Political parties are often searching for new issues or campaigns to engage the community and their voter base with. This can be both a virtue and a vice. It is a virtue when parties engage with the community to start a discussion about an issue or problem. However it is a vice and can be particularly dangerous when a political party is suffering from relevance deprivation syndrome and overreaches to the point of damaging organisations or an industry.
The Tasmanian Greens are currently suffering from this political symptom with their ongoing demonisation of the Tasmanian Salmon Industry. The Greens attack is reminiscent of their war on the Tasmanian forestry industry which was a relentless campaign.
The Greens must find a new campaign to test their political will because the Tasmanian Salmon Industry is a success story which cannot afford to be undermined for short term political interest.
Our aquaculture industry now has a gross annual production value of more than $625 million to the Tasmanian economy. With more than 80 per cent of product sold domestically, the possibility for export expansion is significant. According to industry, at current rates salmon production is expected to grow to be worth more than $1 billion annually by 2030.
From humble beginnings just 20 years ago, the Tasmanian Salmon Industry now generates 5,200 local jobs and thousands of indirect jobs. Crucially, these are full time jobs in regional areas. Regional areas need reliable full time employment opportunities – something that this industry can continue to provide. The opportunities which are created through the multiplier effect in regional communities are boundless. A successful salmon industry in these areas can lead to wage growth, opportunities for educational institutions and the local property market.
The fact is this industry has the potential to support many more local families.
Bernice Bott lives at Surges Bay and has worked in the Aquaculture industry for 20 years. She has worked with Tassal for a combined 13 years, 6 years at Dover and nearly 7 years at Huonville. The industry is very important to Ms Bott but also fundamental to 5 other members of her family. Her daughter Tamika relies on her Mum being employed at Tassal, as do the other 200 employees who work at Huonville.
I know that Bernice hopes that in years to come her daughter has a job to go to in Huon, possibly in the salmon industry.
History dictates that success cannot be taken for granted. If consumers lose faith in the product, and Tasmanians stop supporting fish farms because of a grubby and desperate political campaign, then the entire industry is at risk.
The Greens cannot be allowed to undermine this industry and trash our clean green Tasmanian brand. The Tasmanian brand is amongst the most marketable brands for fresh produce and quality local produce. A well-funded and sustained attack by a political party against our produce will not end well.
The industry is now independently regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). And the State government has strengthened enforcement mechanisms to ensure the industry is sustainable.
Tasmania is known nationally and globally for its clean green product and we are proud as a state to produce such high quality Atlantic salmon and ocean trout for people at home and abroad. Tasmania’s brand power is second to none and we understand that aquaculture has the potential to significantly power our states future economic growth.
EMRS market research found late last year that 85% of Tasmanian’s have either a positive or neutral attitude towards the aquaculture industry, while 92% consider that; farmed salmon has significant economic benefits for the state and that; salmon farming provides important training and employment opportunities for local communities. Close to three quarters of respondents (74% in total) were in support to some degree of the expansion of the salmon industry, which is great news however this industry is under threat.
The industry must be allowed to work with the independent regulator, government and the best scientists to ensure the industry is sustainable for decades to come. It is not in the industries interest to fail to comply with stringent environmental standards, something which the greens, Graeme Wood and Andrew Wilkie need to understand.
I encourage those who are attacking this industry to get out of the way and allow this industry and regional communities to prosper.
This article was originally published in The Examiner on Friday, 17 February 2017
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