Seafood Country of Origin Bill 2017
I am proud to support the Food Amendment (Seafood Country of Origin) Labelling Bill 2017. I congratulate the member for The Entrance for introducing this sensible bill. He, like all other Labor members of Parliament who represent coastal communities, recognises the importance of the commercial fishing industry for the economy and for those communities. The bill, which is fairly simple, requires food outlets selling seafood for immediate consumption to inform their customers whether that seafood is caught locally in Australia or is imported. These sensible measures will help to inform consumer choice and we all know that many diners want that sort of information.
The bill tries to help out local fishers who have been hit for six by this nasty, incompetent Government. This Government is nasty because its fishing reforms have destroyed the livelihoods of hundreds of small family‑run businesses up and down the coast. This Government is incompetent because the reform process has been botched. This bill simply delivers what the Government announced more than 18 months ago. Eighteen months on the Government cannot deliver a simple piece of legislation that lets consumers know whether they are eating locally caught or imported seafood. Labor members got sick of waiting for the Government, which has been sitting on its hands, and decided to try to get it done themselves. Government members now have an opportunity to join Labor members and vote for this bill. Despite the devastation wrought upon the commercial fishing industry, Government members now have an opportunity to say, "We support consumer choice and our local fishing industry."
But I have my doubts. This Government does not care about the small guy; only the views of the big boys matter. Dozens of Government members who represent coastal electorates do not seem to care about a sustainable, vibrant fishing industry. The fishing industry is responsible in part for making our coastal communities what they are. If we lose our fishers we will lose not only our source of locally caught fresh seafood but also a quintessential part of what makes up our coastal towns. Last year, when dozens of fishers came into this place to make their plight known, not one Government member turned up to listen to their concerns. Since then they have hidden behind weasel words and spin as business after business has shut down.
It is not just fishers that are being driven to the wall; the economic disaster that is this Government's commercial fishing reforms is placing a huge economic cloud over many businesses that supply goods and services to the fishing industry, as well as the fishing cooperatives that dot the New South Wales coast. This is the reality of the Government's reforms. What makes it more tragic is that there was no real problem with the status quo. Everyone made a living in a generally sustainable fashion. People caught fish, businesses got by and local economies ticked along, but they are now in jeopardy. Where are Government members on this issue? Where are the North Coast Nationals who should be challenging their Minister on this issue? Where are the South Coast Liberals? Do they even know what is happening in their local towns? All we have had is deafening silence. They do not care about the small guy. It is of no concern to them if a small business goes to the wall.
This bill shows that Labor not only supports consumer choice but also wants to do what it can to get behind our local fishers, their families, and the coastal businesses and cooperatives that rely upon their trade. The Government should support this bill. The fact that it will not do so shows just how out of touch it is. This Government does not want to know about small businesses that are battling. I am proud to support this bill—something on which the Government should have focused instead of running hundreds of small fishing businesses into the ground. I again congratulate the member for The Entrance for introducing this bill and I commend it to the House.