SUBJECTS: Abel Tasman; SA Budget
Journalist: First of all, we'll go to you, Chris Pyne, will the Coalition support the government's bill?
Christopher Pyne: No it won't and the reason it will not is because the Bill is a Trojan horse … it allows the Minister to ban any fishing in Australia of any kind, recreational fishing, charter fishing, commercial fishing on the basis that the Minister decides it has a social impact. The government is incapable of telling us what the definition of social impact is. So this bill under the rubric of trying to stop the Abel Tasman is the Greens fantasy where they can create any kind of campaign and the Minister will buckle, a Labor minister will buckle, and close down the fishing industry.
Journalist: Mark Butler, will it pass both houses?
Mark Butler: Well, that's terrible news frankly because this is a very serious issue for our nation and an issue that many, many people in the community feel very strongly about. All of us have been receiving an enormous amount of feedback, not just by environment groups, but by recreational fisher groups. I know in South Australia there have been serious commercial fishers like Hagen Stehr and given definitely in a colourful way talking about the impact that this boat might have on our very proud history of fishing regulation. This is a floating factory. This is unlike anything we have ever seen in Australian fishing waters but people are concerned that this is such a major change in the way we fish we need to better understand the impact a boat of this size will have on our waters.
Journalist: Do you accept that this sends a bad message to companies wanting to invest in this country? Because the rules have changed without notice.
Butler: Look this is a quantum shift in the way in which we fish in Australian waters. And Tony Burke has made it clear that he thinks and the government think what we should take a precautionary approach. We should better understand the impact that a boat like this has on our oceans, on bi-catchment filters, a fancy word for killing dolphins and seals, on the possible depletion of stocks in a particular area. In terms of the impact of a particular company can I say that it is the company that has the quota or the total available catch quota for these fishing areas. It is not the boat….
Journalist: At the great expense of time and money and effort, the company has brought this ship with the understanding it would be allowed to get the quota.
Pyne: It has passed all the rules. I mean David, Minister Tony Bourke invited this ship in. In October 2009 he changed the rules to allow for large factory freezer vessels into Australian waters. Last Monday he reaffirmed that the science had been done on this fishery. Minister Ludwig confirmed that on the 23rd of August, the Labor caucus voted on it on the 10th of September…
Journalist: So Christophe Pyne are you happy to see this trawler fishing in Australian waters? I mean putting aside whether the government could have handled this better, are you happy to see this ship in our waters?
Pyne: No I am not really but the point is this Bill is no longer about the Abel Tasman. This Bill is about changing the rules so that the Greens can stop fishing in Australia. They have completely overreacted…
Journalist: You wouldn't want this ship here…
Journalist: …you just want it to be sent away in a better way?
Pyne: Well look the truth is I don't really like what the Abel Tasman is planning on doing. But the point is the government is making up policy as it goes along…all with unintended consequences.
Journalist: Mark Butler, do you agree with Chris Pyne? You could have handled this better?
Butler: Well the point is the goal post has shifted. Tony Burke has been alive to these concerns for many weeks now and has been examining whether the current legislation allows for him to do the things he wants to do. And that is to monitor the impact that such a large boat has on our fishing areas. The point is this is different to anything that we have had in our waters before. The current legislation, Tony Burke found that it wasn’t able to comprehend the particular operations that is involved with Abel Tasman. Instead of pulling our cardigans over our head and saying that’s too bad… change the laws.
Journalist: How could he have not known? When the federal government signed off on the ship coming here, what didn’t they understand… it is a big boat. What bit didn’t they understand?
Butler: We have been taking advice, what the powers the Minister has to monitor the impact of different fishing operations in our area. And Tony Burke has come to the view, the cabinet shared it, the caucus has shared it, and we would like Parliament to share it, that if the current rules don’t allow us to deal with such a major change to fishing operations then we should change the law.
Pyne: I think you will find when recreational fishers find out, and Hagen Stehr and everyone else find out that actually this bill that they are bringing in today will allow the Greens and the government to block any fishing in Australia, any recreational fishing, tuna fishing, whatever they like. The reaction from the public will be dramatically different. It is one thing… for two years, the government has been preparing for the Abel Tasman to come into Australia’s waters. And now that it is here just like the live cattle export to date, they have massively over reacted to an email campaign…
Journalist: And you are promising you won’t overreact? You are promising you wouldn’t take a stick to this one?
Pyne: And now they are planning… I am not overreacting. Now that they are damaging sovereign risk in Australia because who would want to fish in Australia knowing that the Minster could stop them based on so called social impacts?
Journalist: We are talking to Mark Butler, Labor MP for Port Adelaide and Chris Pyne, Liberal MP for Sturt. Gentlemen, can I just direct your attention to a state issue and that is Moody’s decision to downgrade the state’s credit rating. Christopher Pyne, just quickly, is the major problem facing Isobel Redmond is that she will be seen as another Campbell Newman who has slashed public service jobs in the wake of the deteriorating budget situation here in this state? Now before you give us a lot of rhetoric of they have blown all the money, the question to you, is the risk for her that she will be seen as a Campbell Newman?
Pyne: Well I don’t think that the phrase Campbell Newman should be become a pejorative insult to everybody, the truth is I do think that this government in South Australia and federally has damaged South Australia. We have now got our Moody rating downgraded and that means we will have to pay higher interest on all of our debt. The debt is higher today in South Australia than it was during the State Bank Disaster. And the federal government has damaged us further because of uncertainty of their policies which means that Olympic Dam has fallen over.
Journalist: I don’t think you did answer that question but I will have a go with Mark Butler. Here’s a question for you – does it increasingly look like Labor has blown the good times and the party is over and the bill has now arrived?
Butler: Well look the Labor government in South Australia like all governments around Australia in the last few years have to deal with the impact of an extraordinary serious global financial crisis. But Jay Weatherill said in the lead up to the last budget if I recall correctly, that if he was presented with a choice between connecting to invest in the future of the state, particularly infrastructure future of the state on the one hand or clinging desperately to a triple-A credit rating on the other hand, he would choose the future of the state. And that is what he has done and I think …
Journalist: But Mark Butler, you can’t keep doing that on the credit card. Just saying ‘oh look I believe in jobs’, ‘I believe that children are our future and mum and apple pie’. Eventually you have got to pay the bill.
Butler: Of course you can’t continue to do it on the credit card…
Journalist: Well what evidence is there … Moody is worried that there isn’t evidence that they can get back into surplus.
Butler: Well that is a matter you will see in the budget I am sure. What the state government has decided to do is to continue to invest in the future infrastructure of this state. That is what is going to set up a productive and prosperous future for South Australia. Now you couldn’t see a starker contrast than to Campbell Newman’s budget. Now I am not going to go back over that he is slashing thousands of jobs including in health. And as much as Martin Hamilton-Smith I think it was will believe that it won’t impact on front-line services, it is. At the same time you have got the Barry O’Farrell government freezing funding to independent and catholic schools and cutting funding to government schools. If these are the choices that Jay Weatherill has, he has made the right choice.
Pyne: This is breathtaking hypocrisy to Mark’s case, breathtaking hypocrisy, Mark. You have cut 3,200 public service jobs this year because you have also spent far too much money that you haven’t got because you don’t live within your means. Campbell Newman has taken over in Queensland, there is a $85 billion state debt in Queensland! And now you are pretending that there is no responsibility to fix it.
Butler: No one has seen slashing and burning quite like Campbell Newman for some years.
Pyne: What rubbish.
Journalist: I’m not sure where your offices are, I suspect they are not that far apart but we will leave you to finish this, maybe you can meet in the corridors of Parliament House. Thank you for your time, Mark Butler Labor MP for Port Adelaide, Christopher Pyne, Liberal MP for Sturt. Talking to us from their Canberra Parliament House offices.