Senator Barnaby Joyce
Senator Barnaby Joyce Warren Lynam

Senator Joyce slams trawler ban

QUEENSLAND Senator Barnaby Joyce has accused the Federal Government of hypocrisy over its decision to ban the Dutch super trawler Abel Tasman from operating in Australian waters.

Environment Minister Tony Burke bowed to weeks of pressure from inside and outside the Labor Caucus when he announced tighter regulations were needed before the boat could begin trawling.

In a speech to the Senate on Tuesday night, Senator Joyce said the government was guilty of the same populism he had been accused of in opposing the sale of Cubbie Station to a majority Chinese-owned consortium.

"They are trying to make themselves philosophically pure again, so today we had this absurdity; all of a sudden a fishing boat has become the mechanism of assuaging their guilt," Senator Joyce said.

"They have now manifestly encompassed in a fishing boat the path to left righteousness.

"Correct me if I am wrong, but it was only days ago that the same crowd was absolutely pillorying me because of sovereign risk and populism.

"I was accused of inciting the demons of sovereign risk and populism. I heard Dr Craig Emerson in op-ed after op-ed in the Australian saying what a terrible person I was. I was beginning to agree with him; maybe I am.

"But today out of nowhere comes a statement that is an absolute affront to sovereign risk. This time they have actually bought the boat."

In a move to heal a widening rift within Coalition ranks over the Cubbie Station issue, Mr Joyce co-sponsored a motion with Liberal Senate Leader Eric Abetz.

The motion, which passed the Senate on Tuesday 38-25 with the support of the Greens, expresses the Coalition's support for foreign investment, but also demands Treasurer Wayne Swan explains how the proposed sale was in the national interest.

The motion is non-binding, meaning Mr Swan is not compelled to explain his decision.

But Senator Joyce told APN the Senate now expected answers from Mr Swan.

"So far nothing substantial from the Treasurer has been offered beyond his twitter account," he said.

"I have now come to the epiphany that my fatal flaw in being unable to gain the Treasurer's attention. Quite obviously, I was hindered by the fact that there were no dolphins or seals in the dams at Cubbie Station.

"Because if there were then maybe the sale of the largest rural property in Australia by value would have received the same fervour Labor showed about a fishing trawler today."

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