When the government panics, the rule of law gets trashed

The Australian Government has taken the panicked decision to introduce legislation banning the super trawler Abel Tasman from fishing in Australian waters for a period of two years.

Seafish Tasmania brought the trawler to Australia to fish for a near 18,000-tonne quote of jack mackerel and redbait.

It has described the decision as extremely disappointing and it will be forced to sack 50 people, including 45 Tasmanians, who were hired to crew the ship.

Company director Gerry Green says Seafish Tasmania has spent years working with relevant authorities to meet every rule and requirement.

At best, this is a significant regime uncertainty issue that puts this particular investment and potentially others at risk. At worst, it’s a clear breach of the rule of law.

After complying with the rules relating to the proposed trawling expedition, Abel Tasman should have been allowed to fish. But the government has rushed to change the rules to put a stop to otherwise legal activity. There has been none of the usual stakeholder consultation, and the proposed legislation is clearly directed at an individual vessel.

Political decisions like this, as distinct from decisions made in accordance with existing rules, are an affront to the rule of law.

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