Commercial Fishermen

Warnings ignored over Labor’s botched VMS rollout

by Ted Sorensen
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The Palaszczuk Labor Government is ignoring warnings that its botched rollout of the Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) is harming Queensland’s commercial fishers.

The LNP has been overwhelmed with cases and complaints of faulty responders, allegations of dodgy government-certified VMS suppliers, and vessel safety issues as a result of Labor’s rollout.

The Palaszczuk Labor Government used its numbers in Parliament to shut down a disallowance motion on the rollout, which would have seen the regulations halted while concerns were addressed.

LNP Shadow Minister for Fisheries Tony Perrett slammed the Palaszczuk Labor Government and Fisheries Minster Mark Furner for allowing the poor regulation to stay in place.

“There has been a litany of issues plaguing the rollout since day one,” Mr Perrett said.

“Responder devices have been recording incorrect polling times and are subject to software failures, which stopped them from working.

“Allegations of dodgy practices from the government-certified supplier of one of the endorsed responders has marred the rollout and created frustrations among hundreds of commercial fishers.

“It’s crippling small businesses along the coast when you consider that commercial fishers are not permitted to go out and fish to earn a living while their VMS is broken or not operating.

“Family-run commercial fishing businesses are being put to the wall just because this Labor Government cannot undertake its own due diligence and roll out this VMS regulation.

“Commercial fishers are quite rightly questing government due diligence when there was no Regulatory Impact Statement completed.

“It’s clear that we need to put a hold on this regulation and conduct a full review to find out what went wrong and why the VMS rollout has been such a disaster.

“The LNP backs our Queensland commercial fishing industry and will continue to fight on its behalf.”

The Fisheries (Vessel Tracking) Amendment Regulation 2018 passed parliament at the end of 2018 required all crab, line, net fishers, commercial fishing boats and licensed charter operators to have vessel tracking technology installed and operational from 1 January 2019.

Ted’s speech to disallowance motion 12 February, 2019

I rise to speak in support of the disallowance motion. There is a huge difference between a trawler and a crabber boat. Trawlers have a cabin where people can sleep and equipment can be stored out of the weather. Crabbers that go up the creeks, up narrow gutters and so on, are just open boats.

There is nothing in the boat except what is needed for crabbing, such as crab pots and boxes to put the crabs in. How will you fit some of these devices to a little boat like that and how long will they last? They will not last very long on some of the little crabbing boats that go up around the creeks in Hervey Bay. They are trotting up creeks where mangroves are scraping at them and so on. There is a big difference between the trawl industry and the small commercial crabbers.

Tracking devices on trawlers have not been that successful when you consider the trawlers that have gone down around Fraser Island. On one, the tracking device dropped right out but nothing happened for seven or eight days until somebody realised that the trawler was missing. The tracking device was on the trawler and it stopped working but nobody bothered to raise the alarm. Even the department did not raise the alarm.

If these tracking devices were monitored properly, those people might still be alive.

Then you wonder why the fishing fraternity is so suspicious about all of this data being collected. This data will be used against them. Green zones will be created in the areas where most of the fishers go. It is something fishers are really petrified of. There are go-slow zones, where you have to putt along. If somebody is caught in those areas they get a $400 or $500 fine. Some of the regulations that are coming in are just ridiculous.

If the government wants to do something for the fishing industry, it should do more studies on how fish breed. One of the best things was the barramundi closure where they were allowed to breed at certain times of the year-in the summer months. If we want sustainable fishing, I think that would improve fishing a lot more than monitoring a crabbing boat going up the creek and especially others such as line fishermen. What about some of the boats that go out with a couple of dinghies behind them? Does each dinghy have to have one of these monitoring devices on it or does just the mothership have to have the device? What is happening?

When we look at it, the fishing industry has been going backwards for the last 20 years and who has been in government for most of that time? We are not doing anything for that industry whatsoever. All we are doing is putting out more green tape and more red tape and nothing is happening. I support this motion and I wish it would pass, but I do not think we have the numbers.

Those poor commercial fishermen are getting dragged down all of the time and getting kicked out of here and kicked out of there. With this information, I will bet that where they fish most of the time will end up a green zone and they will get kicked out of those areas as well.


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