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Labor's move to seize control of rock lobster fishery raises alarm

The Nationals WA have slammed the McGowan Government’s Putinesque move to seize a commercial stake in WA’s western rock lobster fishery.

Fisheries spokesperson Colin de Grussa attended an industry meeting in Geraldton today where commercial fishers expressed shock at the Labor Government’s move to take ownership of 1385 tonnes of WA’s annual lobster catch.

“Many commercial fishers are stunned,” Mr de Grussa said.

“Partial nationalisation of an industry is something you’d expect in Russia or China – not Western Australia.

“Worse still, the Government has acted unilaterally and refused to negotiate before taking this extraordinary decision.”

Mr de Grussa said Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly had a lot to answer for amid revelations a terms sheet outlining the new agreement was only made available to the peak industry body three hours before a decision was required.

“Minister Kelly had a gun to the head of the Western Rock Lobster Council and said ‘here are my terms – take it or leave it’,” Mr de Grussa said.

“The council had little option but to accept under duress from the Minister who had threatened to pull an industry funding package off the table if they didn’t sign. 

“The Minister then had the audacity to put in his press release that the council had “agreed” to the package.”

Moore MLA Shane Love was due to attend a separate industry meeting in Dongara this evening.

“The Western Rock Lobster Council repeatedly and forcefully rejected the Government’s position,” Mr Love, whose electorate is home to many commercial fishers, said.

“I am informed the council provided detailed arguments to demonstrate how such a move would destroy confidence, undermine commercial markets and jeopardise future investment in the industry.

“The council even provided alternative models which, they claim, would have provided the Government with a higher financial return without their extraordinary intervention to take ownership of the fishery.”

Mr de Grussa said Minister Kelly had a reputation for being an influential left faction powerbroker within the Labor caucus but his latest course of action would raise eyebrows. 

“Even the Premier admitted on 6PR this morning this was an ‘unusual’ step,” Mr de Grussa said.

“I feel Vladimir Putin would be proud of Minister Kelly’s intervention; In fact, Putin would probably blush.

“Clearly Mark McGowan and Mr Kelly’s more sensible Cabinet colleagues were powerless to step in and stop this. Unfortunately for them – and for WA’s commercial rock lobster fishers – Mr Kelly’s union clout makes him a law unto himself in the caucus.”