Legislative Council: Thursday, February 08, 2024


Marine Scalefish Fishery

The Hon. J.E. HANSON (14:49): My question is to the Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development. Will the minister inform the chamber about the government's recent announcement to continue fee relief for the marine scalefish fishery?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (14:50): I thank the honourable member for his question. The South Australian marine scalefish fishery is an important contributor to the state's economy, to regional jobs, businesses and communities and, of course, supplies some of the most popular seafood species renowned for freshness, quality and sustainability.

The sector has gone through significant and difficult change in recent years. The marine scalefish fishery reform, commenced by the former Liberal government, saw a voluntary licence surrender program which removed 100 licences and the introduction of individual transferable quota (ITQ) for key species based on previous catch history, amongst other structural changes.

The reforms continued to roll out over the life of the former government, led into its final stages under the Malinauskas government. One of the more disappointing aspects of the reform process was undoubtedly the handling of exceptional circumstances for catch history by former Minister Basham, which led to lengthy processes to rectify and numerous SACAT proceedings, some of which found the former minister's policy had 'no legal foundation'. They also revealed that the pro rata policy of the former minister resulted in unjust and unfair outcomes and should not have been implemented.

However, notwithstanding some of the disappointing aspects of how the reform process unfolded under those opposite, as minister I certainly understand and support the principles of the reform, which were to create long-term sustainability and viability of fishing businesses. As part of the reform, the former state government provided assistance to the industry, including fee relief for licence holders for a four-year period, which was due to expire in 2023-24, or at the end of that time.

The overall fee structure was also set to be considered as part of the reform process and this work was done through a working group consisting of key stakeholders, including the MFA and rock lobster associations representing the main quota holders of the MSF.

Through the working group process, varying suggestions were put forward regarding the percentage split of base fees and quota-based fees. Considering the varying views within industry, the state government determined that a base fee of 30 per cent and quota fee of 70 per cent would apply, representing a middle ground between what the sectors were calling for and providing a fair structure that will see a licence holder with greater access to the resource pay more than one with little access, which up until now has not been the case.

Though the Leader of the Opposition in this chamber has criticised the state government as it continues to roll out the reforms started by her government, despite it being rolled out very much as intended by the former government, it is fair to say that fisheries management is complex, with an overall focus of maintaining sustainable fish stocks and sustainable businesses.

Late last year, I was pleased to announce that the Malinauskas government would continue to support marine scalefish fishery licence holders with a further three years of licence fee relief in recognition of the difficulty of the reforms and the ongoing adaptation of industry to what are major changes.

The additional $1.55 million of fee relief over three years is an important step in getting to a point where South Australian MSF licence holders are fully transitioned to a new system for doing business with ITQ and a new fee structure that is much fairer, and as a defining feature will mean that many licence holders will pay less than is currently the case. I look forward to seeing this key sector continuing to change and adapt as the important businesses they are for our state and in particular for our regions.