COMMENT: A question of money

LAST week we published a somewhat contentious article detailing an attempt to push through a deal that would have seen NSW fishing licence money be used to prop up the ailing national organisation RecFish Australia – view story here.

In that article we expressed an opinion that NSW anglers’ money should not be used to support a national organisation.

Fishing World stands by that opinion.

That said, we strongly believe that a national body or organisation representing recreational fishing to government and the mainstream media is vital for the ongoing growth of our great sport and lifestyle.

Without such an organisation, we are left vulnerable to attacks and the spread of misinformation from anti-fishing groups. We also have no avenue by which to influence government decisions relating to fishing.

RecFish Australia was designed to do that sort of work and for a long time it did a great job. But infighting and the politics of personality have seen it become something of a toothless tiger. Rightly or wrongly, RecFish has for some years now been attacked and undermined by other groups involved with fishing.

The result of all this is that RecFish is now virtually a spent force. The final nail in its coffin was hammered in when federal Fisheries Minister Tony Burke recently refused point-blank to fund it.

There is no point wasting more time on RecFish. As we said last week, it’s dead. It’s now time to look at forming a new and invigorated national body to lead us and take us forward.

I’m not advocating that we reinvent the wheel here. What I’m suggesting is that we take the best of what RecFish represented while getting rid of the excess baggage that for so long has dragged RecFish and its supporters down.

Establishing, developing and maintaining a representative organisation requires money – and lots of it. Lack of money, and the need to always be scrambling around for cash, was one of the reasons RecFish failed. Unless we come up with a suitable funding stream, we will never have the sort of national representation that we require.

So how do we get this money?

I’ve been thinking about a few options. None of these ideas are unique or revolutionary. Someone far smarter than me could no doubt come up with much better ideas. I present these ideas simply to indicate that there are options available and that it is more than possible to come up with something that will help us all.

One idea that I personally quite like is that a levy be placed on fishing tackle purchases. This “tackle tax” would be placed in a fund and used by whatever organisation is formed. I’m not talking about huge sums here – just one or two percent added to the price of a rod or reel that would be collected by the tax department and put in a fund to be used exclusively for the benefit of recreational fishing. This idea has been floated previously (by RecFish, in fact) but was shot down in flames by the tackle industry.

Another idea is that a national association be formed requiring anglers to join and pay a membership fee which is then used to fund the organisation and whatever campaigns it runs. This would be like a giant national fishing club. I’d join and pay $50 or $100 a year, if it meant we could finally come up with a plan to take us forward. Perhaps in a group like ANSA we already have an organisation which could run this sort of concept?

Another proposal I’ve been thinking about is that we ask the government to instigate a federal fishing licence, which would be managed federally and would be legislated to be used to establish a national representative body and also fund measures to improve recreational fisheries across the nation. This could be a winner but given the current Government’s problems with handling this sort of program (take the insulation scheme as an example) it could turn out to be a bit of a nightmare …

I could ramble on with ideas like the above, all of which have been mooted at various times. The fact is that there’s someone out there with a great idea which none of us have heard or thought of. This idea – whatever it is – can be used to generate the funds we need to create an organisation that will equip us with the united and powerful voice we’ve been without for so long.

Whoever you are, please share your idea with us all before it’s too late!

Post your comments and suggestions. Let’s see if we can come up with something worth taking forward.

Then again, we can do nothing – apart from watching our fishing spots become no-go zones, our kids become Game Boy zombies and have ratbags from groups like PETA and Pew tell us what we can and can’t do.

It’s our choice.

I’ve had my say. Now you have yours.

Jim Harnwell,
Fishing World

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