National's pretty kettle of fish

Dr Randall Bess
Insights Newsletter
8 December, 2017

Some opposition MPs take to their new roles swimmingly. It is hard to imagine that these politicians ever did anything else but criticise others for not solving problems.

Which would be fine if those very problems had not been presided over by their own party for nine years.

The prime example is Gerry Brownlee. The former foreign minister is now spokesperson for, among other things, fisheries. In that role, he delivered a bizarre performance in question time as he hooked into Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash.

What had happened?

Well, the Minister had spoken at the launch of the Initiative’s new report The Future Catch on Monday night. Nash praised it for the contribution it made to the debate on preserving recreational fishing for future generations. He told our audience that he and his officials would go through our recommendations and that he was open to our proposal of a recreational representative peak body.

In summary, he said we should expect an announcement from him on these issues, hopefully before Christmas.

Just as sharks can smell a drop of blood from hundreds of meters away, Gerry Brownlee spotted potential trouble for the Minister. So the next day he reeled off a barrage of questions on our recommendations in Parliament.

Of course, being a former Minister himself, Brownlee would have known that Nash would not disclose his decisions before the announcement – Nash had not promised anything immediate.

That, however, did not stop Brownlee from trying to embarrass Nash, and misrepresenting our report in the process. Except Nash kept his cool and did not take the bait.

But Brownlee would not let go. He later issued a media release claiming that the Minister was ‘floundering’ and our report ‘dead in the water’. The release deserves full credit for fishy metaphors and none for truthfulness.

Having made a dogfish’s breakfast of fisheries management for years, it takes some nerve for National to criticise the new Fisheries Minister for not making immediate announcements.

A good opposition would consider the substance of the report and not just play politics. A responsible opposition would even reach out to the Government to find common ground for reform.

In our report, we laid out the course for fisheries reform based on international best practice.

Preserving the Kiwi way of fishing is too important to play silly political games with it. We look forward to Minister Nash’s eventual announcement. 

Stay in the loop: Subscribe to updates