COMMENT: Burke has got it wrong

TONY Burke just won’t listen. The federal Environment Minister keeps saying that his massive new marine parks aren’t a problem for Australia’s 5 million recreational fishers.

He’s wrong.

The fact is these marine parks, the biggest in the world, are really bad news for this country’s recreational fishers.

Not only will we get forever locked out of 1.3 million square kilometres of ocean – including iconic sportfisheries in the Coral Sea, important gamefishing locations off Perth and inshore fisheries enjoyed by fishing families in the south-west of WA – but we face the very real risk of further lock-outs around the entire country.

Burke’s decision to arbitrarily lock anglers out – with no scientific rationale or real consultation – has left the door open for extreme green groups to maintain the push for more fishing bans.

No wonder relations between the rec fishing sector and the federal Labor Party have hit an all-time low.

It obviously didn’t have to be this way. But Burke has made it clear he isn’t changing course. Green votes count more than fishing votes, it seems.

What happens now depends on which way the key independents vote in a disallowance being proposed by the Coalition for today or tomorrow. At this stage, it is impossible to tell the outcome of this move. Rob Oakshott, who hails from the coastal seat of Port Macquarie, has expressed some sympathy to the angling sector. Tony Windsor, from Tamworth, is his usual taciturn self and has given no indication of where he sits on the issue.

The other crossbenchers? Again, who knows which way they will turn.

If the disallowance motion fails, then it’s game on for the federal poll on September 14. The Coalition, if successful, has promised to do what it can to soften the blow of these lockouts for us. But they are politicians and promises made by politicians before elections have a tendency to dissipate into an ethereal netherworld of “core” and “non core”.

Anyway you look at it, rec fishing has been shafted. With Tony Burke and the Labor Party the shaft goes in all the way up to the hilt. With the Coalition, well, maybe it’s just going to go in a little bit. Either way, it’s an unpleasant experience.

All we can do now is grit our teeth and hope that Windsor and Oakeshott come to the rescue.

Jim Harnwell is the editor and publisher of Fishing World.

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