Legislative Council: Tuesday, February 20, 2024


Cost Recovery Review

The Hon. C. BONAROS (14:48): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development a question about cost recovery.

Leave granted.

The Hon. N.J. Centofanti interjecting:

The Hon. C. BONAROS: As luck would have it—the Leader of the Opposition may not have heard the news—I understand that today we have had a cost-recovery review report published publicly on the PIRSA website, one for aquaculture and one for commercial fishing. I am going with the information on the website here, but it does say:

Following a review process, the state government has embraced the majority of the recommendations presented by the Independent Cost Recovery Review Panel. Out of 33 recommendations, 28 have been fully [implemented], two have been partially accepted, two requiring further consideration by industry and one deemed not to be in scope.

My questions to the minister are:

1. When were stakeholders advised of the report's release, if at all, and which groups were notified ahead of today's public release?

2. Which of the 28 recommendations have been fully accepted, which have been partially accepted, and was recommendation 7 deemed not to be within the scope of the review?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (14:49): I thank the honourable member for her questions. Our state's commercial fisheries and aquaculture sectors play an enormous role as producers of some of the finest sustainably sourced seafood to all parts of our country and, indeed, all over the world. Even more than that, the $508 million South Australian seafood sector is a provider of jobs and opportunities, especially in regional areas, and is a huge part of regional and coastal economies.

The current PIRSA cost-recovery policy has been in place for approximately 20 years and is based on the premise that the state owns South Australia's aquatic resources; that is, the South Australian communities own those aquatic resources, and they are managed by PIRSA on behalf of the community. In managing the resources, the costs that are incurred are partly recovered from commercial licence holders and leaseholders. It is a complex but hugely important part of managing our state's marine resources.

Cost recovery has been reviewed several times in South Australia in the past decade or more, with reviews of varying scopes undertaken in 2009, 2015, 2016, 2018 and 2021. Each of those has had a role in shaping the processes to where they are today. Prior to the last election, we made a commitment to review the cost-recovery process again, noting that many within the seafood sectors told us that they could see opportunities to further improve the policy. I am pleased that in releasing the reports we have now met that election commitment, but it will be clear in reading the government response to the panel's reports that work will continue alongside industry in implementing the accepted recommendations.

The panel's key findings included strong overall support and goodwill from stakeholders for the cost-recovery concept in the state's fisheries and aquaculture sectors along with a desire to improve the current cost-recovery system. Significantly, the review did not identify alternative models that would deliver better outcomes for South Australia, and this was highlighted by the panel's finding on a gross value of production (GVP) based model, which the panel found had:

…no support from industry for the %GVP model, even among those fisheries where the total cost recovered currently comprises a high percentage of GVP…

The panel also raised other issues perceived by industry in jurisdictions where a GVP model is in place, stating in the report that some industry members:

…argue a uniform percentage of fishery GVP approach entails cross subsidisation and has disincentivised investment in industry.

In all, 33 recommendations were made, as the honourable member alluded to, 17 for fisheries and 16 for aquaculture; 28 of the 33 have been accepted, two have been partially accepted and two are for further consideration by industry. The one recommendation that was not accepted—which may be No. 7; I do not have the report in front of me to know the actual number—may have been that relating to a recommendation for a recreational fishing licence. We did not accept that given that it was not part of the scope of the review and also on the basis of comments and commitments already made in regard to a recreational fishing licence.

The report did find that a range of areas could be improved, primarily focused on the need for transparency in determining cost attribution for services and activities undertaken in managing the fisheries and aquaculture sectors. To that end, the panel recommended regular benchmarking and review of PIRSA's compliance and research programs and a more comprehensive performance framework, each of which will be progressed by PIRSA, working with industry, in the coming months and years.

The reports are now published online on the PIRSA website, and communication to the sectors will be occurring this afternoon if it has not already. I look forward to seeing the accepted recommendations implemented and further strengthening the relationship between the seafood sectors and government as we realise the enormous potential for this industry and our state moving forward.

Regarding a couple of the other specific questions about who was advised in advance, no-one was advised prior to today. Regarding the recommendations that were not accepted, I have already referred to recreational fishing. Also, there were two recommendations that I consider are for further consideration by industry. They related to the creation of a GVP-based self-insurance fund across fisheries and aquaculture sectors. If that idea has support, it is the government's view that that should be driven by the sector, given that the panel found that a GVP model in general did not have widespread support.

Two of the recommendations were accepted in part and relate to reviewing compliance risk models and assessing opportunities for further use of technology. Those parts are accepted. However, one aspect of the recommendation related to further use of external contractors for some aspects of compliance. That is not supported by government, given the acknowledgement of the unique skills and attributes of our dedicated fisheries officers in carrying out compliance tasks.

The PRESIDENT: Supplementary question, the Hon. Ms Bonaros.