Tuesday, 22 August 2023

Federal Shadow Minister for Northern Australia, Senator Susan McDonald, and Federal Shadow Environment Minister, Jonno Duniam, have warned lovers of Australian seafood, meat and produce that the Albanese Government’s determination to appease UNESCO will result in food shortages, higher costs and more pain for primary producers.

Ahead of a rally planned by the Queensland Seafood Industry Association (QSIA) today at Queensland Parliament House, the Senators echoed fishers’ concerns that the Federal Government’s ill-advised decision in June to ban gillnet fishing would be exacerbated by an accompanying harsh crackdown on primary production, especially in North Queensland.

The two Coalition frontbenchers welcomed UNESCO’s recent decision to continue to leave the Great Barrier Reef off its “in danger” list. However, they also made clear that they are deeply troubled that the gillnet fishing ban was just one of 10 priority recommendations devised by UNESCO – and subsequently endorsed by the Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, and Federal Environment Minister, Tanya Plibersek.

In addition to the gillnet ban, the agreed recommendations include the “significant” scaling up of adoption, monitoring and enforcement of various cane and banana farming best practice, land buybacks, grazing land restoration and dam restrictions.

Senators McDonald and Duniam are calling on Ms Plibersek to reveal exactly how and when the Federal Government plans to implement all of the 10 recommendations. They are also urging her to finally sit down with commercial fishers – and strike a far more balanced outcome. 

“UNESCO says the Environment Minister has signed off on a timetable and budget for implementing these recommendations, so when is the Government going to reveal what these are?” asked Senator McDonald.

“Mr Albanese and Ms Plibersek also need to explain exactly how hard – if at all – they pushed back against UNESCO’s directives.”

“UNESCO’s recommendations will radically change how we farm and fish in this country, so Labor must come clean with the Australian people. Time and again, Labor doesn’t want to know the impacts of their laws; they just dictate and push them through.”

QSIA has still not been consulted by the Federal Government about the imposition of the gillnet ban – an extraordinary decision that will mean that about 2,000 tonnes of wild-caught fish will disappear from the market once the ban takes effect, forcing up prices for table favourites such as barramundi, salmon and grunter and drastically impacting fish-and-chip shops, restaurants, wholesalers and retailers.

There will also be flow-on effects for equipment suppliers, ice makers, chandlers, boat sellers, mechanics, delivery drivers, wholesalers and retailers plus the economies of small fishing towns throughout the North.

“As usual, Labor have shown they don’t care about people, only their radical green agenda. We’ve seen it with Reef regulations on farmers, renewable energy projects in places people don’t want them, and now restrictions on people’s access to fresh Australian seafood,” said Senator Duniam.

“About 100 fishing families in North Queensland will be forced to find other jobs – which is heartbreaking given that many of them run family-owned businesses that have operated for generations. What’s more, and despite the fact that they have gone to great lengths over many years to minimise by-catch and harm to dugongs, turtles and other species, they have been given no warning and no chance to have any input into Labor’s actions.

“If you want local, fresh, wild-caught fish, sustainably raised beef and fresh produce (rather than being forced to eat imported food), you should be furious about what Labor is doing to the Australians who provide it.”