Concern over the marine parks issue has been evident in coastal seats throughout the election campaign.
An Australian Greens candidate was assaulted at a pro-fishing rally in northern NSW on the weekend and on Tuesday Opposition Leader Tony Abbott was presented with a dead fish by a protester on the NSW south coast.
The Narooma protest came as more than 100 environmental scientists urged the Coalition to re-think its plan and return bipartisan support for the reserves, arguing the science behind them was watertight.
Coalition fisheries spokesman Senator Richard Colbeck on Wednesday released a $15.1 million plan, which he said would give greater representation to the fishing sector, Australia’s sixth largest primary producer.
Senator Colbeck said Labor had also neglected 3.5 million recreational fishers, who contributed more than $3 billion a year to the economy.
The biggest spend in the policy is a $10 million, five-year fund to invest in sector-wide projects that support the sustainable growth of aquaculture in Australia.
Grants of up to $5500 would go to fishing business operators for advice and training on adapting to climate change, in a $5 million commitment to climate effects.
Industry bodies would get $3 million over four years to promote sustainable fishing, and in line with the Coalition’s agriculture policy, fisheries would get a dedicated minister and more money for research and development.
For recreational fishing, the coalition would establish a peak body, a ministerial advisory council, and provide $1.2 million over four years for promotion.
Also in the policy was more detail of the plan to put marine parks on hold.
Four advisory panels would be set up to advise on the areas under assessment, in consultation with the community and industry, who would have access to peer-reviewed scientific evidence of threats to marine biodiversity.
The panels would develop socio-economic impact statements for each area, as well as a “displacement policy”.
“As a last resort, if such consultation and negotiation does not reduce impacts below levels that are reasonably compensable, then compensation, structural adjustment or other appropriate measures will be delivered before any constraints on fishing are implemented,” the policy statement says.
The policy is funded out of the Coalition’s budget savings.