In the first petition debate of the Parliamentary year, Member for The Entrance, David Mehan, and Shadow Minister for Small Business, Jenny Aitchison spoke on behalf of over 10,000 commercial fishermen and members of the community who are opposed to the Coalitions Governments controversial Business Adjustment Program.
The program beginning in July this year will introduce quotas where currently no quotas currently exist. The Government has advanced no environmental reason for the reform package.
The consequence is that fishers will have to purchase extra shares if they want to harvest the same amount of fish as last year.
Under the program local fishermen will be required to purchase extra shares to maintain their current fishing entitlement. One Central Coast fisherman has estimated they will have to pay up to $220,000 to purchase his existing fishing rights at current prices.
The reforms have been poorly received across the state with majority of commercial fishermen being sole traders operating family run businesses.
Preliminary findings of an upper house inquiry into the reforms held late last year found that small and medium sized fishing businesses had been disproportionately impacted by the reforms and where experiencing high levels of financial stress.
Last year the Minister in charge of the reform program stated “The Government has made a number of changes to deliver a tailor-made package to ensure that we both look after those fishers who want to stay in the industry and support those who wish to exit.”
This statement has grated with many commercial fishers who have been left in the dark and forced to face exiting the industry with little support being offered beyond a concessional loan to buy their businesses back.
Quotes attributable to Shadow Minister for Small Business, Jenny Aitchison MP
"Adding the number for Lifeline or Beyond Blue is not a fix all addendum to having a smart plan for small business in this state."
“Multigenerational family small businesses deserve better from this government."
"The Minister has been completely disrespectful to small businesses in this state. Where is the deputy premier on this issue or don't the Nationals care about commercial fishers?"
Quotes attributable to David Mehan MP
“The Government has let these people down and refuse to take the blame. These are families and small businesses that have no certainty for their futures.
“Our local commercial fishermen work hard to provide local products to our local businesses; the Government has failed to give any coherent reason as to why they should have to fork out to by a larger share of fishing licenses to maintain their current fishing habits.
“This reform program has been a disaster form day one and it’s about time the Government cleaned up their mess.”