Mr Melhem (Western Metropolitan): My question is to the Minister for Fishing and Boating, the Honourable Jaala Pulford. As many of my constituents are keen fishers and love to go and enjoy fishing on the weekends and love to eat fish as well, Minister, what has the Andrews Labor government done to support recreational anglers in Melbourne’s west?


Ms Pulford (Western Victoria—Minister for Roads, Minister for Road Safety and the TAC, Minister for Fishing and Boating): I thank Mr Melhem for his question and for his interest in our recreational fishing work and policies and our Target One Million plan. You might ask, you might all wonder: what is there in the way of recreational fishing in Melbourne’s west? Because there are lots of iconic fisheries all over Victoria, and Target One Million is about basically creating an awesome fishing opportunity for everyone no matter where they live. There are loads and loads of things that have been going on in Melbourne’s west to support rec fishers, and I am really excited to be continuing in the role with responsibility for fisheries, albeit in a new constellation separate from the agriculture portfolio and now with our boating, where we have got some very exciting election commitments to deliver. We will be in this term continuing with the same level of enthusiasm for fishing and fisheries as we have done over the last four years, with a new native fish hatchery among the highlights and some big changes at the Gippsland Lakes. But the member’s question was very much about what is going on in the west, and so—

Ms Bath: Are you talking to Gippsland Lakes fishermen?

Ms Pulford: Yes, I am, actually. Yes.

Ms Bath: Have you had conversations with them?

Ms Pulorfd: Well, they keep cancelling the meetings. That is actually very funny—they keep cancelling the meetings. They have some slightly unusual thing going on with their representative organisation—

Ms Bath interjected.

Ms Pulford: If I could just take up the member’s interjection—I will come back to you—but the member is asking whether or not we are meeting with the licence-holders in Gippsland. This is a very important issue, so I will take the opportunity to quickly respond to that question—though I note Ms Bath did not take her question opportunity to ask that; she just wanted to have some ridiculous and slightly embarrassing shot at the government for the best regional unemployment ever. We have on two occasions now offered to meet with the licence-holders in Gippsland. The meeting was cancelled at their instigation in December. There is another meeting scheduled for 4 o’clock this afternoon, so that is in about 3½ hours. Again we have had a whole lot of people saying, ‘Oh, no, no, we don’t want to meet. Our representative body says we shouldn’t meet with you’.

Ms Bath: So are you saying they don’t want to meet with you?

Ms Pulford: Well, they keep cancelling meetings, so we are getting this approach where they are saying to the media that they want more information, no-one is telling them what is going on, and whenever we try to talk to them about what is going on they cancel. Anyway, back to fishing in the western suburbs. The Victorian Fisheries Authority, our wonderful team at the VFA, are delivering a project that is around reviving the recreational fishery in the Maribyrnong River, with quite a significant investment—$820 000 of investment. Over three years what is going on there is the stocking of 300 000 estuary perch, a new boat ramp at Flemington, 30 woody fish habitat reefs, some fish population and fish habitat mapping and improved land-based access and facilities. We do know that Victorians love to fish in the Maribyrnong River, and today 133 000—

Members interjecting.

Ms Pulford: Did we want to get back to answering Ms Bath’s question, because—

The PRESIDENT: No, we do not want to go back to that.

Ms Pulford: Right. So the baseline fish population surveys occurred. We have already stocked 133 000 estuary perch, and over the last—

Members interjecting.

The PRESIDENT: Order! I am on my feet, but I agree with Mr Dalidakis—I cannot hear the minister either. I think it is coming from both sides of the chamber, so Mr Melhem, maybe stay away from fish in the future.

Ms Pulford: With respect, President, I do not like that ruling at all. But 29 waterways in the west have been stocked with fishing, including the Maribyrnong, the Barwon River, Wurdiboluc, Pykes Creek, Werribee, Melton, Spavin Lake and Navin Lake. There is a great fish-catching opportunity for everyone in Victoria, no matter where they live and no matter how inexperienced an angler they are.