Sacking call over fisheries closure
Closed the Cronulla Fisheries Research Centre without any economic analysis, according to the inquiry ... the Minister for Primary Industries, Katrina Hodgkinson.
THE Premier, Barry O'Farrell, should seriously consider sacking the Minister for Primary Industries, Katrina Hodgkinson, over the ''shameful'' handling of the closure of the Cronulla Fisheries Research Centre, according to a parliamentary committee.
The poor handling of the closure ''broke every rule in the book'', according to its chairman, the Reverend Fred Nile. The first recommendation of the report produced by the upper house inquiry, handed down yesterday, is that the decision should be reversed immediately.
The inquiry found the decision to close the centre and decentralise its activities to several coastal towns was made without any economic analysis, in direct conflict with the government's own policies, and was never presented to cabinet.
A cost-benefit analysis provided to the inquiry, which had been produced a year after the decision was made, was found to be ''unprofessional'' and ''rushed'' and omitted a number of costs.
Mr Nile, who has been in Parliament for 31 years, said he had never seen a matter ''so badly handled from day one''. ''I have contacted the Premier … I believe it's so important an issue that he himself should take a role in this now and not leave it to the minister,'' Mr Nile said.
Asked whether he agreed with calls by Labor and the Greens for the minister to be sacked, Mr Nile responded: ''I think it's something the Premier should seriously consider.''
Three government MPs, two Labor MPs and two crossbench MPs were on the committee. The government MPs submitted a dissenting statement.
A research scientist at the centre, Matt Ives, said he almost cried when he heard the findings.
''This is a terrible decision,'' he said. ''We're just grateful the inquiry was able to see what we saw.''
A spokeswoman for Ms Hodgkinson yesterday ruled out reversing the decision.
''Forty-one public servants have already accepted a transfer to other locations and more are still expected to follow,'' she said.
Mr Nile rejected the suggestion it was too late to reverse the decision, saying most staff would prefer to return or stay at Cronulla.
The MP for Cronulla, Mark Speakman, a Liberal, welcomed the recommendation to keep the centre open and said the report vindicated many of his own criticisms of the process.
The report was particularly critical of the conduct of Ms Hodgkinson, describing her appearance before the inquiry as ''evasive'' and noting that she failed to answer key questions, such as stating when the decision was taken.
The inquiry noted the closure could have implications for marine science generally, particularly through the loss of expertise of scientists who could not relocate.
''The minister's disdain for the entire committee process demonstrated just how little respect the government has for marine science and the vital work that's carried out at the centre,'' said the Greens MLC and committee member Cate Faehrmann.
Mr O'Farrell did not respond to requests for comment.