Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment Bill 2014 Bills

I rise to make my contribution to Senator Ludwig’s private senator’s bill, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment Bill 2014. As senators would be aware, this bill amends the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999—the EPBC Act—to repeal the sunset provision and to enable the minister to establish an independent expert panel to conduct an assessment into the potential environmental impacts of a declared commercial fishing activity and to prohibit the declared fishing activity while the assessment is undertaken. It sounds to me remarkably like more red tape which would be yet another impost upon industries that are so important to Australia.

I want to make it very clear that the coalition has confidence in the sustainability of Australian fisheries managed by the Australian Fisheries Management Authority, AFMA. The reason we should have that confidence was highlighted for me just before Christmas last year when I joined the member for Barker, Mr Tony Pasin—who is a very good member for a rural seat in South Australia—and the foreign minister to go down to the south-east of South Australia. We met with a number of community forums and groups, and one of the groups we met with was the southern rock lobster industry down there. We talked around a number of things, including fuel levies and exports, and it became very clear that they are a fantastic contributor to our economy. Their industry outlook for 2011-16 highlights that over 54 per cent of their catch is exported. The total value of that is around $583.3 million, and over 54 per cent is exported, but it is sustainable.