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Buyout commercial fishing licences by Andrews Labor government will increase prices and out East Gippsland economy at risk
Australian seafood lovers will face higher prices and the regional economy of East Gippsland will suffer if Labor government continues with a plan to buy out commercial fishing licences and cut the quotas available for small business owners.
Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester has repeatedly warned the federal government that plans to buyout licences will have broader impacts and the bureaucracy has failed to measure the social and economic consequences. "The Federal Budget announcement of $24 million over three years to transition commercial fishers out of the Commonwealth South East Trawl Fishery has not included a single cent for onshore communities like Lakes Entrance which will experience flow-on job losses," Mr Chester said.
Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester discussing fishing industry concerns with LEFCOL board member Peter Clarke and East Gippsland Shire Councillor Arthur Allen
Placing increased stress
Mr Chester also said, "There's also been no modelling released to indicate the increased prices that Australians will pay at the checkout for locally-caught fish, and the potential for increases in less environmentally sustainable imported products."
"The uncertainty of the entire process is placing increased stress on families who rely on the fishing industry for their livelihood and the government needs to start treating people with respect." Mr Chester said.
Unsure of compensation available
Mr Chester said he had raised his concerns directly with the responsible Minister Murray Watt and requested a formal briefing, but the bureaucracy was ploughing on with its plans. "In addition to the complete failure to recognise the social and economic impacts on our region, the fishermen are being placed under enormous pressure which is damaging to the mental health of some individuals."
"The proposed buyout will require fishermen to set a tender price for their licence and there will be no transparency around how much the government is prepared to pay each individual licence holder. There is an additional risk that the only willing sellers will be offering dormant licences that aren't even being used, so the fish stocks won't benefit at all."
"This is all meant to happen within the next six months but at the moment, fishermen are unsure what compensation will be available to them; whether they have a sustainable future in the industry; whether dormant licence holders will be targeted first; and if they accept a package, who will compensate them for their unused boats and equipment." Mr Chester said.
Need action to reduce shock
Mr Chester said previous licence buyouts had included compensation for impacted communities but Minister Watt was missing in action. "When he visited Gippsland, the Minister told local media that he was open to a structural adjustment package and he would work with me to achieve the best outcome possible."
"Talk is cheap but we need action to reduce the social and economic shock coming on top of the drought, bushfires, COVID and the Labor government's cuts to the timber industry." Mr Chester concluded.
Pictures from Darren Chester MP website.
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