September 11, 2012 | Graham

When GetUp runs the government, the government should get out

The federal government’s decision to ban the “super trawler”, while popular with the GetUp mob, is another example of how this government trashes the rule of law.

The rule of law is the concept that the law applies equally to everyone. It is the basis of civilised and modern society. Its obverse is tyranny.

By passing legislation that applies effectively just to one ship this government proves yet again that it is not a legitimate government. It is a tyranny. Anyone interested in human rights and good governance ought to be appalled.

As Brisbane Times reports:

Environment Minister Tony Burke and Fisheries Minister Joe Ludwig said in Canberra today that a precautionary approach would be taken over the super trawler – previously known as the FV Margiris – amid ”uncertainties” about the impact it could have on protected species such as dolphins, seals and seabirds.

”If we get this wrong, there are risks to the environment, to commercial operators and to everyone who loves fishing and they are risks I am not prepared to take,” Mr Burke said.

”There has never been a fishing vessel of this capacity in Australia before and the [Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act] needs to be updated so that it can deal with it.”

The super trawler is docked at Port Lincoln in South Australia and was poised to start fishing within days.

This is in the line of decisions that includes the Mining Resource Rental Tax, which was a decision to abandon the rule of law in the case of a particular industry.


Posted by Graham at 8:14 pm | Comments (12) |
Filed under: Uncategorized


  1. I’m not sure I understand this. Is your point that because they make laws piecemeal to solve idiosyncratic problems, they are undermining the law as something respectable because it is applied to more general circumstances?

    Comment by Nick Ferrett — September 11, 2012 @ 9:24 pm

  2. What human rights, Graham? Very few human rights that Australian governments have ratified are legislated in Australia. The only human rights that Australian governments stand up for are those of so called asylum seekers, those who can afford to pay passage on boats, or those who seek gay marriage rights. There’s no use referring to human rights in Australia, they don’t exist.

    Comment by Derek Sheppard — September 11, 2012 @ 9:38 pm

  3. Graham has a point here.What if the Govt passes a law that methane gases passed by bovines are illegal because they are destroying the environment? This could mean that many of us will starve to death.

    While I agree with the super trawler being gelded,we have to look at precedents in law which will curtail our liberties.

    Comment by Ross — September 11, 2012 @ 10:09 pm

  4. The Government has every right to change its mind whenever it wants. The key factor is not the decision but the compensation.

    Business can survive with change if necessary as long as when it happens they are not ruined.

    Commercial groups change business decisions all the time…even after a contract has been signed. They just have to consider the cost. As far as i am concerned if the rules said the boat was allowed and business relied on the rules that is a “contract”. That is how business and government “contract”. Governments can change the rules but where they do so without reasonable warning they have to pay business the costs they have incurred. In this case it is the cost of securing the ship ( lease cost), the cost of the crew, the cost of transport, the cost of the time getting it approved in Australia originally and then a “get lost fee”…which commercially would be a couple of years estimated profits as it was always likely that the venture was likely to be subject to legislative review and could have been reasonably stopped in a couple of years anyway.

    Yes this is a cost to the taxpayers but IF we, through the government are telling them to get lost that is a cost we need to accept

    Comment by Oliver — September 12, 2012 @ 8:34 am

  5. Graham’s point is apt. The present government, being hostage to minorities and having completely lost its way on matters of governance, has adopted the knee-jerk as its principal response. Because of this it is acting in an irrational way.

    The essential issue is less the “super trawler” – though many of us might have justifiable fears about the ultimate results of the technology it brings to the business of commercial fishing – than one of the reappearance of fiat (diktat) as a basis for administration.

    It is fundamentally undemocratic, and that is the real danger.

    Comment by Richard L — September 12, 2012 @ 1:26 pm

  6. I believe the decision to ban this trawler, at five minutes to a metaphorical midnight, is very bad policy. Policy that is generated almost certainly, by green advocates and their ideology, rather than any form of scientific merit?
    And therefore, a sign of extreme incompetence? Ditto the unprecedented lock up of so much of our marine economic zone! Arguably, to simply prevent any and all exploration for increasingly scarce minerals; or, very low cost, very low carbon producing energy alternatives?
    The super trawler’s owners and investors, followed every rule and requirement to the letter; and spent many millions doing so!
    It’s a decision that has trashed us as a place of fair/lawful investment opportunities?
    If there were any GENUINE concerns with regard to super trawlers, then they should have been well and truly aired before the ship sailed or was re-flagged?
    It’s tantamount to shifting the goal post after the kick is taken; and very poor form!
    Surely if there were any GENUINE concerns, then the best response, would have been a legislated trail period and entirely independent science based observation of measured/weighed and therefore verifiable results?

    Comment by Alan B. Goulding — September 12, 2012 @ 2:41 pm

  7. Um, why do you refer to GetUp members as a ‘mob’, Mr Young? I am a GetUp member. Is my opinion not valid because I have joined GetUp? (I seem to remember Mr John Howard referring to Iraq war protesters as ‘the mob’.) I object to the super trawler because of its problems, noted, for example, in this article:

    Comment by Sue Bond — September 12, 2012 @ 8:08 pm

  8. For Sue Bond: You should read my response (“Graham’s point is apt”, above) and then re-ask your question. A legitimate corollary to your original question is why should GetUp’s opinions, or those of its individual members, be accorded special weight? Anyone can form a lobby group (and arguably should – I’m certainly not saying they shouldn’t).

    Comment by Richard L — September 12, 2012 @ 8:54 pm

  9. Hooray for Getup and their various campaigns say I.

    It is essentially the only left-wing progressive outfit in this country that seems to have any potemtial influence.

    Meanwhile all sorts of conservative organizations have powerful lobby groups which strongly affect and limit what the Labour government can do. They jump up and down very loudly when their interests are threatened. The “independent” schools lobby group. The AMA. The billionaire miners, the gambling industry, the cigarette makers, the alcohol industry, etc etc.

    Some of them of course have very deep pockets to finance their activities and protests. In most cases they also have the help of the Australian “news”-paper. Some of them are also very closely associated with the IPA and similar right-wing propaganda outfits.

    Comment by Frederick — September 13, 2012 @ 9:04 am

  10. I suspect that the ‘protected species’ most concerned and fearful about the impact of the super trawler are the commercial operators.

    Comment by sylvia marchant — September 13, 2012 @ 9:27 am

  11. Nick, my point is it is not legitimate to make laws for individual circumstances, laws should be made on principle. If the government wanted to pass a law that was designed just to stop you doing something, but no-one else, then it would not be a good law. So a prohibition against crossing the road between 4:00 and 5:00 p.m., say, would be a good (if stupid) law, but if it was designed just to cover your road when you were most likely to cross it because someone had decided they had it in for you, would be a bad law.

    Sue, there were a number of reasons for using the word “mob”. Uppermost in my mind was the phrase “lynch mob”. But sheep also come in a mob. When GetUp started it seemed to have reasonable objectives, but these days it seems to be just panhandling for subscriptions by beating up on every thing where it thinks it might find an audience willing to pay. It has become a threat to democracy rather than a benefit.

    Comment by Graham — September 13, 2012 @ 10:17 am

  12. Do we really live in a democracy or the propagandized illusion of such?

    What if we live in a “culture” of illusions and make-believe, as defined by TV and its corporate sponsors.

    What is a “reasonable objective”?
    Who gets to define such?

    “mobs” of course are groups that do not have “public relations” outfits such as Hill and Knowlton, the IPA or any of the right-wing think tanks to promote their case.

    Do these corporate propaganda outfits have anything to do with democracy and/or the promotion/advocacy of comprehensively informed opinion about anything.

    Comment by Frederick — September 13, 2012 @ 2:11 pm

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