Home' Ausmarine : November 2012 Contents The arrival of the super trawler 'Abel Tasman' took us all by
surprise and, by its sheer magnitude, put fear and panic into
those involved in the fishing industry in South Australia.
This resulted in a huge media frenzy involving ministers, industry
leaders, hastily amended laws in parliament, and the entire
Australian public making comments about why the 'Abel Tasman'
was given permission to fish in our waters.
This opened a whole "can of worms"! I feel the Australian
Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) have caused us to be a
figure of ridicule overseas because of their mismanagement of this
situation. Just ask Dr Walter Starck. I can't count the times I have
been on record, stating the fact, that AFMA and this federal
government have made counter productive decisions.
Anyone can lose direction from time to time and stumble, but
with AFMA, it is a way of life, concentrating on all the smaller
insignificant issues and completely overlooking the bigger picture.
Mishaps and management failures are happening far too
frequently. There are nine commissioners being paid handsomely for
their limited duties, three commissioners more than the Reserve Bank
It makes me wonder where their stipend comes from? (We
know -- Ed)
So-called management and fisheries experts galore are guiding the
ship of AFMA, but they have a hard time convincing the ministers
that they have made the correct decisions. Even the ministers have
lost confidence. It shows how matters have become polluted in the
corridors of power in Canberra.
In the prolonged analysis of its disaster prone administration, it was
revealed that AFMA was aware of the arrival of the 'Abel Tasman' in
Port Lincoln for quite some time. Minister Ludwig on the other hand
proclaimed he only knew about it when it arrived in Boston Bay.
Who is telling the truth? Whatever the case, AFMA had sufficient
time to assess the scientific report about this trawler and the resource.
The final result is nothing but a complete "stuff up", making the
head honchos from AFMA and its commissioners look, at best,
The disaster that occurred with the super trawler was unnecessary
and ill-thought out, but it also shows how some ministers react under
pressure. Needless to say, they are not friends of the fishing industry.
It also reflects badly on Minister Tony Burke, who acts like an
undertaker, not happy until all commercial and recreational fisheries
in Australia are buried under the guise of protecting
This is a minister who has repeatedly failed us. His government
governs by social media. It is also unfortunate that the Hon Joe
Ludwig, Minister of Fisheries, is not prepared to stand up against
Tony Burke and question his ill-thought out decisions.
Whoever stands in the electorate of Watson against Burke should
be financially supported by all of us in the fishing industry at the
next election. Burke should not even have a seat, after we vote
The decision not to permit the trawler to fish created waves -- not
only in Holland, but also around various fishing circles in the EU. We
are seen as a bunch of "dumb colonials", good for a laugh. I am so
sorry now that I actually encouraged a number of people to vote
Labor at the last two federal elections. They have proved to be
untrustworthy, incompetent and doomed to failure, as long as they
have ministers like Tony Burke and Peter Garrett in their midst.
Under their umbrella of political incompetence grew a group of
even more incompetent public servants in Canberra, who can "talk
the talk" but can't "walk the walk". Lots of academic qualifications
(some no doubt from Cornflake packets and paid for by the
taxpayer!), but in many instances without an ounce of practical
experience or the common sense so necessary when operating
businesses and fishing companies in today's environment.
Minister Burke's claim to fame was working as a shop assistant for
seven years. His lack of understanding and flakiness
of conviction is at times hard to come to terms with. The dead wood
of non-productive and lazy public servants littering the corridors of
power in Canberra, accepting their wages under false pretenses, is
increasingly identified by the press and needs to be addressed as soon
State governments like Queensland, New South Wales and
Victoria have seen the light and are well on the way to reducing non-
performers. Minister Ludwig should have a close look at AFMA and
make redundant those who embarrassed him.
If the "razor-gang" in Canberra had any nous, AFMA should
certainly be a priority on their hit list. If it does not happen now, it
certainly will when the government changes next year.
AFMA had seven years to decide whether to block the 'Abel
Tasman' from fishing in our waters and to convince the minister that
they had made the right call. Such a lead-time is another indication
of just how clueless they really are. If the ministers don't trust them,
how can we? There is no confidence any more.
Minister', AFMA needs a major shake-up. A new beginning with
people who understand the business and have pride in their jobs.
Just look at the facts, they speak for themselves.
Anybody who thinks I am over the top with my comments is
mistaken. Being involved in the fishing business for over 50 years,
surely I have earned the right to speak up and demand more
professionalism, consideration and improved governance from
AFMA. After all, we pay dearly for its existence.
The sad part, however, is that my opinion is the same as many
in our industry that the present crop of so-called fisheries managers
in Canberra just don't understand the basics, and that is a worry
How different it is at state level, we have people who are
dedicated to make things happen and understand the needs of
industry. Maybe that is the problem existing in Canberra! Too far
removed from the realities of industry and incapable of grasping
what is required. One large fishing operator told me recently, the
biggest risk in the fishing business in Australia is this federal
government running from one disaster to another, leaving behind
confusion, discontent, chaos and a multi-million dollar super
trawler with nowhere to go.
Minister Burke is still taking the moral high ground, attempting to
put the blame on all and sundry. One can come to no other
conclusion than he had bad advice and doesn't understand how
mid-water trawling really works. His understanding of sustainable
practices are nil. We in the fishing industry have been to hell
and back, burdened by endless bad management decisions
Isn't it time to have a new beginning? As for the company that
owns the 'Abel Tasman', surely they have the right to be reimbursed
for all the government's "stuff ups"?
A column of personal opinion by one of Australia's leading
fishing industry entrepreneurs. Hagen Stehr AO of Port Lincoln.
November 2012 AUSMARINE
Super trawler 'Abel
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