One Na­tion tips bal­ance in grab for WA’s prized lobster catch

The Weekend Australian - - THE NATION - AN­DREW BUR­RELL

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.

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