THE government has turned its back on North Queensland barramundi farmers by funding barramundi research in the Prime Minister’s own electorate, in a move that Leichhardt MP Warren Entsch has described as “disgraceful”.
Mr Entsch was recently approached by the Australian Barramundi Farmers Association (ABFA), which is seeking $5 million over five years from the Australian Government to kick-start a genetic breeding program, called Barratek.
The program will produce genetically-superior barramundi larvae and juveniles for Australian barramundi farmers, who are struggling for survival as a result of competition from imported barramundi.
“This is an absolutely fantastic project,” said Mr Entsch. “By genetically improving these fish, they will grow quicker and more efficiently, with a continued supply.
“Our local producers can’t compete against Asian imports cost-wise, but they can if their fish can grow bigger, faster and be available year-round.”
However, Mr Entsch was stunned when ABFA representatives told him that their funding application had been ignored and even worse the Government had just announced a $1.7 million grant for a Victorian fish farming company, conveniently located in Prime Minister Gillard’s own electorate of Lalor, to commercialise a solution to produce barramundi all year round.
“Our barramundi farmers have been struggling with red and green tape and prohibitive expenses, making it extremely difficult for them to continue to operate,” Mr Entsch said.
“ABFA has been trying for over a year to get the Federal Government to look at their proposal and they’ve got absolutely nowhere.
“This program would see the genetic property owned by the Australian Barramundi Farmers Association, for the benefit of the whole barramundi farming industry nationwide.
“But instead it has gone to an individual private company in Prime Minister Gillard’s electorate where it has been tied to one farmer. This is pork-barrelling at its worst and an absolute disgrace.”