Abbott backs Keep Australia Fishing

TONY Abbott has promised to support Australia’s 5 million anglers if he wins office in the upcoming federal election.

The Opposition Leader delivered a video address to a crowd of 300 at the annual Australian Fishing Trade Association tackle show awards, held in the Gold Coast on Tuesday night. He is due to make further announcements on his rec-fishing policies at the Brisbane Boat Show later in the week.

Mr Abbott said he regretted being unable to attend the tackle show in person. He told the assembled tackle industry that he was worried that the Gillard Government’s federal marine parks plans would see anglers unfairly locked out of huge areas of ocean, potentially costing billions in lost revenue to the tackle and tourism industries. Mr Abbott said he would work with Australia’s recreational fishing organisations to secure access rights and to ensure proper consultation and scientific research resulted in sustainable fisheries. In a welcome development, the Opposition Leader promised “compensation” if anglers were locked out of any marine parks.

The AFTA awards night was held as a fundraiser for Keep Australia Fishing’s dual campaigns against marine parks lock-outs and the imminent arrival of a Dutch-owned super trawler.

Fishing activist Rex Hunt gave a rousing speech calling for anglers, the tackle industry and angling organisations to unite against anti-fishing extremists and industrial fishing operations. Hunt’s stirring and emotional speech was followed by addresses given by Opposition fisheries spokesman Senator Richard Colbeck and shadow tourism minister Bob Baldwin. Both politicians are keen anglers and each expressed strong support for the rec-fishing sector.

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Rex Hunt delivering a speech at the AFTA Awards Night. Image: Fishing Monthly Group

Senator Colbeck said the formation of Keep Australia Fishing and the Australian Recreational Fishing Foundation had resulted in the angling sector becoming a major political force. The Senator urged anglers to voice their concerns about the marine parks issue in the strongest possible way.

“You need to make sure the Government hears you on this issue,” he said. “Now is the time to make the changes that are needed.”

The awards function was preceded by a national mass phone-in organised by AFTA CEO Allan Hansard. Exhibitors and retailers at the show were given info sheets with politicians’ phone numbers and urged to call in to protest about marine parks and the super trawler. “I’ve been getting calls all day from Canberra asking what is going on,” Hansard told Fisho.

“It’s obvious they are starting to get the message.”

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United front – (From left) Opposition fisheries spokesman Senator Richard Colbeck, Bruce Alvey, Rex Hunt and shadow tourism minister Bob Baldwin. Image: Fishing Monthly Group

Politics aside, the AFTA function also saw awards presented for new tackle, show stands and a new awards category for recognising work done by the fishing media – see tackle show report for all the details.

View the Tony Abbott speech video HERE.

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