The Government’s serious failure to consult on new fisheries laws
The NSW Government has failed to follow their own consultation process for the Fisheries Management Amendment (Enforcement Powers) Bill 2022 with both the Aboriginal Fishing Advisory Council (AFAC) and the Recreational NSW Fishing Advisory Council being briefed on it the same day that it was announced in the NSW Parliament.
The new enforcement powers contained in the bill will have far reaching consequences for First Nations mob and recreational fishers alike with no consultation being conducted with the broader community. Enforcement officers will be able to stop and search people in relation to anything under the Fisheries Act without the need to reasonably suspect that an offence has been committed.
The Government is introducing these powers despite the non-commencement of a section of the Fisheries Act that protects Aboriginal cultural fishing rights that passed the Parliament 13 years ago. Aboriginal people in NSW are already disproportionately charged with fishing offences while engaged with their cultural fishing practices and without protection will be further targeted by enforcement officers under these changes.
Greens MP and spokesperson for First Nations justice, Sue Higginson, said “This bill has arrived into the parliament without the consultation that is required and threatens to damage the trust between the Government and the AFAC,
“Consultation is a genuine process that requires listening and consideration from both sides. Minister Dugald Saunders has not consulted on this bill, in his communication to the advisory councils no mention was made of consultation or even briefings. He informed the councils that the Department would run through the details of the bill but this occurred just hours before it was introduced to the Parliament,
“The Greens will move to amend some of the worst parts of this bill so that Aboriginal cultural fishing and Native Title rights and interests are protected from these far reaching new enforcement powers but the Government needs to come clean with the community about how this bill was brought into the Parliament without following process,
“It is important that Fisheries Officers are enabled to uphold the law when it comes to illegal fishing but this bill is a hammer when it comes to the breadth of powers included. The recent report into the non-commencement of protection for Aboriginal cultural fishing outlines the evidence that First Nations mob are being criminalised, with dire consequences, for practising their cultural rights,
“The Government has had 13 years to protect Aboriginal cultural fishing but here we are now in the last week of Parliament sittings before the 2023 state election with the NSW Nationals trying to smash through legislation that has not been taken for consultation,” Ms Higginson said.