Legislative Council: Wednesday, November 30, 2022


Commercial Fisheries Review

The Hon. C. BONAROS (14:52): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development a question about an independent cost-recovery review for commercial fisheries in South Australia.

Leave granted.

The Hon. C. BONAROS: As part of the Labor government's election commitment, the Malinauskas Labor government undertook to review the cost-recovery processes for the state's commercial fishing sector. That was a welcome commitment given following extensive industry collaboration, which I am told resulted in SA's entire commercial fishing sector requesting the review in a completely united front and highlighting the need for an independent review in that regard.

Several SA fishing sectors are operating in an environment of greater than 10 per cent of the gross value of production (GVP) and some, I am advised, have been operating with GVP as high as 25 per cent for several years now. World's best practice standards are below 5 per cent GVP. Yesterday, in question time the minister indicated that:

We have been having discussions with the commercial sector and have also been identifying the most appropriate way to do the review.

My questions to the minister are:

1. What appropriate ways to do the review have been identified to date?

2. When will the review actually commence?

3. Has it been modelled on similar reviews in other jurisdictions?

4. What is the scope of the review?

5. How long will it take to complete?

6. Will the fishing sector be given the opportunity to comment on findings before recommendations are made?

7. What is the minister planning to do for the next financial year, as the current economic climate is causing commercial fisheries enormous financial distress?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (14:54): I thank the honourable member for her question and again acknowledge her long-term interest in this and ongoing discussions that we have been having on various matters in regard to fisheries. The Department of Primary Industries and Regions has been operating a cost-recovery policy for approximately 20 years.

It's important to note what this policy emanates from. It operates from the premise that South Australia's aquatic resources are owned by the state. They are a community resource and they are simply managed by PIRSA on behalf of the South Australian community. Costs associated with government services that arise as a direct result of commercial access to the resources are recovered from commercial licence holders through regulated licence fees. These services include, though are not limited to, fisheries management, policy, scientific monitoring and stock assessment, compliance and licensing.

For the northern zone and southern zone rock lobster industry, a pre-election commitment was made to provide fee relief of 50 per cent to licence fees for 2022-23, which totalled $2.6 million approximately. That fee relief was due to the impact of market disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and particularly the disruptions to the Chinese market.

Prior to the election, the Labor opposition, as we were then, made a commitment to review the current cost-recovery model, and some of the points that have been raised by the honourable member in her explanation prior to the question were points that led to that. Industry talked to me about the GVP situation and compared it to other jurisdictions and indeed other places in the world, and talked about the need to have an independent review. That was in contrast to the types of reviews that had happened I think several times previously, which were really about the way the process occurred in terms of cost recovery and the process of determining those.

So this is different. This is actually about whether there are alternative cost-recovery models. We know that there are other jurisdictions that do use different types of cost-recovery models, so it's a matter of looking at those—and indeed there may be others—and taking into account the feedback from industry and any other changes that might be identified either by industry or by PIRSA in the management of the current cost-recovery policy.

A big part of that will be engagement with industry and seeking comments and input from them. I look forward to being able to announce more in the not too distant future. I did think, though, it was important to make it clear to the industry and indeed, as I did yesterday, to the chamber that this review will not be completed prior to the discussions that set the cost-recovery fees for the coming financial year.

It's important that the review is robust and thorough. There has been a lot of change within various fishery sectors, and it's important that if we are going to make a significant change, which is possible, by looking at an alternative cost-recovery model then not only does everyone have a chance to be heard, which is incredibly important, but also we have the opportunity to fully explore both benefits and any potential drawbacks from such a change. I will be able to make further announcements and comments in the not too distant future.