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Monday, 26 November 2012
Page: 13275

Ms LIVERMORE (Capricornia) (11:00): When I submitted this notice of motion condemning the Newman government for its attacks on recreational fishing, I thought I would be making quite a statement on behalf of rec fishers in Central Queensland and across the state. Here was my opportunity to get stuck into this shocking government, condemning it in the strongest terms for its arrogant and dismissive treatment of this important section of the community and a significant part of our local economy. But, as it turns out, condemnation of the Newman government does not have quite the same currency today that I expected it would. Condemning the Newman government is becoming quite a crowded field—now everyone is in on the act.

In just the past couple of days we have had Clive Palmer—life member of the LNP and the man who bankrolled the party into power—resign from the party in protest against what Campbell Newman is doing to Queensland. And yesterday we got the news that Ray Hopper, a long-serving LNP member of parliament, has left the party to sit in parliament as a member of the Katter party. He, too, did not want to be part of what the Newman LNP government is dishing out to Queensland and to regional Queensland in particular. When it comes to condemning the Newman government, it is hard for me to compete with the likes of Clive Palmer when he says:

… the current government is much worse than anything that was around at the time of the Fitzgerald inquiry—


… I do think the government is crooked.

It is strange days indeed when I find myself in the same camp as Clive Palmer, but these are strange days in Queensland and dark days, too, under the leadership of Campbell Newman and the LNP government.

Amongst the many groups in Queensland who are feeling let down and under attack from the LNP government is recreational fishers and their representatives in Sunfish. Before the state election in March, the LNP told recreational fishers in writing that, if elected:

… an LNP government will work closely with stakeholders to enhance the experience of recreational fishers in Queensland.

Like so many others in Queensland, such as public servants, rural firefighters and community service organisations, recreational fishers are now learning that the LNP's promises are worth nothing now that it is in power—and in absolute power in a way never seen before in our state or any other. Barely eight months after the election, the Newman led LNP state government has already broken its pre-election promises regarding its support for recreational fishing and is in the process of setting back fisheries management in Queensland to failed models that were consigned to history in Australia a decade or more ago.

Recreational fishing in Queensland has been an integral part of the state's culture and heritage since white settlement. In its own election policy statements, the LNP promoted the fact that there are currently over 750,000 Queenslanders who enjoy recreational fishing and promised that it would 'restore the health of Queensland's fishery'. Up to 30 per cent of the population of some coastal regions in Queensland engage in this healthy outdoor activity and contribute, conservatively, many millions of dollars into the state's economy every year. So it is extremely concerning to watch the new LNP state government now thumb its nose at recreational fishers and withdraw funding from a range of critically important programs and initiatives.

These cuts include: an $8 million cut from the fisheries budget, 60 jobs cut from fisheries Queensland, the cessation of funding to Sunfish Queensland, the cessation of the fisheries observer program, the cessation of the industry development program for commercial and recreational fishing, the cessation of the Fishcare volunteer program and the cutting of all funding to the national Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, which is about the future of fisheries in our state and, indeed, Australia. The list goes on.

Of particular concern to recreational fishers in Central Queensland is the way these cuts will hit fish-stocking groups and the internationally recognised and acclaimed Suntag fish-tagging program—the brainchild of Bill Sawnyok in my electorate. The recreational fishing community feel betrayed by a government that said nothing about these cuts before the election. Robin Caddy, President of the Freshwater Fishing and Stocking Association of Queensland, said of the cuts, 'To be treated in this manner is deplorable.' David Bateman, Chairman of Sunfish, said in Bush 'n Beach Fishing magazine that his delegates were astounded that the government's first actions were to cut recreational fishing community projects.

Recreational fishers and their representatives—as members here from Queensland and elsewhere know—are passionate and knowledgeable about their sport of fishing, and deserve to have their concerns and ideas about fisheries management taken seriously by the state government. They have important things to say about the best models for fisheries management and need to be listened to.

It has been reported to me by constituents who attended the National Recreational Fishing Conference, on the Gold Coast in August this year, that they were actually embarrassed to admit they came from Queensland when they saw all the good things being done in other states by fisheries departments. Interestingly, it should be noted that Senator Joe Ludwig, the Commonwealth minister with responsibility for fisheries, attended and spoke at the national conference. I believe that the federal government put some sponsorship towards that national conference as well. The federal minister attended while Queensland's fisheries minister McVeigh declined the invitation to attend and was, in fact, conspicuous by his absence. Deputy Speaker, what sort of message did that send to recreational fishers in Queensland? I have a fair idea about how recreational fishers are feeling when I returned from a glorious day out on Keppel Bay in our family's tinny in early October. The carpark at the Rosslyn Bay boat ramp was absolutely packed, and every vehicle had a notice on its windscreen telling boaties and fishers about what the LNP state government is proposing to do with the money they paid towards recreational fishing initiatives.

Since the mid-1990s, Queensland recreational boat owners have been paying an additional levy—I think it is about $18—on top of their annual boat registration payment. That levy has been specifically quarantined to be used for the direct benefit of recreational fishers in Queensland. This levy was introduced as a recommendation of the Labor Party's groundbreaking Burns inquiry into recreational fishing in Queensland. Of course, that reference to the Burns inquiry is a reference to the beloved Tom Burns who members on this side of the House and most Queenslanders would recognise as one of the strongest advocates for recreational fishers, and indeed one of the strongest practitioners of recreational fishing that you could find. That was originally called the private pleasure vessel levy, but evolved into the recreational use fee a decade or so ago. However, these funds have continued to be largely directed to programs and projects that do benefit recreational fishing, that is, until now. Unofficial advice from Fisheries Queensland to Sunfish members has confirmed that around half of the funds raised this year from the recreational user fee—an estimated $4½ million—will be directed towards the core business operations of the agency. So, it is not for fish-tagging programs, not for fish-stocking programs, not for the teach your kids to fish programs that have been so popular amongst the recreational fishing community. In other words, the Newman government is raiding funds that come from the recreational fishing community to pay for the core operational costs of running its department. The minister has denied this, but we are getting used to the Queensland government running for cover when the community starts to react to its broken promises and cuts to important programs and services.

The fact is that the cuts to jobs and programs and attacks on community-level organisations, which Sunfish is campaigning against, are completely consistent with the Newman government's approach and track record in government. The recreational fishing community is now experiencing the same treatment from the Newman government as so many other parts of Queensland—cuts in funding and scrapping of programs that had broad community support and denigration by the government when they dared to oppose its destructive agenda. Cutting funding to the peak body, Sunfish, and sidelining it from involvement in fishing policies is an attempt to shut down opposition from the sector. In my 15 years of experience, I have found Sunfish to be a valuable voice in issues and debates regarding matters that affect the recreational fishing community and the fishing sector more broadly. I especially remember and pay tribute to the leadership shown by local Sunfish representatives at the time that we were trying to get the best outcome for Central Queensland fishers from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park's Green Zone process 10 years ago. Local Sunfish delegates worked closely with me and the chair of GBRMPA at the time, the Hon. Virginia Chadwick, and played a very constructive role in coordinating the views of our local fishing community and putting them forward to GBRMPA to achieve a successful outcome.

Most recreational fishers prefer just to go fishing rather getting involved in politics. However, I am seeing a growing anger among the recreational fishing community in Queensland, which is going to result in a backlash against the arrogance of the Newman government. I wish this sector and their representatives all the best, and will support their efforts where I can. I know I am joined by my stage Labor colleague the member for Rockhampton, Bill Byrne, who will be speaking on this matter in state parliament tomorrow night.