During Parliamentary Budget Estimates on Wednesday 27 July 2022, I asked the Fisheries Minister who made the decision not to remove shark nets despite multiple whale entanglements in Qld and no evidence the nets effectively improve swimmer safety.
You can read the answers below or in the official Queensland Parliament Record of Proceedings (Hansard).
Mr BERKMAN: Yes, I have. I will put this question to the minister in relation to the Queensland Shark Control Program. You would be aware of lots of work in this space at the moment. There was the recent Cardno report reviewing non-lethal approaches to shark nets and drum lines and a Senate inquiry recommending transition to non-lethal methods. We have seen the entanglement of at least five whales in nets this year, yet you have confirmed that the government has no plans to remove any shark nets or drum lines, as understand it. Minister, who made the decision not to remove shark control nets ahead of humpback whale migration season and on what basis, given that this contradicts the recommendations of the government’s own Shark Control Program Scientific Working Group?
Mr FURNER: I am happy to respond broadly in regard to the question. There is work being done. I apologise that the member was not present when we gave a response in relation to the good work that is being done in respect of surveillance drone technology. There has been more than $6 million put into further enhancement of a further four beaches in regard to using drone technology, the consideration of looking at zones to also provide for coverage in regard to measures of assisting people to safely bathe or do water activities in those areas, but we need to work with those councils on those sorts of things.
Mr BERKMAN: Point of order, Chair, on relevance. I am mindful that time is very short. I did hear the answers before around remote drone monitoring. The question specifically is: who made the decision not to remove the shark nets ahead of humpback whale migration season and on what basis, given that this is contradicted by the government’s own Shark Control Program Scientific Working Group?
CHAIR: I am not sure how you are going to answer that, Minister, but I invite you to continue on with the answer you are providing.
Mr FURNER: In my view there have been no significant changes to the program. As we have been up-front all along, since 1962, the initial policy position is to protect human life. That is paramount in terms of what we do as a government in terms of making sure our waters are free from shark attacks. No doubt there is a continued expansion of whales up and down the coastline as a result of migration. That is why we are looking at drone technology. We are expanding the program. We are looking at alternatives through technology. There are a whole host of technologies available. We will continue investing in those, as we have in this budget, and look at those technologies that are new and exciting to make sure that people are protected but also marine life is protected. That is why we have a catch and release program for those areas that we are trialling—a very successful program, catching and releasing those three types of sharks, whether it be bull sharks, white sharks or tiger sharks, in those locations where the catch and release lines are in place.
Mr BERKMAN: Can I take it from your answer that your assertion is that the risk of shark bite would increase if Queensland shark nets and drum lines were removed? Is that your assertion?
CHAIR: There is an implication there. I know, member for Maiwar, you are asking about our program, but I did not hear the minister travelling towards what you are implying.
Mr BERKMAN: That is why I am seeking clarification.
CHAIR: I think it is a bit argumentative. I do not know how the minister can answer that—
Mr BERKMAN: I know how the minister can answer it.
CHAIR:—unless the member wants to rephrase that question.
Mr FURNER: We support the Shark Control Program, as we have done since 1962.
Mr BERKMAN: The question as I put it was: is it your assertion that the risk of shark bite would increase in Queensland if Queensland shark nets and drum lines were removed?
Mr FURNER: That is a hypothetical.
Mr BERKMAN: It is absolutely not hypothetical. It is a question about assertions implicit in your answer.
CHAIR: I understand where you are going, but it is hypothetical and argumentative as well.
Mr BERKMAN: There is nothing hypothetical about that question.
CHAIR: I am going to rule that the minister has answered that.