Firstly we continue to follow up with the Department of Agriculture and Assistant Minister around the $600K promised to assist with mental health in our sector. The promise of this assistance came after concerted lobbying by SIA supported by the work of WISA and in particular Project Regard.
Farm Household Allowance
Just before the Federal election, Minister Littleproud advised that, should the Coalition be returned to government, the eligibility of wild catch fishers for assistance through the Farm Household Allowance (FHA) would be up for reconsideration. This week we reminded both Minister McKenzie and Assistant Minister Duniam of this and we await their response. The current exemption of our wild catch fishers because they can tie up their boats and find alternate work or fish elsewhere clearly doesn’t hold up in reality.
Criminal Code Amendment (Agricultural Protection) Bill 2019
We were also invited to make submission to the inquiry into the Criminal Code Amendment around the proposed anti-trespass laws. I am pleased to report that Minister McKenzie has included aquaculture and fish-processing facilities. We are investigating why wild-catch vessels have not been include. Similarly, we have asked the Attorney General’s office if this legislation will override the current exemptions that exist for environmental groups under the Competition and Consumer Act 2010. For our industry, considerable damage continues to be done by the peddling of misinformation and mistruths. It is time this sort of “trespass” is open to prosecution as well as physical trespass. If anyone has any experiences or comments they would like included in our submission please let me know. The deadline for submissions is 31 July.
In WA, the Legislative Council’s Standing Committee on Public Administration has initiated an inquiry into Private Property Rights. WAFIC is making submission on behalf of both the wild catch and aquaculture sectors. We will be supporting WAFIC in their endeavours.
Meanwhile in Queensland, the reform process continues to cause considerable concern with impacted wild catch sectors. We have made representations to the Queensland government and continue to work with QSIA to identify ways that we can add value to their lobbying and advocacy.
The SIA Resource Security Task Force will be considering these and other issues as identified at the Tipping Point meeting.
Independent Audit of NOPSEMA’s consideration of exploration in the Great Australian Bight
We were invited to meet with the Australian Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel as part of his audit into NOPSEMA’s process for assessment and decision-making for the environment plan for the current exploration proposal in the Bight. Feedback was sought from SIA members involved / impacted by the Equinor proposal and Mannie Shae (WAFIC) and Johnathon Davey (SIV) joined me for the meeting. Key points raised included:
- concerns regarding application of ALARP (As Low As Reasonably Practicable) to environmental risks associated with oil and gas activities
- lack of consideration of issues raised during consultation with regard to need for standby rig and preferred activity times
- differences in risk assessments between our industries – Precautionary Principle applied by regulators for seafood industry compared to ALARP applied by oil and gas businesses and then reviewed by the regulator
- lack of transparency in processes such as acreage release
- consultation – fatigue, timeframes, complexity and definition
- impact of oil degradation particularly on small pelagics and flow on impacts for SBT.
Finally, I welcome Dan French to the team. Dan is taking on the role of Project Coordinator for our “Marketing the Australian seafood industry” project funded by the Australian Government though the first round of “Our Marine Parks” grants. Dan’s role is to identify the data and stories that support “Our Pledge” and our industry’s commitment to caring for Australia’s oceans and environment and to use this to undertake the first national stocktake of our industry. He has hit the ground running and we look forward to developing clearer tools and stories to help build community trust in and respect for our industry.