Shadow Fisheries Minister Colin de Grussa has expressed significant concerns regarding the veil of secrecy created by the McGowan Labor Government in choosing not to release critical information as part of the public consultation process for the proposed South Coast Marine Park.
During questions in Parliament this week, it was revealed the McGowan Labor Government plans to keep the socio-economic impact assessment it has undertaken for each of the affected communities secret from the public.
“Economic and social impact is a key consideration when making any decisions regarding the proposed marine park, especially when it comes to the extent of any sanctuary zones that will be imposed on the commercial, recreational and charter fishing industries,” Mr de Grussa said.
Mr de Grussa also criticised the scarcity of information being released by the McGowan Labor Government on the methodology it proposes to use when determining key elements of the park.
“It is vital that the communities affected by the proposed park have a crystal-clear understanding on why key decisions were made,” Mr de Grussa said.
“This is especially the case when understanding how the balance between social and economic impacts were weighted against environmental considerations.”
Mr de Grussa also said it was imperative for the McGowan Labor Government to release the scientific basis on which any sanctuary zones had been determined.
“The lack of up-to-date scientific data to support the establishment of the proposed park has been a significant concern since the proposed marine park was announced,” he said.
“This can only mean that sanctuary zones will be determined through an arbitrary process, rather than being based on contemporary science.”
Mr de Grussa also expressed his concern about the mental wellbeing of members of the commercial fishing sector as a direct consequence of how the consultation process is being managed, including the complete absence of information being made available on how operators would be compensated in the event of losing fishing ground.
“What we don’t want to see is another ‘Ngari Capes’ where licence holders were left in limbo for years waiting on promised compensation after they had already lost their incomes,” Mr de Grussa said.
“The McGowan Labor Government has admitted that the compensation processes used in that case were flawed but has failed to implement alternative arrangements even though we are at the precipice of going to public consultation.
“Put simply, secrecy won’t satisfy the need for the community to have faith in the integrity of the consultation process.
“The McGowan Labor Government needs to lift its veil of secrecy and release all the information which has informed the Community Reference Committee and Sector Advisory Groups in their deliberations on the proposed park.
“This must be done as part of the impending public consultation phase – to do anything less would indicate that the McGowan Labor Government isn’t really interested in consulting in good faith, something for which it is well and truly renowned.”