ELECTED leaders in the Gulf of Carpentaria turned up to last week’s fishermen’s AGM in Karumba to show their support for the industry and voice concerns about the treatment they had received from governments.
Carpentaria Shire Council mayor Jack Bawden and state MP Robbie Katter spent hours listening to the plight of small business owners who were there to fight for their survival.
Mr Katter, speaking at the end of a long day of discussions, said the fishermen must fight or face extinction.
“For starters, I think it’s pretty gutless that the Minister (Mark Furner) hasn’t shown up today,” he told the audience.
“I think he’s thrown his own people under the bus by making them explain his government’s decisions when they are not driven by anything other than politics.
“That’s what these proposed closures are. They are purely political. The decisions are not made by science or data.
“So the solutions become political as well.”
The Member for Traeger and leader of Katter’s Australian Party called on the fishers to lobby hard against Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries Mark Furner, as well as Member for Cook Cynthia Lui, who is the other MP in the Gulf region.
“If they are going to take your jobs, you can try and threaten theirs by doing all you can to help make sure they don’t get re-elected next October,” he said.
“That’s what will spark a change.
“Everyone is predicting a close election and those two Labor seats become important. If they lose them, it will be hard for them to stay in government.”
Cr Bawden said he wanted the state government to stand up for its own people.
“It’s disappointing and it’s frustrating as well. They’ve targeted gillnet fishing for no good reason,” he said.
“There’s a lot more destruction going on that’s far higher than the damage gillnet fishermen do.
“I guess they’re an easy target in the eyes of the government.
“It’s ridiculous we are bending over to some shiny tail in Paris (UNESCO) who is telling the rest of the world what to do.
“For a start, the feds should be pushing back. But if the state can’t stop it, they should be giving these blokes more time.
“The state government shouldn’t be dictated to like the way they are. They need to stick up for their constituents.”
Cr Bawden called on Fisheries Minister Mark Furner to take on his environmental colleagues and back the fishermen.
“Minister (Furner) has been under a lot of fire and I can understand why. He’s always answered my phone calls so I can’t pick on him but he’s a Queensland boy so he could come and be a part of (the fight).”
The mayor said all jobs needed protecting in his shire.
“Gillnet fishing might not be glamorous or sexy, but neither is an abattoir or a bacon factory,” he said.
“There’s all different things for different walks of life and they put food on the table and employ people.”
Mr Katter said charter and recreational fishers should also support the commercial fishing industry because they were likely to become the target of environmentalists in the future.
“The message that we’ve been trying to send on this is don’t get comfortable because UNESCO is going to come knocking again looking for something else to shut down because they’ll need to drive membership,” he said.
“That’s what they do. They’ll be asking the next government to close something else down to stay relevant.”