Fuel costs hit fishermen


CLARENCE Valley fishermen just can't catch a break.

After fighting rising fuel prices, diminishing catches and cheap imports, the Howard Government's recent decision to scrap the fuel credits scheme could mean the end for some trawler operators.

The scheme, which means primary producers, including fishermen, pay 38 cents per litre less than others for their fuel, is to be scrapped on July 1.

Clarence River Fishermen's Cooperative industry representative John McGuren said the removal of the rebate would cause serious cash flow problems for most operators.

"With the changes they'll have to pay the 38 cents a litre rebate up front every time they buy their fuel, and they won't be in a position to claim that back until they lodge their Business Activity Statements (BAS), which they do quarterly," he said.

"That additional cash flow impost, which means a business which would not normally have to access credit might have to acces $15,000 worth of credit at a time when it's difficult to get it, will force people out of the industry, there's no two ways about it."

Mr McGuren said local fisher- men contributed up to $20 million per year to the Clarence River Fisherman's Cooperative and directly employed between 250 and 300 people.

He said with 12 boats alone in Yamba and Iluka not working because they couldn't cover costs, serious change was needed.

"It would be going too far to say the industry could be wiped out, but unless it receives some recognition for its plight ... it's going to be a much smaller industry," he said.

The Member for Page, Ian Causley, said the Government realised it dropped the ball when it decided to scrap the rebate.

"It was something that did slip past us I have to say," he said.

"At the time when we were considering it we didn't pick that up, so we've addressed it now that we see it is going to affect them."

Mr Causley said he was confident a change to the legislation in order to keep the rebate would be passed in Parliament.

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