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A force to be reckoned with
  |  First Published: May 2004



DO YOU want your kids be able to go fishing when they grow up? Australia's most popular outdoor pursuit, a major social activity and integral part of our heritage, is under threat. The rights we once had are being taken away by politicians and bureaucrats who are being influenced by lobby groups intent on banning our birthright! The Great Barrier Reef RAP and Grey Nurse Shark closures are only the beginning.

Recreational fishers MUST have a voice in parliament. THE FISHING PARTY will provide that voice.

THE FISHING PARTY (QLD BRANCH)

That opening statement clearly identifies the major issue that has led to the formation of the Queensland branch of The Fishing Party. Read the message again and think carefully about what it says. Your decision to support or not support such a political undertaking will determine just how dearly you cherish your right to enjoy a pastime which, for many of us, has been a lifelong passion.

Proserpine’s Kevin Collins and myself (along with other commentators such as Steve Starling and Warren Steptoe) have been looking at the erosion of the rights of recreational fishers for some time, and have independently arrived at the same conclusion: the only way forward is to compete directly with the forces that are behind this erosion. We must have direct political representation.

In the April issue of QFM Kevin wrote about the moves to form a Queensland branch of The Fishing Party, already established in New South Wales. This has now been done and the party is enrolling members. A 10-member executive body, representing interested fishers state-wide, has been formed, and I have agreed to represent far northern areas on that committee.

The Fishing Party (Qld Branch) intends to run a candidate(s) for the upcoming senate election and would like to have a membership base of several thousand so that it can fund the necessary advertising material. Successful senate candidates need approximately 7% of the vote to be successful so, given that recent recreational fishing surveys have indicated that over 60% of our state’s population is actively engaged in the sport, this goal should be readily achievable.

What it boils down to is just how much you enjoy your fishing! I’ve spoken to hundreds of fishers over the years who have read my columns regarding poor fisheries management. Many of them have agreed wholeheartedly with my comments, but felt that they were powerless to set things right.

Well, now all of us have the opportunity to actually make something happen. The slogan that has been around for many years – ‘I fish and I vote’ – finally has meaning, as we can now vote for someone who has fishing issues as their political platform.

There are sure to be some fishers out there who have opinions on whether this is the way to go. Whinging is part of recreational fishing culture, with people sitting on their backsides sucking a stubby and solving all of our problems. These fishers never actually get off their bum and do anything constructive, but they’re the ones to shout loudest when their favourite fishing spots have been placed off limits! It’s OK to whinge – just be sure to make your vote count.

In case you are a bit bewildered as to why fishers need a political party, let me review what’s been happening behind the scenes that has led to the Australia-wide loss of recreational fishing areas.

In a nutshell, the green movement, aided mainly by their senators holding a balance of power in federal parliament, have used their sensitive political situation to tremendous advantage in influencing the establishment of marine parks.

The ‘lock it up’ mentality of the ultra-greenies has prevailed, and governments, both federal and state, have been coerced into introducing regulations based on questionable scientific evidence. Just look at Queensland’s grey nurse closures – the scientifically flawed arguments have been well reported in QFM.

I, like many other fishers out there, pride myself on my ‘green’ outlook and am always happy to concede to restrictions if they will improve the fishery. But the new restrictions are simply pandering to ultra-green interests. These ‘ultra greenies’ ignore environmentally destructive practices such as drift netting – which has been going on in the Gulf of Carpentaria for a decade – because it doesn’t get them enough media attention. This sort of hypocrisy leaves me very angry.

The greens will keep chopping away at our traditional rights unless we challenge them at the same level. It’s that simple. Forget about that great white hope ‘public consultation’. Those of us who have been close to that process know that deals made behind closed doors will always preclude any public majority. The thousands of pieces of paper carefully filled out in good faith are worth less than dunny paper if the minister accepts advice to the contrary. The RAP process is a perfect example of minorities influencing government outcomes.

The message is crystal clear: fishers must have a direct political voice, an open line to government ministers.

I recommend that you join The Fishing Party right away. If your sport is not worth 20 bucks and 10 minutes of your time, at least make your vote count come election day. Surely, being able to soak a line at your favourite spot in years to come is surely worth that much.

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