Can You Trust Them?
  |  First Published: December 2009

Anger at the Federal Government’s bullyboy tactics in declaring the Coral Sea a conservation zone without any public consultation continues to mount with a protest meeting held in Cairns on December 9 last year.

Over 400 angry anglers declared their mistrust of the Rudd Government at a vocal meeting held to express the displeasure and mistrust of federal and state Labour governments over their handling of fishing related issues. The two main issues of concern were the Coral Sea conversation zone and the Wild Rivers legislation, both aimed at closing north Queenslanders out of their own outdoors.

Recreational and commercial fishers, charter boat operators and marine based business people are outraged that Minister Garrett declared the entire Coral Sea a conversation zone after only three weeks before stating that he would follow due process and let the East Coast Marine Bioregional Plan run its course. At the stroke of a pen Minister Garrett can now close the nearly one million hectares of ocean to all forms of fishing, without even having to debate the issue in parliament.

Those present at the meeting were particularly outraged when told by the chair of the meeting, Alex Witten, that Garrett had only consulted with two Green groups before declaring the Coral Sea conversation zone. It was revealed in Federal Parliament, after a question on notice from Senator Boswell, that Minister Garrett had only consulted with the Australian Conversation Foundation, of which he is a past president, and PEW. When the conservative parties lost a Disallowance Motion in the Senate, to reverse the declaration of the conservation zone, by a vote of 31 to 31, after Senator Xenophon sided with the Labour Government in a back room deal, the boating and fishing community in far north Queensland were incensed.

At the Cairns meeting concerned anglers were told that the only way to halt the avalanche of extreme Green policies being championed by the Labour government, in a desperate attempt to maintain Green preferences, is to fight politics with politics. Anglers were strongly encouraged to become politically active and join the one voice that has managed to make inroads into the Green avalanche – The Australian Fishing and Lifestyle Party (AFLP).

The AFLP has been directly responsible for having the penalty for fishing in a green zones downgraded from a criminal conviction to an on the spot $1000 fine. They also fought hard for years to eventually in November last year have the criminal convictions of over 250 anglers declared spent. This meant that anglers who were fined less than $5000 in the early days of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park legislation no longer had a criminal record and could return to normal life, without licence and travel and visa restrictions on their life and livelihoods. Those present were also told that the outrage had become so great that the ALFP was now the third largest political party in Queensland, and growing rapidly.

The meeting closed with the introduction of and speech from the AFLP’s Senate candidate for the next election, Dr Michael Mansfield. Dr Mansfield informed those present that they need to stand up and fight the Green movement or find themselves locked out of their own back yard.

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