Opponents of the large factory freezer trawler Geelong Star are optimistic September’s change of Prime Minister could eventually lead to the trawler’s departure from Australian shores.
Stop the Trawler Alliance co-ordinator Rebecca Hubbard said Liberal MPs Sarah Henderson from Victoria and Bob Baldwin from NSW had been quick to ramp up their opposition to the trawler after Malcolm Turnbull took over as Prime Minister.
Ms Henderson has co-instigated a “ban the Geelong Star” rally at Torquay in her electorate, a short distance from Geelong, the trawler’s home port.
She and Mr Baldwin have also been granted a Liberal partyroom debate next month, after raising their concerns about the trawler with Mr Turnbull. Ms Henderson has not ruled out introducing a private member’s Bill if substantial anti-trawler momentum was built up in Parliament.
Ms Hubbard said her group, along with conservation and recreational fishing groups in other states, would continue to apply pressure on Coalition MPs in sensitive electorates, such as NSW’s Eden Monaro as well as Tasmania, in the lead-up to the next federal election.
“There is a real opportunity for the Coalition to be doing something that reflects community sentiment,’’ she said.
“And it [a ban] shouldn’t be that hard for the Coalition because it’s an extremely marginal economic operation – high-volume, low-value fishing,’’ she said.
Ms Hubbard said she expected South Australian Senator Anne Ruston, who took over the fisheries portfolio from Senator Richard Colbeck, to come under pressure from the South Australian sardine industry, which, she said, still had major concerns about the effects of the Geelong Star’s operations.
A Senate inquiry into large trawler operation, instigated by Tasmanian Labor senators Anne Urquhart and Carol Brown, will take submissions until November 20 and is due to report in April.
A night time fishing ban imposed on the Geelong Star in July, following the deaths of nine dolphins and 12 seals, was lifted in September after the Australian Fisheries Management Authority was convinced safeguards had improved.