I was -
Madam SPEAKER - Rudely interrupted.
Mr BARNETT - inappropriately and rudely interrupted, importantly, one of the main leases being pointed to is in the Mercury Passage. The Mercury Passage remains an area where salmon farming is banned. Schedule 6 of the Marine Farming Planning Act 1995 prescribes that the area of Mercury Passage is a no-grow area for finfish.
Mr Jaensch - That is right.
Mr BARNETT - Thank you. That is absolutely correct. In Oakhampton, finfish farming was already established prior to this legislation coming into place and was excluded and is heavily regulated by the EPA, but no further finfish farming expansion is permitted in this area. This ban could only be overturned with the approval of parliament - something we have no intention of looking at.
Madam Speaker, this is on the public record; it is in legislation. The Greens and other people know that. These are unfounded rumours that have been perpetuated -
Dr WOODRUFF - Point of order, Madam Speaker. Standing Order 45 - relevance. It is about relevance to the question. The minister did not understand it. I entirely understand the situation as it is. The question is, will the minister be reclassifying any leases or opening new leases north of Maria Island, Ile du Nord, Lords Bluff, and other trade-offs that we understand Tassal would like for their best interest.
Madam SPEAKER - As a point of relevance that is not a point of order.
Mr Ferguson - To quote a great leader - you do not own this place.
Madam SPEAKER - I know it is a circus. Would you please stand up -
Dr Woodruff - It is hard when we ask for the truth. Can the minister respond in kind?
Madam SPEAKER - Dr Woodruff, internalise all that, please.
Mr BARNETT - Madam Speaker, I am tired of the mistruths around this industry perpetuated by the Greens. It is a highly-regulated industry, it is a jewel in our crown. It is part of our brand, the Tasmanian Brand. It creates thousands of direct and indirect jobs, and it is an integral part of our regional communities. We need to get behind it, behind the hardworking Tasmanians employed in it, and stop listening to the Greens' mistruths and the social media scuttlebutt.
Greens members interjecting.
Madam SPEAKER - Order. Warning number one for both of you.
Mr BARNETT - Madam Speaker, as part of the second review of the plan, as I announced in the Budget last week, the Government is committed and has committed $250 000 for a marine spatial planning exercise to identify potential sustainable growth areas for new offshore finfish marine farms. Let me explain. The salmon plan - we are progressing this review. The progress report will include a contemporary marine spatial planning exercise and explore ways to identify potential sustainable growth areas for new offshore finfish marine farms. Through the review, the Government does not anticipate there will be major changes to the plan. We believe that by opening new areas for finfish marine farming development, supporting industries that can provide jobs and generate a network of supporting businesses -
Dr WOODRUFF - Point of order, Madam Speaker. Sorry about this.
Madam SPEAKER - I hope it is not an irrelevant one.
Dr WOODRUFF - Standing Order 45, relevance. The minister has not addressed any of the questions I asked, particularly about whether he has formed a secretive community for no-grow zones on the east coast.
Madam SPEAKER - That is not a point of order. I ask you to sit down.
Dr Woodruff - Has Tassal threatened the minister to go to Queensland if he does not do a trade-off on the east coast?
Madam SPEAKER - Dr Woodruff, you are sailing close to the wind. You know that is not a point of order. You know I am incapable of telling the minister what to say. Minister, please resume.
Mr FERGUSON - Madam Speaker, on the point of order and your ruling, I draw your attention to the incessant nature of these rude interjections and ask you to consider if it occurs again to send the member out.
Dr Woodruff - Are you directing the Speaker?
Madam SPEAKER - No, he is not directing, he is sharing advice. Thank you.
Mr BARNETT - Thank you, Madam Speaker. Before I was rudely and inappropriately, and in an unparliamentary manner, interrupted let me make it clear that we believe that by opening those new areas for finfish marine farming developments, supporting industries that can provide jobs and generate networks of supporting businesses that are also providing employment opportunities, particularly in the most impacted areas, we can get Tasmania back on the path to recovery. This review will involve a science-based re-evaluation of the current map of grow and no-grow zones using -
Dr Woodruff - The communities in Lyons are going to hate you for this.
Mr BARNETT - lessons learnt from the pilot marine spatial assessment tool that was developed by the Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies in south-east Tasmania. The work will be completed by early 2021 and any proposed changes will be released for public comment. An advisory group will be established to assist in this process. Any consideration to change the existing grow and no-grow zones for finfish in Tasmania will be subject to a comprehensive public consultation process that provides all Tasmanians with a chance to comment on any potential changes.
Dr Woodruff - Like all the others where you have taken no interest in what people say.
Member for Franklin - Dr Woodruff
Member for Clark - Ms O'Connor
Madam SPEAKER - Dr Woodruff, you are incapable of keeping self-control today, so I am going to ask you to leave the Chamber. Thank you.
Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Madam Speaker, I need some clarification here. Dr Woodruff has had one warning.
Madam SPEAKER - Well, you are not getting any. I have given an order. The member is suspended until the end of question time and you may join her for back-chatting. The two of you will leave the Chamber until the end of question time.
Ms O'Connor - Democracy is in very fine form in Tasmania at the moment, isn't it?
Madam SPEAKER - Would you like to be named? I hope not. Please leave with a dignified exit.
Mr BARNETT - I will conclude. If any changes are proposed, these will be detailed in a draft map that will be released for public comment. It could be that following the review and public consultation that no changes eventuate.
Let me make it very clear that this side of the House supports the salmon industry, we support the jobs in it, and we support the regional communities that are supported by it. We are backing in the industry's plans for sustainable growth to $2 billion by 2030. We are backing it in and support it subject to strict terms and conditions and strong environmental protections under the EPA, and under legislation that protects the Mercury Passage, making it very clear what is available and what is not available in that part of the east coast I referred to.