Dr WOODRUFF question to MINISTER for PRIMARY INDUSTRIES and WATER, Mr BARNETT
You admitted yesterday that Professor Barbara Novak and Ms Louise Cherry had written to you outlining their reasons for resigning from the Marine Farm Planning Review Panel. Is it true that one reason they gave was that the Storm Bay assessment lacked basic relevant scientific information, and was another reason that the panel only exists for the operational convenience of the fish farming industry?
Ms O'Connor - Why are you so Smuggy McSmugface?
Madam Speaker, I will not comment on that offensive remark from the member for Clark.
I am happy to respond to the question from the member for Franklin because it is very similar to the two questions I received yesterday with respect to the role of the panel. I want to make it very clear that I have confidence in the Marine Farm Planning Review Panel. I met with the chairman last week specifically to discuss the work of the panel. I put on record my thanks on behalf of the Government for the work and service of the panel and the service of those two members that have just been referred to. I want to put on the record again my thanks in the Parliament for their service and their support working on the panel from Professor Barbara Novak and Louise Cherry.
I note that those members of the Marine Farm Planning Review Panel who recently resigned, as has been noted, were part of the process recommending the two plan amendments recently approved for Storm Bay for Tassal and Huon Aquaculture. That independent advice obviously came forward and has been approved. If it does go ahead there are benefits in terms of 180 additional jobs in the salmon sector and across the economy, but it is always subject to and conditional upon further applications to gain a marine farm planning licence, a marine farm lease and EPA approval.
Dr WOODRUFF - Point of order, Madam Speaker, under standing order 45, relevance. The minister slithered out of answering either question yesterday. I asked a specific question: did their reasons contain the fact that the assessment had a lack of basic scientific information and that the panel only exists for the operational convenience of the fish farming industry? That is the question, minister. Please answer it.
Madam SPEAKER - Thank you very much. It is not a point of order but I understand the question and I ask the minister to respond.
Mr BARNETT - Thank you very much, Madam Speaker. I am delighted to respond again and confirm that I have received a letter from those members of the panel who have resigned. There was a letter sent to the Governor some time ago and a letter sent to me last week. I responded very swiftly to that letter. In fact, on Friday, I signed the letter going back to those two members and noted and acknowledged their concerns and the issues they raised in their letter.
Ms O'Connor - Aha - 'their concerns'.
Mr BARNETT - Yes, I acknowledged their concerns and the issues they raised in their letter and I acknowledged that in writing. I wrote to them personally and I organised and asked for the secretary of my department to make himself available to those two members to discuss those concerns and issues. That is underway, I understand, and I am looking forward to the feedback I receive from the department secretary from that meeting.
Dr WOODRUFF - Madam Speaker, point of order under standing order 45, relevance. None of the information the minister has provided is relevant to the question I asked. He is abusing the time of the House. This is not about him having an opportunity to avoid answering the question. This is a serious question and the minister refuses to answer. Can he just say 'no' and sit down if he will not do it?
Madam SPEAKER - I thank you for the sincerity of your point of order. However, I have been advised that if we continue to keep taking points of order under standing order 45 it becomes disruptive to the House and that is not acceptable either. I will ask the minister to wind up and perhaps you will get the answer.
Mr BARNETT - Thank you very much, Madam Speaker. It gives me the opportunity to highlight the importance of the independence of the Marine Farm Planning Review Panel and hence I met with the chairman. I am confident in the role of the panel and the work that they undertake.
Under our Government we have increased the role of the EPA as an independent entity. We have given further strength. We have toughened the rules and have increased the penalties with respect to the salmon industry. We have full confidence, unlike the Greens, who every day, have tried to criticise and undermine the salmon industry as they have done for forestry, other industries, tourism. This is form for the Greens.
The big question I asked yesterday: why is Labor so silent? Why do they remain silent when it comes to the salmon industry? Why cannot they stand up and support the salmon industry?