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Premier - JBS and Fish Farms

Cassy O'Connor MP

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Monday, 6 September 2021

Tags: Fish Farms, State Budget

Ms O'CONNOR - Premier, I want to talk about JBS and their plans to enter the Tasmanian salmon industry. As you would know, because we've laid down this information on the Hansard record, JBS has the most terrible environmental record. It has faced bribery and corruption charges. It is the company in the United States that the US EPA has the most trouble with, in the companies that come underneath the JBS umbrella, for example Pilgrim's Pride. It's responsible for deforestation - at least 42 500 hectares according to non-government organisations watching the Amazon.

Now we know that JBS wants to enter the Tasmanian fish farming sector - after dumping abattoir waste into Porky's Creek on King Island and then closing down the King Island abattoir and putting hundreds of people out of work, and then closing down the Quoiba abattoir in 2018 and also putting people out of work.

Do you stand by your statement that JBS is a good corporate citizen?

Mr GUTWEIN - What I said is that they've been a reasonable corporate citizen to deal with. I have only ever dealt with their Australian management, and my only practical engagement with JBS was with the situation regarding the Devonport abattoir, and the way they then worked with the state Government to ensure that the pig industry wouldn't close.

We put in place a program there and they were, I'd have to say, more than reasonable in ensuring that we could find a pathway, in an appropriate time frame, to get another facility up and operating. The current process they are engaged in is a matter for them and the shareholders of Huon to work through. Obviously, the state Government would be asked for a view on the acquisition by the Foreign Investment Review Board, and Treasury will provide advice which we would then submit to the federal Treasurer.

In terms of that advice, the country's national interest is what the FIRB considers, so that is the question that Treasury will turn its mind to.

Ms O'CONNOR - Yes, and that's the question that the FIRB turned its mind to when it gave away the Port of Darwin.

Moving right along. JBS has faced court in the United States for dumping effluent in the states of Florida, Illinois, Nebraska, Colorado and Texas. So, effluent into waterways, which is the same thing that happened on King Island.

The World Wide Fund for Nature - which used to provide a tick of accreditation to Tassal, but walked away from them after the events of Macquarie Harbour - recently released a report that, amongst other things, talks about the need for more effective independent regulation of the fish farming industry, and much more transparency around data.

Do you understand the concerns of coastal communities already facing fish farm expansion and huge impacts on the marine environment, and an inability to catch fish in some areas - and their concerns about a company with an environmental record like JBS coming into Tasmania while you have an EPA which has to date manifestly failed to protect the marine environment from fish farming?

Mr GUTWEIN - We can get into a back-and-forth across the table about who has done more to increase regulation for fish farming -

Ms O'CONNOR - It hasn't worked.

Mr GUTWEIN - I note that we have, compared to when you were in government.

Ms O'CONNOR - The industry wasn't this size when we were in government.

Mr GUTWEIN - I think that's a statement of fact. We'll continue to strengthen regulation, and regardless of who ends up buying the Huon shares - whether it be JBS or Dr Forrest or someone else - the same strict regulation will apply to whoever the owner is.

Ms O'CONNOR - How can you say it's strict regulation when, on the evidence to date, it has had little effect on the damage that fish farm expansion has done to the marine environment, particularly in Macquarie Harbour and the D'Entrecasteaux Channel? Now we have plans for massive expansion off in Storm Bay. How can you say the EPA has done its job, given the marine environment damage that has already happened because of a failure to properly regulate?

Mr GUTWEIN - It was this Government that actually separated that regulation to ensure it is at arm's length from government.

Ms O'CONNOR - It's not.

Mr GUTWEIN - You know that this Government has taken significant steps in terms of reversing previous decisions that occurred at Macquarie Harbour. I don't want to involve myself in what is going to be a decision for Huon shareholders. Whoever purchases those shares will be strictly regulated. They will need to meet their requirements and -

Ms O'CONNOR - It depends on your definition of strictly, doesn't it?