I wish to speak in support of the Fisheries Amendment Bill. The allocation of natural resources is always a point for debate and indeed controversy. The allocation of natural resources, who gets to use them and how are key factors in this debate. As previous speakers have outlined, this matter comes before us as a result of a policy paper that was circulated prior to the last state election in 2006 in relation to recreational fishing and boating in Victoria. As a result of that election the Bracks government, as it was then, was re-elected and this was a part of a significant element of the Labor Party’s platform going into that election.
Obviously the government has a mandate. That has been clearly identified and acknowledged by the Liberal Party given that it is supporting this bill, albeit it has raised a number of specific individual grievances.
The premise of this policy is about supporting recreational fishing. Indeed recreational fishing will be enhanced as a result of the removal of commercial net fishing in Western Port. It is not about whether we have sufficient fish stocks, which is what is being promulgated by The Nationals; it is about support for recreational fishing and boating in Western Port.
The Liberal Party has raised a number of specific issues, but it has decided to be pragmatic on this occasion. I recall a number of instances over the last few months where members on the other side of the chamber asked questions of the government about the $5 million, and indeed indicated their glee that the government has come through and provided that sum for the Western Port exercise. They were quite forthright in making sure that it is the historic licence-holders who will be the beneficiaries of the $5 million. On a previous occasion Mr O’Donohue called on the government to expedite the situation so that those who are involved can get paid and move on with their lives.
The bill before the house today will bring that about, hopefully with a speedy passage.
At the very heart of this bill is the issue of the change in commercial net fishing in Western Port. It is about change in industry. Most of us know that change has been happening for a long time in a variety of industries. Mr O’Donohue himself raised the example of the timber industry and a number of other industries. What often happens, whether it is in the public or private sector, is that a decision is made — you could have a debate about the basis of the decision — and the reality is that there is a situation that needs to be managed. In this case it is being managed with an adjustment package. This is the norm in respect of other industries that are restructuring or going through significant change.
I raise for Mr Guy’s attention an information booklet of August 2007 relating to the Western Port commercial netting licence surrender and relocation program. It is not a matter of saying, ‘There will be $5 million, trust me’, the $5 million is there in black and white. This goes to the very heart of this package. It goes to objectives and principles. It goes to the eligibility for the licence surrender package and the relocation package. It has an appeals process, like most adjustment packages. It has sections regarding the lodgement of applications, the assessment of applications, taxation implications, confidentiality and where to go for further information.
It is important to have on the record the key components of the eligibility to participate in the licence surrender package. Leaving aside the two rules above it, if you go to clause 4.2 on page 4 of the document, you will see that the licence surrender package includes six components. The first is a surrender amount applicable to the fishery access licence as determined by the Valuer-General of Victoria. The second is an income support component that will be determined by using the average gross value of total fish caught by the licence-holder over the highest four years for the period 1999-2000 to 2005-06 and multiplying that by a factor of five.
The third component is an allowance of $50 000 for the redundancy of the fishing vessel and equipment. The booklet goes on to say:
- Please note, these assets continue to be the property of the licence-holder.
The fourth component is an allowance of up to $3000 per eligible licence for costs associated with financial advice sought in association with the change. The fifth component is a grant of $5000 for retraining expenses for the licence-holder. The sixth and last component of this is an amount that can be determined by the program administrator, which is the Rural Finance Corporation on behalf of the minister. You can make an application for compensation for a financial loss which you believe is a natural and direct consequence of the actions taken in this decision and which is not covered by the first five components that I have described. I think members would agree that the licence surrender package is reasonably comprehensive to say the least.
Turning to the topic of the relocation package covered in clause 5, I ask those who have been particularly involved in this debate to read clause 5.1, because if you were an observer of this afternoon’s debate, you would have thought that the Victorian government was shutting down commercial net fishing across the whole state. That is simply not the case. The relocation package actually gives life to the fact that commercial net fishing will continue in Victoria.
These sorts of processes are not new. They are part and parcel of dealing with change in a variety of industries. I will rely on an example that I had to deal with in the automotive industry. Yes, it is a fair way away from fishing, but we had a situation where Toyota decided to shut down its Melbourne plant. As a result of that a number of choices needed to be made. Obviously we wanted as many people employed as possible, so that they maintained income security. We worked out a package where people could go over to the Altona plant. We also compensated those people for the dislocation that that change had brought them.
We gave people a choice in that they could also take a package, and we ensured that we had an improved and enhanced package for those people.
The issue is about changes, it is about decisions, and it is also about making sure that people have fair and proper options so that they can go ahead with their lives. This issue is not new. Whilst it might have been contained in an ALP policy leading up to the last state election, it actually has been an issue that is well acquainted with in industry circles. It is not a situation where a decision was made and people went into shock. People knew full well that changes were ahead. I believe even The Nationals would agree with me that the main thing we would seek as a result of this bill going through is a smooth transition for all the stakeholders involved in this exercise.
I also wish to take this opportunity to raise a number of issues in support of recreational fishing.
In the 12 months that I have been in this role, I have been surprised by the support and interest that recreational fishing enjoys in the wider community. There are a significant number of positive aspects to recreational fishing, and Mr Thornley went to some of those issues in his presentation. In short, some of those positives for the community, particularly for people on low incomes, are that recreational fishing is a relatively inexpensive activity and it does not require too much experience. Indeed there is a lot of scope to improve one’s fishing skills, and it is an activity that has an ongoing challenge for people.
It is an inclusive activity and can be undertaken by all age groups. What I have seen in the last 12 months in particular is those old traditional views that one might have had about boys weekends and going off and fishing are slowly changing. Many families go out and fish as a family activity. Friends go out and do it as an activity, and it is a great way to get to know other people in the community — going out there and having a chat as you are throwing in a line.
It gets people out and about. It gets the kids away from the computers and the Wii, Xbox and Game Boys.
Mr Leane interjected.
Ms TIERNEY — The member obviously does not have a 15-year-old. Recreational fishing does get them out, and it is a very healthy activity. As a government we want to encourage this type of activity. We also particularly want to encourage women and children to be more involved in what traditionally has been a fairly male-orientated recreational activity.
As an aside I also would like to inform the house that in my electorate office we get a number of inquiries about recreational fishing, which was a bit of a surprise for me as a new member, but that level of inquiry continues. We get lots of queries about fishing licences, to the point where I have had to test it online to get my own fishing licence so that I have a sense of what members of the community go through to get a licence. The house can rest assured that the process is fairly cheap, quick and easy.
The Victorian Recreational Fishing Guide 2006-2007 is one of the most popular publications I know of. At the Hamilton Sheepvention and indeed at the Hamilton show last week I was inundated by many requests for that publication. I am not quite sure where Mr Hall has been, but I can assure him that in the last 12 months around Western Victoria Region recreational fishing has probably been the no. 1 sporting activity, and I would say it is a significant family activity as well.
The 1 December 2007 end date for commercial netting is supported by the industry to enable a timely implementation of compensation packages. This needs to be done prior to the upcoming 2007-08 recreational fishing season. I commend this bill, and I wish it a speedy passage.