Marine park lock-up is a national folly
by Piers Akerman The Sunday Telegraph 17/11/2012

Locking up more than 2.3 million square kilometres of ocean around Australia is not the act of a world-leading smart nation, it is the folly of the world's leading stupid nation.

We already import more than 70% of our seafood, much of it grown in dubious conditions in the murky waters of Asian nations that don't pass any environmental muster.

In the future we will import more tasteless coarse fish grown in muddy ponds, while the Gillard government panders to local and international green movements and penalises Aussies who want to eat tasty fresh fish from our own waters.

Environment Minister Tony Burke says the move, which came into effect at midnight on Friday, will make Australia the world leader in marine protection — but increasing costly seafood imports can only make us look dumb.

There is no point in having one-third of the world's marine parks right off our own beach when it means we have to bring fish in from other nations. The great marine park lock-up has been perpetrated without any proper consultation, peer-reviewed scientific study or social and economic impact assessments.

Queensland Nationals Senator Ron Boswell, who warned of this disaster, says there will be immediate damage to commercial and recreational fishing businesses.

It is no cause for celebration for the families in fishing sectors, allied marine industries, tourism or coastal communities, for whom it will be a tragic day when their investments, skills and life experience will be further devalued by a government desperate for Green support, at any cost.

Since the management plans will not be finalised until mid-2013 and won't take effect until July 2014, it means the Labor government will not pay any compensation to fishers for 12 to 18 months. This is something else Labor is putting on the credit card.

"Regardless of that," Boswell said, "it has pushed ahead with the declaration. Why? Because the government depends on the Greens politically and it panders to environmental activists. Our fisheries management is internationally recognised as amongst the very best in the world. These commercial and recreational fishing bans are completely unnecessary.

Boswell said government ministers had talked about $100 million in compensation but past experience demonstrated that would not be enough money and it would not be available to enough businesses.

Professional fishers directly impacted have been told they will be able to apply for some compensation but charter-boat operators will miss out entirely and so will all the related businesses, such as tackle shops, seafood processors and wholesalers, ships' chandleries, repair facilities, and all the other suppliers of goods and services. Nothing about the lock-up of the seas makes sense.

It is as flawed as the carbon tax which has seen Australia move from being a low-energy-cost nation to a high-energy-cost nation - and lose industry, income and jobs in the process. It has no strategic underpinning, making us more reliant on imports than ever. It has no intellectual structure, being based on thought bubbles from environmental groups funded by overseas interests like the Pew Environment Group.

As Burke was unveiling his marine parks plan, Prime Minister Julia Gillard presented her Australian Education Bill based on the Gonski review. But opposition education spokesman Christopher Pyne said there was nothing but motherhood statements in the 1400-word Bill. "All foam and no beer," was his description.

Since there is no mechanism for funding described in the legislation, the bill actually includes a section making it not legally binding.

"If the Prime Minister wanted to slap the schools sector and state governments in the face and insult the intelligence of Australians, then this Bill delivers on both counts," Pyne said.

The marine national parks, the education Bill, the National Disability Insurance Scheme, the royal commission into child sex abuse are all just part of a string of distractions being run up the parliamentary flagpole by a desperate Labor-Green-independents government eager to distract the public from its failures.

Chew on that the next time you spit out a piece of unappetising Asian catfish bought at your local beachside fishos.