Minister won’t front inquiry over Cronulla Fisheries closure

NSW Primary Industries Minister Katrina Hodgkinson has refused to appear before a parliamentary inquiry over her decision to close the Cronulla Fisheries Research Centre.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the minister’s staff wrote to the chairman of the inquiry, the MLC Reverend Fred Nile, to tell him she is too busy to attend the public hearings on September 3 and 10.

”Unfortunately, on both of these dates the minister is unable to appear before the committee due to ministerial meetings,” her executive officer, Cassandra McNamara, wrote in an email. ”Please accept the minister’s apologies.”

The decision to close the centre and relocate its activities to regional towns was made as part of the government’s ”Decade of Decentralisation” policy.

Fisheries staff have long campaigned against the closure and documents obtained under freedom of information laws show the decision was taken without costings, a business case or cabinet submission.

The opposition spokesman on primary industries, Steve Whan, accused the minister of having ”something to hide”.

”The minister is avoiding answering serious questions about her and her office’s actions,” he said.

A spokeswoman for the minister said three representatives from the government, including the Director General of the Department of Primary Industries, Dr Richard Sheldrake, had appeared at the first hearing of the inquiry this month.

They answered questions from the committee for two hours and ”in addition nearly 100 questions were put to the government on notice”, she said.

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