IT'S only in recent years that recreational fishing has become embroiled in the political process. Marine park lock-outs, access issues, the threat of supertrawlers and the rise in anti-fishing rhetoric by extremist environmental groups has resulted in the nation's 5 million anglers being dragged kicking and screaming into the political sphere.
None of us particularly want to have to deal with politics. I sure as hell can think of much better things to do with my time. But things have changed and will keep changing. A decade ago marine park lock-outs were just a vague plan – now they are growing like a cancer around our entire coastline. A decade ago hard-core environmentalists were dancing around in forests – now they are lining up to stop us from fishing. A decade ago no one had even heard of supertrawlers – now we are aware that there are hundreds of these massive fish factories ready to decimate our oceans.
While it would be easy to bury our heads in the sand and pretend none of this stuff exists, the fact is we all have to deal with the political realities of Australia in the 21st century. This is why this upcoming federal election is so important. Whoever forms government after September 7 will be making decisions that affect where and how we go fishing (as well as other fairly important stuff like health, education, immigration, defence and so on).
Too often, the major parties tend to gloss over fishing issues. This is because they just don't understand what we as anglers really want. To that end, I've asked a series of questions to both major parties, as well as minor and/or special interest parties, to allow you to make an informed decision about fishing issues when making your vote on September 7.
Both the ALP and the Coalition have "fudged" a few of my questions. It seems that political parties are genetically programmed to provide dodgy answers, even when asked direct questions. Still, you should be able to glean some idea of their policies from their responses. The main difference between the two is that the Coalition has promised to look closely at the federal marine parks system, specifically focusing on if and why anglers need to be locked out. The ALP, which designed the current marine reserves plan, won't change any laws currently prohibiting recreational fishing.
Both major parties have committed to using independent science before allowing supertrawlers to access our waters (I think most of us would prefer a blanket "no" but that ain't gonna happen).
The minor or special interest parties provide options for anglers wanting a change from the two main parties in the upcoming election. Well, maybe not the Greens. Despite initially agreeing to take part in our Q&A, Rachel Siewert, the Greens senator responsible for fishing issues, failed to answer any of our questions. How can any of us make an informed decision on what the Greens are proposing if they won't respond to questions about policy platforms?
This lack of response means the Greens can not, in good conscience, accuse angling groups of "bias" as the campaign period continues. After all, we gave them the chance to have their say...
Other minor parties including the Australian Fishing and Lifestyle Party, the Katter's Australian Party and the Shooters and Fishers provided considered, topical and well researched responses to our questions.
I think you'll be interested in what these various fishing or outdoors orientated parties have to say. That said, minor parties rarely have any direct influence in how a government operates – unless, of course, there's another hung parliament or if one or more of these parties holds the balance of power in the Senate. Things could then get very interesting ...
I urge you to take the time to carefully read and consider the various responses to this political Q&A. If your fishing rights are important to you, it makes sense to assess which party offers the best options before you cast your vote.
Angling organisations including Keep Australia Fishing (which I'm involved with) and the Australian Recreational Fishing Foundation will be revealing advertising and information campaigns in the lead up to September 7. Hopefully this info will also be of use to you.
Whoever wins, let's hope the next parliament will be more angler friendly that the last one!
Download the Q&A responses from the various political parties below.