Government must protect abalone divers


Federal Labor MP Brian Mitchell has called for the spotlight to be shone on Tasmania’s abalone industry to ensure it is operating within pandemic rules and regulations.


“I have written to the Minister to express my concern that four or five men are expected to share quarters in a small boat for up to five days at sea,” said the federal Lyons MP.


“I simply cannot see how divers can maintain safe social distance in these conditions.


“If divers are infected with coronavirus the damage to their lungs can be permanent, resulting in them losing their ability to dive and earn a living.


“Divers are under immense pressure to continue diving in these dangerous conditions because owners of abalone quotas are insisting on their quotas being harvested for lucrative export. If the divers don’t dive, they lose their contracts.


“I believe the only solution is for the Government to enforce a ban on abalone diving and allow divers and crews to collect income assistance such as JobSeeker or JobKeeper.


“The safety of divers and crew is more important to me than the profits of quota owners.”


Mr Mitchell said he was also concerned about reports that commercial divers based in Tasmania’s north-west had left the coronavirus hot zone and travelled to the east coast and the south of Tasmania to dive for abalone.


“Travelling from a hot zone to isolated regional communities is a massive red flag in terms of infection control,” Mr Mitchell said.


“I don’t know whether these divers have been given an essential worker exemption, but if the Government considers abalone export to be essential, when it’s closed other important regional industries such as horse racing in order to restrict regional travel, then that is a shocking double standard."