Opposition to new super trawler laws

Following public and political outrage at the super trawler Abel Tasman being able to fish in Commonwealth waters, the Federal Government is looking to quickly push through new laws which will stop this practice. By extending the Government’s legal powers under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act, the super trawler will be unable to operate for two years while scientific research is carried out to ascertain the damage such large scale fishing would have on the environment.

While the move has delighted opponents to the super trawler, Opposition Senate leader Eric Abetz is already signalling that the Coalition may vote against the proposed changes stating, “It’s a knee-jerk reaction, a populist policy which will not serve the long-term interests of Tasmania or indeed Australia”.

If opposed by the Coalition, the Government will need the support of the Greens, which shouldn’t be an issue, and the independents, which may prove trickier. Andrew Wilkie, Adam Brandt and Bob Katter are likely to lend the Government their support, but Tony Windsor is as yet undecided. One vote the Government can’t rely on is Rob Oakeshott who said he is unlikely to vote for the legislation as he is “looking for more evidence”. “It’s an issue of science and actually believing in the processes of science. Our role as public policy makers is to invest in bodies like the independent [Australian] Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA).
“I have no reason [to believe] that over the last three years, their work on establishing a quota in preparation for a large vessel to work, [that] that quota has flaws in it.” 

Seafish Tasmania brought the trawler to Australia to fish for an 18,000-tonne catch. The company has described the decision as extremely disappointing and claims that it will be forced to lose 50 jobs as a direct result of the legislation.

Opinion: Sometimes it’s just the right thing to do


‘Damned if they do, damned if they don’t’ seems to be the mantra which faces all governments and yet again the Federal Government is coming under fire, this time for proposing legislation which may stop Australian seas and environment being pillaged.

Facing public and political outrage at the visit of the recently renamed super trawler Abel Tasman, the Government had two choices; do nothing and face the possible backlash two or three years down the track, or take the time to find out more about the impact such large-scale fishing may have. It has opted to take the approach which will appeal to the majority; to stop the Abel Tasman from fishing in Commonwealth waters. This is only for a period of two years and may result in the eventual resumption of fishing for the super trawler once more is known.

Well done for doing something. I understand that this will have an economic effect for Seafish Tasmania, which operates the trawler, and the 50 individuals who may lose their jobs, but too often things are allowed to happen without any consideration for the impact which may be felt in years to come.  Of course the Opposition will oppose the legislation, that’s its strategy. But surely taking a step back and carrying out additional research, whatever drives the decision to do so, is the right move?

Is this yet another knee-jerk reaction from the Government? If so, is it really such a bad thing? 

Written by Debbie McTaggart

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