Home' Ausmarine : July 2009 Contents The above is part of a quote used by Geoffrey Robertson to
introduce his latest book, "Statute of Liberty". It is, in my view,
a fitting, albeit unheeded, caution as to what is happening to
commercial fishermen in Australia. Or, for that matter,
commercial fishing globally.
Geoffrey Robertson QC and his UN prosecution of the fight for
human rights is internationally acclaimed. So, when he points out
the administrative abuses lurking behind a façade of democracy in
good old "Oz", it's not surprising that the feathers get ruffled on
those who would like things left exactly how they are.
Protection from bureaucratic and administrative oppression or
carelessness, can only be properly assured in Australia, says
Robertson, by a Bill of Rights. Equally a Bill would ensure
protection of minorities and their property from heavy handed
acquisition by majorities. If you saw the Australian movie "The
Castle", you will know what Robertson is getting at.
The cancellation, erosion and transfer of fishing rights by
hostile governments and administrations, from the comparatively
powerless and numerically small communities of commercial
fishermen, to politically powerful lobbies, has been markedly more
common of late. A bill of rights would put a brake on some of that
and serve as a shield from some of the nonsensical Catch 22
regulatory minefields our fishermen must steer through.
As Robertson points out, Australia's international ranking as a
progressive defender of human rights and protector of the
individual from state oppression has slipped from the world's top
five to a disgraceful thirty-ninth. We are about last in the
developed world to protect, as a nation, our citizens (including our
fishermen) with a Bill. Mind you, the Victorian and ACT
governments could stand the embarrassment no longer and went
ahead and introduced their own.
As for New South Wales, the thug-like Labor right, fronted
by ex-Premier Bob Carr, have a morbid dread of a national
Bill of Rights, just as they fear reform of the state's freedom
of information (FOI) provisions. Such is the influence of the
New South Wales Labor conclave on the federal cabal we are
unlikely to see any early introduction nationally. How the Kiwis
must be laughing.
It's an almighty shame, because even when nations like the UK
were dragged kicking and screaming to a bills' adoption, the British
bureaucracy now concedes it has made decision-making much
clearer, safer and easier for the Sir Humphreys of their world.
Embarrassing human rights litigation in the UK and EU courts has
dramatically reduced. As has the ability of ministers to use political
muscle on public servants who will not toe the party line.
It may not be the silver bullet to strike down all administrative
inadequacies. However, it is a powerful improvement on the
powder and ball processes fishermen currently endure. We can but
hope that other groups, who have had their access or property
rights raided by quangos, self-serving administrations and glory
seeking politicians, will line up for a Bill of Rights, should it ever
become the subject of a national referendum.
I started out with nothing and I've still got most of it left.
-- "Seasick Steve", recording artist.
In times like these, the academic community gets pretty
nervous. Government and non-government funding of projects
and studies dries up as organisations prune budgets. It calls for
discovery of new threats and urgent creation of new funding for
studies that will avoid the possibility of recent resource
management graduates driving taxis for a crust.
Fortunately, the ranks of research are full of talent in that regard
and new grant grabbing groups are forming while old ones are
discovering new crises.
The National Parks Association of New South Wales (NPA) have
produced a glossy 16 page pamphlet titled, "The Torn Blue
Fringe". It's tax payer funded of course. In summary, it calls for a
host of aquatic reserves and encompasses 34 recommendations,
most of which require the cessation of fishing, particularly
Organisations such as the NPA seem to all suffer from a
common evolutionary condition. The organisational inability to
protect themselves from being used as sanctuaries by radical,
single-minded individuals who have little or no regard for the
universal need to feed people. They also become handy vehicles for
governments in trouble.
The New South Wales Government is a fine example. In its
desperate attempt to turn attention from its abysmal performance,
declaring new parks will gain it electoral support from Green and
cross-bench MPs. Meanwhile the need for researcher employment
has given birth to a fresh research group called "The Census of
Marine Life". It consists of one hundred or so experts who will set
about explaining how fishing, amongst other things, has brought
about the ruination of our marine environment.
Now, perhaps my understanding of research is naïve, but I
thought research was less to do with presumption and more about
asking questions. It seems to me that commencing a project on a
premise such as that can only come to one conclusion. Hardly
warrants a new project, does it?
There are, though, some problems in dire need of research and
development. Increasing local marine productivity and
opportunities for instance, or reducing our national reliance on
imported seafood. The only people doing that here are our handful
of high profile aquaculturists.
Not all research is beneficial or well motivated. Some
researchers worked for tobacco companies and some produced
nerve gas. We should bear that in mind. And, to finish the James
Madison quote used by Robertson QC: "If men were angels no
government would be necessary".
A personal comment from Ulladulla's very own
Barry McRoberts on Management Matters.
July 2009 AUSMARINE
"It is of great importance not only to
guard one part of society against the
oppression of its rulers, but to guard one part of
society against the injustice of the other part"
-- James Madison 1787
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