WA lobster nationalisation leaves industry on the rocks

The West Australian fishing industry that has long exemplified successful export orientated local enterprises, now faces the threat of annihilation from Premier McGowan’s pugnacious policies. The proposed law tries to create more rock lobster stocks for a barely existent local market through enforced expropriation. If this bill passes the upper house, fishermen stand to lose their livelihoods.

The laws only set WA’s fishing industry back to the 1970s where it was uncompetitive and unprofitable as the government will seize over 17 percent of the fish stock. This will deter private investment and discourage new entrants while wrecking the industry. The prospect of such government overreach is unwarranted and exploitative based off the anaemic justification that rock lobsters are a ‘local rarity’.

Rock lobster fishermen rely heavily on the prices our exports attract due to high demand in Asian markets. The shockwaves of McGowan’s law are already being felt in the industry, collapsing fishermen ‘pots’ in anticipation of falling prices following the bill. This has also caused banks to cut back on lending to the industry, leaving cash-strapped businesses stranded.

By impoverishing the industry and leaving citizens poorer, the bill raises serious doubts about WA Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly’s utopian claim that it will actually create jobs and grow the industry to $1 billion despite undermining fishermen’s livelihoods. This is big government interventionism masquerading as industry policy, and is rooted in a repeatedly debunked belief that government should be operating businesses rather than be a facilitator. 

McGowan’s misguided belief that he can control market forces will bankrupt multiple businesses. Currently, many fishermen are running their operations at a loss due to weakened Chinese demand. Considering that many businesses are on the brink of insolvency, the government shouldn’t be forcibly depressing prices to drive even more fishermen out of business.

Now, WA’s hard-won reputation for having low sovereign risk is also at stake, considering that such a heavy-handed approach and ignorance of property rights is reminiscent of the reckless central planning of Soviet bloc states.

The Minister has attempted to pull the wool over WA’s eyes by claiming the intent is to make cheaper lobster available for restaurants and families. However, the real motive driving this is a cash grab for revenue, as revealed by the Ministers comments that “this is fundamentally about a fairer return to the community that owns the resource”.

With parallels to the mining tax argument, WA Labor has implied that it is unfair that the government only earned $10 million in licence fees revenues from the industry. This merely exposes the state government’s greed for revenue to fix a mammoth deficit caused by their overspending- a mistake whose costs are set to be borne by struggling fishermen. Allowing the government to rake back revenue from private fishing operators to finance its largesse is just another brick in WA’s road to serfdom.

Wesley Goh

Wesley Goh

Wesley Goh is a Research Associate at the Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance and is a Mannkal scholar.
Wesley Goh

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1 Comment on "WA lobster nationalisation leaves industry on the rocks"

  1. Mate this article is wrong on so many levels as to expose your absolute ignorance of the commercial fishing industry and supply chain relatonships within theAustralian seafood industry. You have been “hooked” by the export industry lobby. Too complex to go nto but if you really want the “other side of the story”.get in touch. This article is rubbish or at best propogander

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