February 29, 2012
The Nationals Member for Gippsland Darren Chester is supporting efforts by the Coalition to block a record increase in fishing licence fees for the Lakes Entrance fishing industry.
Mr Chester said Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Fisheries and Forestry Senator Richard Colbeck had flagged a motion to disallow the increased fees and also asked the Fisheries Minister to immediately review the fee structure set by the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA).
A number of local commercial fishing operators contacted Mr Chester in January to raise concerns that the increases in annual licence fees, by 100 per cent in some cases, would put their future in the industry at risk.
Mr Chester raised the issue in Federal Parliament and said the concerns of local operators and the broader impacts on the industry across the nation had been ignored by the Gillard Government.
“The Gillard Government is desperate for extra money to prop up its budget and its ignoring the future viability of local commercial fishing operators,” Mr Chester said.
“The viability of operators is already being tested by the increasing cost of fuel and competition from cheap imports.
“Senator Colbeck and I have informed the government that some of the fee increases that have been reported to us will cripple businesses but to this stage the concerns have largely been ignored.
“The government needs to decide whether it supports a sustainable and world class Australian fishing industry or wants to tax it out of existence.”
Senator Colbeck said the Coalition had taken the action because there was no other option.
“The first levy instalment was due today so it is crunch time for many small businesses,” Senator Colbeck said.
“It has become a hallmark of this Labor Government to endorse fee structures that hurt small business. We have seen the same in the last two years with AQIS fees and charges.
“Each time another boat is forced out, the levies of those remaining will go up in order to meet AFMA’s budget demands, putting even more pressure on those remaining.”