Home' Ausmarine : March 2011 Contents If, on occasions, you, like me, have
publicly vented your spleen over lazy or
self-serving administrations, or perhaps
questioned the determination and
selection of grant recipients, you are
quite likely to be labelled and lumped in
with shock jocks, foaming at the mouth
fascists, anarchists, or at best, ultra-
It doesn't matter how often you have
spoken in glowing terms of Gough
Whitlam, Lang and Chifley. Just one public
utterance about a bloated government
department will see you cast forever as a
heretic or small-government, right wing
zealot. So, in what may be a futile attempt
to counter the bureaucratic and academic
rhetoric claiming that I seek to slash and
burn all government oversight of
enterprise, I wish to suggest an area where
more government scrutiny and staffing
might be warranted.
The foreseeable development of our
economy is pretty dependent on our
resource industries, both renewable and
non renewable. Our free market mantra
and globalisation means that countries
abundantly blessed, such as Australia,
attract the attention of all sorts of global
players, not all of them possessed of a
desirable track record when it comes to
using other peoples' resources.
The Foreign Investment Review Board is
the body responsible for casting an eye over
the corporate entities and individual
entrepreneurs looking to tap into our
goodies. Whether the FIRB has the tools it
needs to do the job properly is the
question. There are corporations and
people operating in our resource industries
and agriculture sector who directly, or
through a complexity of affiliations, are
responsible for industrial behaviour
internationally, that would lead to
imprisonment in Australia.
No doubt the posturing on the free
market world stage by politicians dictates
the decision making at FIRB. But even
without the political pressure, the
manoeuvring through joint ventures,
subsidiaries, share trading and swaps must
weigh heavily on the ability and the efforts
of the FIRB to protect our agriculture, fishing
and mining from the less than scrupulous
policies of some foreign exploitation.
With the destruction of most of the
Australian fishing fleet, the all but total
absence of Australian boats from our
distant water zones, the opportunities are
opening up for other nations to gain access.
Those too shonky to be openly granted a
permit will quickly spot the gaps and set up
locally based companies and joint ventures.
No matter the presence of competent and
honest observers on vessels (and not all of
them are), market manipulation and
transfer pricing is the name of the game.
Being big and global doesn't guarantee
best practice. The "suck-it-and-see"
deepwater oil and gas drillers are
currently in the spotlight. And rightly so,
given the revelation that dispersants were
being pumped in at the source of the
deepwater gulf blow out. Unlike
dispersants used on the surface, which
break up the oil mass allowing spills to be
cleaned up, deepwater dispersants stay on
the bottom. So far, dispersant has been
found in the sediment 200 nautical miles
from the blow out. And that's after two
and a half months.
Meanwhile, a little to the left of ground
zero the gradual erosion of local decision
making is happening to our renewable
assets. Agriculture has felt the squeeze
already. Ask any orchardist or dairy farmer.
It isn't hard to guess which under-utilised
and under-valued primary produce items
will be courted next.
As has been said ad infinitum in
Ausmarine, we have one of the world's
biggest fishing zones and the rest of the
world thinks we don't deserve it if we don't
use it properly. A careful look at who the
potential investors might be, and their
previous operating code, may well leave the
knowledgeable among us a little concerned.
Finally, of course, there is aquaculture.
Now that the hard work is done and the
risky development period is pretty much
behind them, our fish farmers must be
looking like a decent investment prospect.
Especially for the big internationals.
Foreign investment is fine, provided it
brings with it acceptance of our corporate
code of behaviour. That means not
screwing producers to jack up a parent
company's profits and respect for the rules
of the local industry. Maybe the FIRB do
have a handle on who is who in the global
fishing trade. But I somehow doubt it.
[AFMA certainly doesn't. -- Ed]
Queensland, flooded one day,
blown to buggery the next
You do have to feel for the folk up
north, especially for our fishing brethren
and their kin. They seem to have dropped
off the national compassion radar
completely. News coverage of the flood and
the cyclone was replete with vision and
stories of destitute families, small business
tragedies, devastating crop losses and
communities pitching in to recover what
Apart from a few seconds of what looked
like a commercial fishing vessel, well above
the mangroves, there seemed precious little
news time devoted to the plight of the
Queensland and northern New South
Wales fishing industry. Surely one of the
host of journalists, media personalities or
presenters could have shown a little
individuality or initiative and asked some
local fishing folk what their future held.
"When nature puts the bight on"
If the reports I read are right, there were
79 shark attacks around the world in 2010.
Australia logged 14, putting us on the
podium in second place behind the USA.
Meanwhile, in South Australia, near north
Neptune Island, the owners of 'Calypso star'
have shown some initiative and introduced
cage diving with our Great Whites. It's all
going very well apparently, pulling in the
dollars from mainly overseas tourists. Since
the fishing industry is doing it tough, you
do have to admire the effort of those who
find some alternative employment for fisher
folk and their vessels.
I do wonder, though, if there are any ab
divers in the vicinity. And if so, what their
Corporate stealth and
A personal comment from Ulladulla's very own
Barry McRoberts on Management Matters.
March 2011 AUSMARINE
Southern bluefin tuna being harvested from cages.
An attractive sector for internationals
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