18 January 2024

PM flounders on environmental questions, leaving the hard decisions to salmon else

| Chris Johnson
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Anthony Albanese with workers at the Tassal salmon plant in Tasmania

Anthony Albanese with workers at the Tassal salmon plant in Tasmania. It was all smiles … until he started answering questions. Photo: Julie Collins.

Anthony Albanese has spent a bit of time this week in Tasmania and, among other things, took a look at the salmon industry down there.

It was a good PR exercise for him as well as for the industry as he publicly acknowledged the “important role” the salmon industry plays in employing about 5000 people in “good, well-paid jobs”.

But the visit has presented a quandary for the Prime Minister and exposed a weakness in the Federal Government’s approach to the environment.

As it was put to him by one radio presenter on Thursday (18 January): “The Liberals are saying that you’re not guaranteeing salmon farming in Macquarie Harbour and the Greens are furious that you’ve appeared alongside Tassal in an industry they are saying is threatening the Maugean skate.”

The Maugean skate is a stingray whose natural habitat is estuarine waters and is endemic to Tasmania. It is only found in the brackish estuarine waters of Macquarie Harbour and Bathurst Harbour.

The PM was specifically asked for “no fence sitting here” and to either guarantee the farming in Macquarie Harbour or state that it could be banned if it’s the only way to save that highly endangered fish species.

But fence-sitting was the best the PM could muster.

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“Well, we’re doing the right thing, aren’t we, if you’ve got the Liberals from one end and the Greens from another?” he answered.

“What I’ve said is those jobs are absolutely critical and we want to support the industry. We want to work on a win-win, not either/or… We agree that you want a sustainable industry, and you want the industry to continue. But you need to have proper environmental assessments according to the law.

“[That] is what [Environment Minister] Tanya Plibersek needs to do. She’s required to do it. It’s not an option, the consideration of the EPBC Act, and she’ll do that.

“But I’m very confident that we can work through ways in which the sustainability of the industry can be enhanced. That’s something that the salmon industry wants to do themselves, and when I was meeting with them yesterday, they’re very confident that they can do so.”

Mr Albanese then talked about how the government needs to “look for both” when trying to balance the economy and sustainability.

“What you need to do is to make sure that industries are sustainable, work on these issues, follow the science,” he said.

“And that’s precisely what my position is – that you can do that and achieve good outcomes.”

But that’s not really any position at all.

During another Hobart radio interview broaching the same topic, the Prime Minister contributed about the same amount of air time, saying the same thing – which was not much at all.

He remained firmly on the fence when presented with scientific evidence that the endangered Maugean skate “is in a world of hurt right now” and that finfish farming could wipe it out completely.

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“Well, primarily responsibility, of course, for those issues lies with the state government,” he said.

“But what the Federal Government is doing through the EPBC Act, the Environment Minister has a responsibility to examine the science and get best advice as to, we want to make sure, as the quote from Minister Plibersek correctly says, we don’t want to see extinctions of any species.

“And that’s why we need to work with industry, work with the science to make sure we can have a win-win here.

“I don’t want to see jobs disappear, but I also want to see the Maugean skate protected.”

And so it went.

To be fair, it is a tough position to be in. It’s a hard issue to take a firm stance on.

But that’s why he’s paid the big bucks. And that’s why Australians voted for him and his Labor team.

Equivocation is not an attractive trait for a political leader, yet it seems to be the most used currency for far too many politicians.

The Prime Minister is right to say that jobs and the environment must both be protected, but he comes up short when trying to explain how that will be achieved.

In fact, he didn’t try much at all except for referring to the Act and “the science” and handballing it to the state government and his Environment Minister to explain further (neither of whom were in those particular interviews).

Discussion over the stingray is just a snippet of the dilemma for Labor on environmental policy.

It was elected partly on its environmental credentials but must also be industry-friendly.

The same dithering is seen over mining, forestry, marine protection and more.

Weasel words just don’t cut it anymore.

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What is Riotact doing commenting on politics? This used to be a good source of interesting snippets happening around Canberra. I hope it doesn’t become just another opportunity for gotcha non-journalism.

Lord Fenwick9:59 am 20 Jan 24

The PM allowing the Environment Minister to do her job in accordance with the EPBC Act is called “fence sitting”. We have forgotten that this is how government is supposed to work. People now think Morrison’s pretending he was all powerful was reality.

I had high hopes for Albo but he is starting to morph into
Scomo Mark 2. Popping up in high vis gear everywhere & just waffling on with nothing to say.

HiddenDragon7:45 pm 19 Jan 24

“But fence-sitting was the best the PM could muster.”

Standard operating procedure for this PM, and not just since he got his backside kicked in the Voice referendum – hardly surprising given that his government basically fell into power via a small target strategy, the sub-text of which was “vote for us because we’re not as bad as the Liberals or as mad as the Greens”.

It’s a shame to the extent that some useful things have been done, or attempted, and other worthwhile items remain on the agenda – although most of that is the sort of stuff that the federal bureaucracy would do anyway if left to its own devices, without even the need for much prodding or anything resembling leadership from politicians.

The increasing impression is of a government, and most particularly a PM, whose main reason for wanting power was because they thought it was their turn – and now that they have it, and have ticked a few items off their list, and settled a few scores and rewarded those who helped them into power, they’re not really sure what they want to do with power other than hang onto it.

After reading your recent articles it is becoming clear that you’re not a Albo fan nor are you hiding it well…..not very unbiased. Will be my last article as next will be the Dutton soft articles. Cheers

The hypocritical Greens don’t object to massive windfarm projects destroying pristine rainforests, nor the rare flora and fauna destroyed during the construction

Name one massive windfarm project anywhere in the world that has destroyed a pristine rainforest or rare flora and fauna Futureproof? In fact, California has been leading the wind energy revolution for decades with farms dedicated to this activity set up throughout its desert regions.

Renewable energy is booming and has become a business activity for many landowners around the world and Australia. In Canberra landholders are quite happily leasing their lands for this activity. There are now four major solar farms in and around our city with Royalla reported to be the largest in Australia. These wind farms have been operating happily and successfully providing renewable energy to our city for close to 10 years.

No FP I am not a Green. I am a Greenie who supports environmental protection and am a renewable energy supporter. I do not support forest and wildlife habitats being destroyed for wind farms. You are right though Kaban has gone ahead. Chalumbin however has not despite the project being approved by the Palaszczuk government. Tanya Plibersek will make the final determination and she has been very cagey so far. The Greens have been silent and there is another fight brewing in Tasmania. Their hypocrisy has been called out by many in the environmental movement. Labor and the Greens are well and truly wedged on this one!

Plibersek is due to make a decision soon and many are watching with interest!

Futureproof claims:

“The hypocritical Greens don’t object to massive windfarm projects destroying pristine rainforests, nor the rare flora and fauna destroyed during the construction”

Then provides a link where they are proposing to build windfarms on existing pastoral land next to a rainforest.

Um, OK? Is that your evidence?

I’m not sure if Futureproof is unable to read his own link or is so ideologically blinded in dislike of renewables that he believes the original statement has any connection to reality.

Jack D – the planets have aligned, and I am in agreement with you

Perhaps Chewy14, I should have mention hypocritical Greens politicians

Perhaps you should mention some actual evidence to back up your ridiculous claims instead?

Particularly when you think it’s hypocrisy to not oppose something built on well used pastoral land. Land that you seem to have mixed up with a “pristine rainforest”.

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