One Nation tips balance in grab for WA’s prized lobster catch
The West Australian government’s controversial bid to seize almost 20 per cent of the state’s prized lobster catch has come under further attack after Pauline Hanson’s One Nation vowed to oppose the move if it came before state parliament.
Amid an intensifying campaign against the plan led by WA’s commercial fishers, One Nation state leader Colin Tincknell said yesterday his party’s three upperhouse MPs would join other crossbenchers in voting against it.
This may be critical because the McGowan government often relies on crossbenchers to pass laws in the upper house. The Liberal Party and the Nationals are also opposed to the plan, leaving only Labor and the Greens in favour.
But WA Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly could still seek to implement the changes through special exemption powers he holds under legislation. These powers have been used extensively by previous fisheries ministers, but it would be unusual for them to be employed for such an overhaul of the industry.
Mr Kelly stunned the state’s $500 million rock lobster industry last month by announcing plans to increase the annual quota from 6300 tonnes to 8000 tonnes, with the government keeping 1385 tonnes of the increase for itself.
The rights to fish the state’s quota would be sold or leased to the private sector, delivering hun- dreds of millions of dollars in revenue to the government.
Mr Kelly says the change will ensure more lobsters are available for domestic consumers rather than for export to China, which takes about 98 per cent of the state’s catch.
Fishing Families WA spokesman Brad Arnup said while the lobby group was grateful for One Nation’s support, the fight was far from over.
“We want long-term security of access, and to ensure that the government won’t try something like this again,” he said.
“The bottom line is it’s bad for lobsters, bad for fishing families and bad for the community.
“We just want the minister to talk to us and discuss the best way to go forward.”
Acting Fisheries Minister Roger Cook said the government had not decided whether to implement the plan through an exemption. He said consultation with the industry would continue until next Friday.